Thanks to a 3-for-4 effort against the Padres on Monday, Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is sitting on 2,977 career hits in the big leagues. He has 4,255 hits total between Japan and MLB, one behind Pete Rose's all-time major-league record of 4,256 hits.
Of course, there's an obvious distinction between Rose accumulating all 4,256 of his hits in the majors and Ichiro compiling his between Japan and MLB. We're still talking about a significant number of base hits here, more than enough to warrant a celebration.
How does Rose feel about Ichiro "approaching" his record? He doesn't seem too happy, as you might imagine. Here's what he told Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
"It sounds like in Japan,'' Rose told USA TODAY Sports, "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.
"I don't think you're going to find anybody with credibility say that Japanese baseball is equivalent to major-league baseball. There are too many guys that fail here, and then become household names there, like Tuffy Rhodes. How can he not do anything here, and hit (a record-tying) 55 home runs (in 2001) over there?
"It has something to do with the caliber of personnel.''
Sexist comment aside, Rose is correct that the caliber of competition in Japan is not as high as it is in MLB. Ichiro has shown that he is more than capable of mastering MLB pitching, however. He continues to do so to this day.
You could easily come up with arguments that enhance Ichiro's accomplishments as well. Rose never had to deal with the cultural adjustment of changing countries in the middle of his career, for example. Ichiro also didn't have the luxury of writing his name into the lineup as player-manager at the end of his career to pad his hit total. See? It goes both ways.
Regardless of what Rose thinks, Ichiro is doing something remarkable right now. The guy didn't come over to MLB until age 27, remember, and now he's closing in on 3,000 hits. Incredible. Add his Japan and MLB stats together and Ichiro is closing in on the benchmark set by Rose, and that's all it is. A benchmark.
I don't see anyone seriously saying Suzuki will be considered the new all-time hit king when he passes Rose. More importantly, the way these two have gone about their business is apples and oranges. Ichiro has done it with all class.