Posted on June 14, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The all-time hit leader in baseball history is disputing the fact that Ichiro Suzuki is on the verge of passing him. With Ichiro set to break the record any day, Pete Rose is becoming outspoken about his record, claiming that the hits Ichiro’s accumulated while he was playing in Japan should not count.
“It sounds like in Japan, they’re trying to make me the Hit Queen,” says a bitter-sounding Rose. “I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro — he’s had a Hall of Fame career — but the next thing you know, they’ll be counting his high school hits.”
As it stands, Rose holds the major league record with 4,256 hits. Meanwhile, Ichiro has 2,977 major league hits, but previously accumulated 1,278 hits during his nine seasons playing in Japan. If you do the math, Ichiro has 4,255 total hits between his time in Japan and his career in the big leagues. But for some reason, that just doesn’t sit right with Rose, who remains banned from the game and ineligible for the Hall of Fame.
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“I don’t think you’re going to find anybody with credibility say that Japanese baseball is equivalent to Major League Baseball,” Rose claims. “There are too many guys that fail here and then become household names there.”
Why Rose is so upset is a bit puzzling, as there has been little fanfare around Major League Baseball about Ichiro being on the verge of eclipsing his all-time hit record. On the other hand, there is a small army of Japanese media currently following Ichiro, waiting for him to break the record.
Of course, there are some who are excited about Ichiro getting set to break Rose’s record, including Arizona Diamondbacks hitting coach Mark Grace, owner of 2,445 major league hits and a lifetime .303 batting average. “I cannot believe it’s not a bigger deal in Major League Baseball. Shame on us for not making a bigger deal out of it,” says Grace. “You’re talking about breaking Pete Rose’s record. I couldn’t care less if he got some of those hits in Japan or in Antarctica. You’re getting hits at high professional levels. That’s huge. I’m in awe of the guy.”
Ichiro’s manager Don Mattingly, who has 2,153 career hits, also backs up the soon-to-be-broken hit record. “It’s hard to compare, but it’s a lot of hits no matter how you slice it,” Mattingly says. “We’ve had a number of Japanese players come over and be really successful. To say it’s minor league and major league numbers, that’s not quite fair. The fact is that he’s going to have 3,000 hits here, and to have all of those hits in Japan, too, tells you how special he is. The hits over there are hits against good quality pitching, basically major league-caliber players, so they’re legitimate for sure.”
Instead of trying to detract from Ichiro’s accomplishments and stake claim to his old record, perhaps Rose should simply get in line with many of the other game’s great hitters and simply express their astonishment at Ichiro. He had more than 200 hits in each of his first 10 years in the majors and has won two batting titles. He’s also won 10 Gold Gloves and been elected to 10 All-Star Games. Perhaps equally impressive, at age 42 he’s still able to get hits off of major league pitchers, hitting .350 this year in a part-time role with the Marlins.
The fact of the matter is that is that Ichiro is one of the best hitters the game has ever seen, and his longevity in the game is as impressive as anything he’s done. It seems inevitable that he will get to 3,000 hits in the majors, and regardless of who holds the all-time hit record, Rose and the rest of us should simply tip our caps and acknowledge all that Ichiro has accomplished in his career.