It’s Time to Anoint Baseball’s New Hit King

Ichiro Suzuki is 42 years-old. On Monday night, he collected three hits and drew two walks while playing right field and batting lead-off for the Miami Marlins. Monday’s performance raised his 2016 batting average to .350. Despite his age and part-time playing status in 2016, he has been a more valuable player to the Marlins than Giancarlo Stanton. He is 23 hits away from 3,000. When combining his MLB stats with his accomplishments while playing in Japan, he is one hit shy of tying Pete Rose’s record.

Ichiro is incredible. Pete Rose is an overrated crook enslaved by Gamblor. It’s time to decree Ichiro as baseball’s new Hit King.

I understand the argument as to why Ichiro’s hits from Japan shouldn’t count, and Ichiro will never come close to Rose in terms of those intangible qualities writers and fans rely on so heavily, “aura and mystique,” but let’s take a few things into account:

  • Ichiro didn’t begin his MLB career until he was 27 years-old. TWENTY-SEVEN! Derek Jeter was 20 when he collected his first MLB hit. Rose was 21. Paul Molitor was 21. Robin Yount was 18. Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were 20.
  • His transition was rough: Ichiro promptly won the 2001 Most Valuable Player Award (and Rookie of the Year) while leading all of baseball in hits, stolen bases and batting average. I’m guessing he would have performed OK if he started his MLB career a few years sooner…
  • From 2001-2010, Ichiro had 10 consecutive 200-hit seasons. In 2004, he broke George Sisler’s 80 year-old record for hits in a season by collecting 262. He’s amassed over 235 hits in a season two other times. Rose also has 10 200-hit seasons (never more than three in a row) but he never cracked over 230 in a season and it took him 24 years to do it. Ichiro is currently playing in his 16th season.
  • Rose earned his reputation as “Charlie Hustle,” a guy who never took a play off and always showed up to compete, playing in more games than anyone. Ichiro isn’t that far off, averaging 157 games a season throughout the course of his MLB career.
  • Ichiro never bet on baseball, has helped cultivate a die-hard MLB following in Japan, is a beloved teammate as well as a ridiculous baseball-loving weirdo. Pete Rose is… none of those things.

If Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to avoid dealing with Rose (and his ardent supporters), he should throw MLB’s marketing team on Ichiro and promote the hell out of him. It’ll take the attention away from a guy who has continually used baseball for his own self-promotion and instead divert it to a real ambassador of the game, an all-time great hitter who actually deserves it.

All hail King Ichiro.

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