God love Ichiro. The Japanese born superstar is still going strong after his MLB debut back in 2001. He’s in his 16th season since the Seattle Mariners signed him to a three-year, $14 million dollar contract back in November of 2000.
After 11 ½ years with the Mariners he was sent to the NY Yankees where he played for another 2 ½ seasons. He is now in his 2nd year with the Miami Marlins (he’s signed consecutive 1 year deals).
Presently, Ichiro is on the verge of reaching the 3,000 hit plateau. An achievement only 29 other Major Leaguers have reached. As of this story, Ichiro sits two hits shy of the feat. He would become the 13th lefty to accomplish the deed.
In doing so, recently his career successes have come under fire by some of the game’s elitists. Pete Rose, the all-time leader in MLB hits (4,256) snarled at the suggestion that Ichiro’s Japanese hits records be combined with his MLB hits, which would bring his current total to 4,276. Essentially giving Ichiro the complimentary entitlement.
This has sparked widespread debate between baseball fans far and wide. Rose was quoted as saying “they’re trying to make me the Hit Queen. 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 certainly has a point. Most Japanese born players that have played or currently play in MLB have not had the same success as Ichiro, specifically in the hitting department. Rose believes, as do a host of others that Japanese baseball is inferior and several former MLB’ers that were unable to cut it in North America went on to achieve great accomplishments over in Japan.
For the record, in my humbled opinion Rose will always be the “hit king”.
What is troublesome to me however, is how little attention Ichiro has received for this latest triumph. MLB has done a disservice to its fans. Ichiro has had a Hall of Fame career and has been a model citizen both on and off the field since his rookie debut.
In a major sport where steroid use has run amok, MLB executives could have used Ichiro as a poster boy for hard-work and dedication trumps cheating. Instead Ichiro reaching 3000 has gone by the wayside. It’s a remarkable achievement, celebrate it.
It’s been a joy watching Ichiro’s unconventional swing produce the legendary numbers it has. To think pro scouts figured Ichiro too frail to endure Major League pitching or survive the grueling 162 game schedule.
At the end of the day, Ichiro proved them all wrong.