Pete Rose is the all-time hits leader in Major League Baseball with 4,256. He is regarded as the hit king. On Wednesday evening, Ichiro Suzuki surpassed Rose for most professional hits.
The key word is professional. While Ichiro’s hit total is extremely impressive, 1,278 of his professional hits came in Japan. Rose recently spoke on the matter as Ichiro was close to eclipsing his record.
“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,” Rose said.
Professional Japanese baseball is better than high school baseball, by far, but what Rose said wasn’t too far off. Japanese baseball is somewhere between the MLB and Triple A baseball. It’s not the worst baseball, but it’s not the “show”. If you added in Rose’s 400-plus minor league hits, this wouldn’t be a discussion. That’s the equivalent to Ichiro’s Japanese playing career.
Pete Rose is the hit king for all of baseball, but Ichiro has put his name in at least the discussion of who is the all-time hit king. All of Rose’s professional hits came in the MLB. All of Ichiro’s did not, but that doesn’t take away from what Ichiro has accomplished in his playing career.
Ichiro came into the majors in 2001 and was one of the first Japanese position players. He took the league by storm with an amazing rookie season at the age of 27. He set the MLB-rookie record for hits in a season and led the MLB with 242 hits, the most hits in a single season since 1930. He also batted .350 with 127 runs scored, while striking out just 53 times in 692 at-bats. He won both the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year awards.
He is now just 11 hits shy of becoming the 30th player in MLB history to join the 3,000 hit club.
In each of his first 10 MLB seasons, he racked up 200-plus hits. That’s quite the accomplishment for someone who got a late start in the league. Those who will make the case for the hit king to be Ichiro will try and compare his 15-year career to what could have been had he started earlier than 27-years old. However, that is something that can only be speculated.
When he finally hangs his cleats up, Ichiro Suzuki will get the call from Cooperstown and be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He has had a brilliant career in both Japan and the MLB.
Pete Rose is still and very well could forever be, the true hit king. Ichiro’s hit milestone is still highly impressive and something we likely won’t see again. Ichiro is a generational player that will be remembered as such, regardless if he has the title of “hit king”.