Ichiro The Hit King
By: Connor Lenahan
Aside from Derek Jeter, my favorite baseball player growing up was Ichiro. The legendary right fielder for the Seattle Mariners exploded to MLB success right around the time I started understanding sports. One of the first jerseys I owned as a kid was an Ichiro #51. Today was an incredible one for Ichiro, but the degree to which we celebrate is a debate.
Ichiro has 2,979 hits as an MLB player and an additional 1,278 in Japan, where he played for the first eight seasons of his career. This brings him to a grand total of 4,257 hits – one more than Pete Rose, currently the record holder for most hits in MLB history. This is where the debate falls into place. Pete Rose has notably come out to defend his record, claiming that if we made an exception for Ichiro’s Japanese hits then we would probably start counting his high school hits too.
Let’s drop all the discussion about the quality of play between Japan and the United States and remember something completely different. Ichiro only came over to the United States in 2001, when he was already 28 years old. For comparison, Mike Trout has already played four MLB seasons and is only 24. This was because of an agreement between Japanese and American teams.
Why should we penalize Ichiro for not being able to jump ship earlier and pick up more hits in the US? He obviously didn’t have an issue adapting to American play – he won Rookie of the Year and MVP in 2001. Since then he has routinely been one of the best hitters in the game, resetting the mark for most hits in a season with 262 in 2004, and batting a career .314.
Oh, and he’s currently hitting .347 as a 42 year old.
Pete Rose is still going to be the official MLB hit king until Ichiro knocks him off as a 50 year old – which, honestly, isn’t impossible – but for my money we officially crowned the best hitter of all time today. Congrats to Ichiro for continuing to be the most productive man on the planet – never stop.