With Ichiro Suzuki notching career hit No. 4,257 between Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan and Major League Baseball on Wednesday, the debate over who truly is the baseball “Hit King” is poised to reach another level.
That’s especially true within the baseball world, where everyone from Rose himself, to now even Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds have weighed in. Because let’s be honest, no baseball debate can be settled until its three most controversial living figures have weighed in.
The basis of the debate is simple: In reaching that number, Ichiro has now officially passed the MLB hit total of Pete Rose, which stood unmatched by any player in any league for nearly 30 years. The question is whether or not Ichiro’s hit total between Japan’s highest league and MLB, which is recognized as the world’s highest league, carries the same weight and now makes him the new and true baseball “Hit King.”
Seemingly everyone has an opinion, but we’ll defer here to Rodriguez and Bonds, who both share unique and interesting perspectives on the matter.
Speaking to the New York Daily News on Wednesday, Rodriguez had nothing but praise for Ichiro, who was his teammate in Seattle and New York, noting that he could change a game at any time he wanted to. But he made it clear that MLB stands above and beyond any other baseball league, making everything Ichiro accomplished in Japan less significant from a historic perspective.Beginning with A-Rod, we can count him among those who believe Pete Rose is still baseball’s undisputed hit king.
“I think the major leagues is the major leagues,” Rodriguez said. “This is greatest league in the world. All due respect to any league out there including all of them, to me, the major leagues – there’s only one.”
It’s difficult to argue with that. MLB is where every top player from around the world wants to come to test their skills and make the most money. So it’s undoubtedly the most competitive.
As for Bonds, who’s certainly well connected to Ichiro now as his hitting coach with the Marlins, he seems to be firmly in the camp acknowledging Ichiro’s entire career with the same respect and appreciation.
“You have to include Japan, but there will always be that when you run with that story,’’ said Bonds, the Marlins’ hitting coach. “You can do either one of two things. You can either respect Ichiro and scream at all of the Japanese people who kept him there 10 years longer than he should have been, and he should have been here earlier.
“Or, you can say he wasn’t in the major leagues long enough to be in that category.
“But to me, he’s in that category regardless of where he started from.’’
It’s a debate that can be approached from several different angles, making it impossible to settle on a firm correct answer. It’s a matter of personal opinion, and perhaps even the esteem in which individuals hold the specific players involved.
All we can say for sure is that both Pete Rose and Ichiro Suzuki were once-in-a-generation type hitters who have forever left their mark on baseball.
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