In case you missed it, earlier Wednesday, Ichiro Suzuki recorded his 4,257th career hit.
The baseball diehards in the audience know that means Ichiro now has one more hit than Pete Rose did during his big-league career. The catch, however, is that roughly 30 percent of Ichiro's hits came during his days in Japan. As such, there has been a rush to downplay his accomplishment as inferior to Rose's.
While it's true that Ichiro benefited from playing weaker competition earlier in his professional career, there is reason to take his mark seriously -- or, at least, more seriously than you might otherwise.
That reason should be straightforward: It doesn't matter where you play or who you play against, it's incredibly difficult to play for as long and as well as it takes to reach the 4,000-hit mark. Think about it this way: If it were so easy to do what Ichiro did -- dominating on two continents, in two leagues -- then you would see other players do the same.
Yet Ichiro is one of a kind. In addition to soon becoming the first Japanese-born player to notch 3,000 hits in the majors, he's already only the second Japanese-born player to ever reach 3,000 hits period. (The first, by the way, was a feller named Isao Harimoto -- Harimoto just so happened to predict Ichiro's rise as the Japanese Hit King back in the mid-'90s.)
There are a few explanations for this, including the facts that the NPB season is shorter, that the most talented foreign-born players -- Ichiro included -- often leave for the U.S. during their primes, and so on.
Of course, there's another point to consider in all this, too: There's room for both Rose and Ichiro to be acknowledged as two of the best contact hitters in baseball history -- with their differences being celebrated as evidence that the game has become increasingly global in scope. Ichiro, for all his impressive statistical accomplishments, deserves special recognition beyond numbers.
After all, Ichiro has been one of the game's most exciting, identifiable and popular players throughout his career. There should always be room in baseball lore for someone like that.