Its hard to believe anyone truly thinks Ichiro is the new Hit King, but add in his base running prowess and his 10 Gold Gloves, and the Marlins star has the edge
On Wednesday afternoon in front of a half-empty Petco Park, Ichiro Suzuki tied and then passed Pete Roses record for career hits and pushed his total to 4,257 over his 25 seasons in the Japanese and North American major leagues.
There has been frequent debate leading up to the accomplishment about what it really means, if anything. Rose recently made his position clear, telling USA Today: Im not trying to take anything away from Ichiro, hes had a Hall of Fame career, but the next thing you know, theyll be counting his high-school hits. (If anyone cares, Ichiro had 269 hits in 536 high school at-bats.)
Ichiro hasnt tried to claim the Hit King title either: Ive heard of Pete Roses comments, and he wasnt happy about what they are saying about this record. To be honest, this wasnt something that I was a making out as a goal. It was just kind of a weird situation to be in because of the combined total.
Sadaharu Oh hit 868 home runs in Japan, but he isnt considered the all-time home run leader. No one puts Hideki Matsui in the 500-home run club by adding up his 332 Japanese league home runs and the 175 he hit in MLB. Tuffy Rhodes followed his 13 Major League homers compiled between 1990 and 1995 with three different teams by slugging 464 in Japan. Does anyone believe he should be ahead of Stan Musial or Willie Stargell on the all-time list? Of course not.
For me, its not about the record, Suzuki said after the game. Its about my teammates and the fans.
Unfortunately, the fans dont seem to care much, as evidenced by the low turnout in San Diego with a chance to see history. The Ichiros hits v Roses hits debate isnt really one worth having, and its hard to believe anyone truly thinks Ichiro is the new Hit King. Taking up that argument reeks of staking a strong opinion just get noticed.
If we must have a debate, a better question is if Ichiro is a better player than Rose ever was. That argument leans heavily in the Japanese legends favor despite him playing a chunk of his prime overseas. Both Rose and Ichiro have similar career averages and OBPs, while Rose had more pop in his bat. But add in Ichiros base running prowess and his 10 Gold Gloves and its really not that close. Rose can have his Hit King title. Ichiro will have international fame and the Hall of Fame.
Ichiro also looks to be on pace to be a much better player than Rose was in his 40s. Although now just a platoon player who primarily faces right-handed pitchers, Ichiro is hitting .349 and has an OBP of .410, both above his MLB career averages. Unfortunately, all of this production has come with almost no one watching in Miami and in places like San Diego on Wednesday afternoons. It would be great for baseball if Ichiro got dealt to a contender and received the national appreciation he deserves.
Could a 42 year-old Ichiro be the missing piece for a championship team? Thats another debate worth having.
Video of the week
After an opposing pitcher issues a four-pitch walk, Texas A&M fans chant Ball five! Ball Five! Ball Five! The taunting continues to ball six, seven and so on until a strike is thrown. This clip comes from college baseball, of course, but Aggies fans clearly have what it takes to be professional fans.
Quote of the week
The very next game, Pedroias hitting streak ended with an 0-for-6 night in a 15-4 win over the lowly Twins in which his team had 15 hits and he was the only starter to not reach base. Point made.
How did the kids piss off Goose Gossage this week?
Dont ever think baseballs code is only enforced by old, crusty veterans who feel the youth lack respect. Many younger players are also not in favor of the Bryce Harper-led push to Make Baseball Great Again. Benches cleared this week in college baseball you know, the level of baseball played by 18- to 22-year-olds because a player flipped his bat in celebration after hitting a grand slam in a Super Regional game.
Boston Colleges players have many different academic majors, but its clear they all have an undeclared minor and its Baseballs Unwritten Rules.
Nine thoughts in order
1 With Draymond Greens numerous assaults garnering most of the testicular-related sports news of late, many may have missed the story of Cleveland Indians third baseman Juan Uribe suffering a testicular contusion on Sunday after taking a 106mph groundball in the groin. It turns out Uribe doesnt wear a cup when he plays because none exist that are large enough to contain him.
There are even eyewitness accounts to back up this claim.
Condolences to Uribe on the contusion, but also congratulations on everything else.
2 The Yankees are having an awful season. By most standards, its just mediocre: they currently sit at 31-34, 6.5 behind the first place Orioles in the AL East and 4.5 out in the wild card standings. But mediocre is the worst thing a team with the Yankees resources can be. Hanging around on the outskirts of contention could compel Brian Cashman to think his team can make a run an acquisition or two. So theyll further deplete the farm system by adding another old, expensive player, only to find themselves even farther from being true contenders in the future. The Yankees are better off being bad, so bad that management realizes they have to blow the whole thing up and start over. It they do that, maybe theyll have some talent to attract Bryce Harper with when he hits free agency after the 2018 season. Even their offer of all the money ever printed might not be enough to for him to join a last place team full of decomposing corpses.
3 Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman hit for the cycle on Wednesday night in Atlantas 9-8 win over the Reds. It would have meant nothing if we didnt win, Freeman said after the game. Counterpoint: it means even close to nothing with the win because hitting for the cycle remains the most absurdly prestigious accomplishment in a sport that still trumpets pitcher wins and saves. Hitting for the cycle is objectively worse than hitting two home runs and two doubles. Or a home run, two doubles and a triple. Its the same as hitting a home run, triple and double and drawing a walk. But none of those have the ball removed from play for preservation. The cycle is a random coincidence that maybe would lose its prestige if wed all just ignore it. Okay, well starting now.
4 A 21 year-old Phillies fan named Sidney Smith was cited this week for throwing an aluminum beer bottle at first baseman Ryan Howard. Not only did the University of Delaware junior get caught, but initial descriptions referred to him as white, 30-35 years old, with a medium build and reddish brown hair. So its now public record that this guy is both an idiot and a college student who looks like hes in his mid-30s. Tough week for Sidney.
5 Just two starts into his MLB career, Pirates rookie Jameson Taillon looks like hes already the best pitcher in Pittsburghs rotation. Granted, thats not a huge accomplishment considering the Pirates starters are 29th out of 30 teams in baseball so far. But Taillons presence on the major league roster does give a huge boost to Pittsburghs chances of reaching the postseason for a fourth year in a row. The former No2 overall pick has a 1.93 ERA so far despite missing the last two seasons to injury. Because of that injury history, Taillons pitch count and innings are limited, and he was pulled from his start on Tuesday with a two-hit shutout through eight innings against the Mets because he had hit 91 pitches. What all this is setting up is an inevitable September (or earlier) discussion about whether Taillons arm should be taxed for a playoff push or if he should be shut down to save him for the future. Great news for all the people who enjoyed the thrilling Great Stephen Strasburg Debate of 2012.
6 When Rougned Odor was suspended for seven games last month for punching Jose Bautista in the beard, the Rangers called up 23 year-old prospect Jurickson Profar to fill in. Profar immediately seized the opportunity and earned himself a permanent roster spot. Nineteen games in, he has a .333 batting average and .366 on-base percentage, numbers well above Odors for the season. All this proves that players fighting can result in positive consequences we could never imagine. Its like the butterfly effect, but with punches.
7 White Sox pitcher James Shields is in the midst of one of the worst stretches by a starter in baseball history. His last three starts one of which came with the Padres (great trade, Chicago!) have lasted a combined 9 2/3 innings and resulted in 25 hits, 23 earned runs, 10 walks and six home runs. Thats a 21.41 ERA and 3.62 WHIP for those scoring at home. (But if you really want to score, you should leave your house and go hit against James Shields.) As bad as Shields has been, dont let his struggles spoil the greatest moment of the baseball season. That being, of course, when Bartolo Colon hit a home run off him on May 7th. Colon hit a home run off of a real major league pitcher and no one can ever take that moment away from us.
8 Lets all watch it again on this, the 40th day since the sport of baseball peaked.
9 David Lengel proposed last week that Madison Bumgarner should be joined in the Home Run Derby by another pitcher. Its a great idea with an obvious answer: Bartolo. But why limit it to just two pitchers. In fact, why have any position players bat at all? The addition of a clock improved last years contest, but is the nation all that excited to see Todd Frazier swing away again? If baseball wants ratings, hand bats to Bumgarner, Colon, Jake Arrietta, Zack Greinke, put Shields on the mound, and let the magic happen.