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Is Ichiro the new hit king?

Ichiro

On June 15, 2016, Ichiro Suzuki led off a game at San Diego with a hit. He’s done it so many times before, but this one was a bit more significant. It was hit 2,978th career hit in the majors, and since them he’s added two more hits. For sure, we’re going to witness the 30th person in history join the illustrious 3,000 hits club this year. But on that Wednesday evening that leadoff hit was his 4,257th hit as a professional baseball player. That’s more than the all-time Major League Baseball hits leader Pete Rose, who retired with 4,256 hits in his major league career.

Ichiro can now claim his spot as baseball’s all-time hit king. But it comes with a slight asterisks and not everybody is sure what to think about it. 1,278 of his career hits as a professional came in Japan’s Nikkon Professional Baseball league. Rose is still the record-holder for MLB hits, but has he really been surpassed as baseball’s hit king?

This this edition of ‘Point – Counter-point’ we give both arguments and leave it up for you to decide.

It’s what you do in the major league; Peter Rose is still the hit king

By: Andrew Johnson

All of Pete Rose' hits came in Major League Baseball, so he is still clearly the hit king.

All of Pete Rose’ hits came in Major League Baseball, so he is still clearly the hit king.

Barring some sort of injury, it is pretty safe to assume that Ichiro Suzuki will enter the exclusive Major League Baseball 3,000 hits club as the 30th person in history to get 3,000 hits in MLB. At the top of that list is Pete Rose, who has 4,256 in his career.

But professionally, Ichiro has more hits. Earlier this week Ichiro smacked his 4,257th hit as a professional league player. It just so happens that 1,278 of them came in his earlier career stint in Japan’s professional baseball league, Nippon Professional Baseball.

So the question is: should Ichiro be considered baseball’s ‘Hit King’. With only 54 total players in history making the move from NPB to MLB, it is easy to claim that the level of competition isn’t as great as MLB and all of Pete Rose’s hits came from his time in Major League Baseball. He says that if they want to count Ichiro’s non-MLB hits, then Rose should have over 400 minor league hits count toward his total.

In the grand scheme of things, minor leaguers are being paid, so those should count as professional hits just as much as hits from other leagues.

And perhaps giving Ichiro the crown as the hit king is just a way for baseball writers and historians to further distance themselves from the disgraced Rose. Some writers and historians would like to strike Rose’ name out of the record books completely, and now Ichiro comes in as the knight in shining armor doing it for them.

But he’s not the hit King; Rose still is with the Major League record with 4,256 hits. It’s a tougher league with greater competition. Besides, for all we know there is some guy like Steve Nebraska from the movie ‘The Scout’ crushing hits in a fourth-tier Mexican league. But those hits don’t count. And then don’t count lower-level professional goals in soccer when they talk about the all-time leaders in goals either. It’s what you do at the very top. Ichiro is certainly a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest hitters in history, but the top spot still goes to Pete Rose.

Ichiro is the hit king, no doubt about it

By: Corey Parkinson

Ichiro has more professional hits than anybody else. Pete Rose has the record for the Major Leagues, but Ichiro is the new hit king.

Ichiro has more professional hits than anybody else. Pete Rose has the record for the Major Leagues, but Ichiro is the new hit king.

4,257 – That’s the new all-time hit mark that Ichiro Suzuki just set, surpassing Pete Rose’ career mark. But despite the great accomplishment, many are questioning whether they should acknowledge Ichiro as the all-time hits leader when 1,278 of those hits came from his career in the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball league, since the NPB used a bigger ball than they used in MLB and the level of competition is a step down.

Yes, Pete Rose still has the record for most hits in Major League Baseball, but Ichiro has put together an incredible career. It just happened to start late in America as he was 27-year-old when he debuted for the Seattle Mariners in 2001. But it is also not like he was going against completely terrible competition either over in Japan. Ichiro was facing Hideo Nomo, who went on to have a great MLB career. Japan has won two out of three World Baseball Classics and has produced incredible talent like Yu Darvish, Masashiro Tanaka, Kenta Maeda, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Irabu, Kaz Matsui, Nori Aoki, and ‘Godzilla’ himself, Hideki Matsui. It’s a different league, but it’s still full of quality players.

One argument that can be used in why Ichiro should be considered the new hit king is the accomplishment of Sadaharu Oh. He is recognized as the professional baseball home run king with 868 home runs. Hank Aaron even acknowledges this fact. They even co-sponsor charity events together. Josh Gibson’s plaque in Cooperstown credits him with over 800 home runs and he never played in the major leagues. If these achievements can be acknowledge, why can’t Ichiro’s hits be acknowledges? They came in a top-tier level of competition, so they all count as professional hits. It doesn’t take away Rose’s title of MLB’s all-time hits leader, just the title of professional baseball’s all-time leader.

Regardless, Ichiro has carved out a Hall of Fame career even if you take away his nine years from Japan and over 1,200 hits he got from there. He’s on pase to get his 3,000th Major League hit, has a career batting average of .314 and averages over 200 hits a season. If he had nine more MLB seasons with over 200 hits a season, Ichiro could be closing in on 5,000 professional hits. Allow the man to enjoy his moment in the spotlight as the greatest player to ever step foot on the field from the other side of the Pacific because we may never see another hitter like him. He’s the hit him. He deserves it.

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