Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed the game of baseball. I've been a fan of the game since I was a toddler, but started to truly follow the sport when I was about 10. When I first began to follow America's Pastime, a Japanese baseball player named Ichiro Suzuki was taking Major League Baseball by storm. As a 28 year-old rookie for the Seattle Mariners, Ichiro never had a tremendous amount of power, but he was as quick as a whip and could make contact with the best of them. That "chop-like" swing has followed him throughout his career and with the help of that swing last night versus the Toronto Blue Jays; Yankee’s Ichiro Suzuki recorded the 4,000th hit of his professional career (both Japanese league and the majors). With last night's hit, Ichiro joined the likes of Pete Rose and Ty Cobb in the 4,000 hit club, or did he?
Technically, yes, Ichiro is a member of the 4,000 hit club because of his 1,278 hits back in Japan and his 2,722 hits while in the MLB. If you break it down to pure numbers and consider the Japanese league just as professional as the majors, then Ichiro has joined two of baseballs best in a league of their own. The only problem that I have with Ichiro in that elite class is that his hits combine between two different leagues, which essentially means two different careers.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Ichiro Suzuki and still dream of the day when he will suit up for the Cleveland Indians (which will never happen), but I don’t think that it is fair to put him in the same group as Rose and Cobb. Neither Rose or Cobb were outstanding human beings, as Rose bet on his game and Cobb was just a royal jerk, but they both earned it in one league. The same competition night in and night out for the duration of their careers as they reached the milestone of 4,000 hits.
Ichiro spent nine seasons in Japan and compared to the talent in the big leagues, the everyday Japanese baseball player may not be considered the cream of the crop. Over 30% of Ichiro’s career hits came in Japan and because of that, I couldn’t truly say that Suzuki has 4,000 hits. When you move from one league to another, I believe that all of your stats should start over. That is what happens when a minor leaguer gets promoted to the show, his stats start fresh. Just because a kid has 300 career home runs in the minor’s means absolutely nothing when he gets his shot in MLB. I know that Japanese baseball may not be Triple-A baseball, but when you make the jump from one league to another, nothing should carry over, as it is a fresh start with a clean stat line.
I still think that Ichiro is a tremendous player and I will always be a huge fan, but I just don’t think that it is fair to put Ichiro in the same conversation as the other two baseball icons. If you want to put Ichiro in the same category as Pete and Ty, the only stats that should count are those that he has earned while in Major League Baseball, and if that’s the case, he isn’t even in the 3,000 hit club yet.