A lot of talk in the baseball world has been centered on the fact that Ichiro is about to surpass Pete Rose for all-time hits as a professional. Heck even my dad brought it up as we were having lunch together yesterday.
The thing that is making this topic so controversial is that Ichiro got quite a few of his hits while playing in Japan. This has got me thinking about whether or not I will consider Ichiro the Hit King or if that title stays with Pete Rose.
The simple answer to this is major league baseball in Japan is not the same level as major league baseball in America and therefore Pete Rose is and will continue to be the all-time hit leader in my opinion. This doesn’t take anything away from Ichiro. He is still about to reach 3,000 hits in major league baseball and is a first ballot Hall of Famer without any doubt in my mind.
Let’s play a little what if. What if there had been an international draft in place when Ichiro was getting ready to go professional? What if Japan had reached an agreement to be a part of the international draft? Think of what could have been if Ichiro had not spent the first part of his career becoming Japan’s superstar but instead was in America making a name for himself?
Ichiro might actually be pushing to become the legitimate all-time hit king in major league baseball. We know he had the ability. Ichiro played 7 full seasons in Japan and parts of two others. With his ability to get 200 hits a season, quite a bit more a few times, he would surpass the record. In fact he would have already done it because the Japanese baseball season isn’t as long as the American baseball season. He would have had more games played now.
The thing about records though is what ifs aren’t worth anything. What if Griffey had stayed healthy during his career? What if Kirby Puckett hadn’t been forced to retire early because of problems with his sight? What if, what if, what if.
The bottom line is I wish Ichrio would have played his entire career in the U.S. but he didn’t. The all-time hit leader will continue to be Pete Rose.