Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XV: Ichiro and the hit record)

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Published on : June 17, 2016

 

This week, Ichiro Suzuki of the Miami Marlins got his 4,257th career hit, passing Pete Rose for the all-time lead… if you combine his MLB hits with the 1,278 he got in Japan. So the manufactured debate this week was whether or not Ichiro was the true hit king. You might be thinking, “Who would even make that argument?” But trust me, I’ve had it. Nerds find each other.

 

My short answer is, I love Ichiro. But Pete Rose is still the hit king. He got all 4,256 hits in the Majors and we don’t even have to bring the 427 hits he got in the minors in to the equation. What you do in the Majors should be the only thing that matters. Granted, what Ichiro has done in the Majors is also remarkable. I think he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer (something Pete Rose definitely can’t say) without any of his Japanese stats. I could give you a long list of all of his accomplishments in baseball since 2001, but it’s not like he’s dying, so we can probably save those for another day. Just know Ichiro is an all-time great and I’m taking nothing away from him. Besides, you know, about 1,300 Japanese hits.

 

My longer answer would include an analysis of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, where the final answer always ends up being, “Dude. Matt Murton was awesome there. It’s not as good as the Majors.” But I’ll go a little further. Ichiro broke into the NBP when he was 18. And he was a 4th-round pick in Japan because he only weighed 124 pounds. 124 POUNDS!!!¬† Nomar Mazara is the youngest position player in the Majors right now. And he’s three years older, with 90 pounds on young Ichi. No MLB team would bring up (or even draft) an 18-year-old outfielder with a weird swing who weighed 124 pounds. Hardly any teams bring up teenagers now. Julio Urias is the first teenager to play in the bigs since 2012. So I think we can rest assured that Ichiro (although very good) would not have come to the Majors in 1992, 1993 or 1994 as the first Japanese position player in MLB history and been plugged in right away. Scouts weren’t even sure about him after he’d gotten seven consecutive batting titles in Japan. So the answer is still no.

 

 

The fun part, for me is when you do go down that slippery slope of including every other professional league to see what kind of hit totals some other players would have gotten. Ichiro might actually be the 6th, 7th or 10th professional player to reach 4,000 hits. Nobody is really sure. Besides Rose and Ty Cobb, there’s also a guy named Arnold John “Jigger” Statz (whose name’s ironic value is not lost on me) who played 18 seasons in the minors between 1920 and 1942. There’s Minnie Minoso (of Bill Veeck publicity stunt fame), who also played in the Cuban, Mexican and Negro Leagues. Julio Franco (yes, THAT Julio Franco) played in the US, Japan, South Korea and Mexico. He’d be at around 4,000 too. Then you could add in the minor league stats of Stan Musial, as well as the Cuban League, Puerto Rican Winter League and all the exhibition stats for Cobb and Hank Aaron. And then the lost minor league stats for Jake Beckley and Sam Crawford, which would also bring them in around 4,000. It’s basically a disaster.

 

Ichiro was a great player who happened to play in a AAAA league for 9 years. Yes, their schedule is 32 games shorter than the Majors. Yes, Ichiro has been facing flame-throwing relief specialists that Rose never had to face. But Pete Rose did it all in the Majors. And, if anything, all this Ichiro talk has to make you appreciate what Rose did over 24 seasons even more than you already did. Forget the gambling and the lying for just one second. And just think about 4,256. It’s amazing. Then think about how Shoeless Joe Jackson was on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1936. Think about what an absolute piece of trash Ty Cobb was. And consider that, while we’re all congratulating Ichiro on his accomplishment, if it might be time to finally honor somebody else as well. And no, I’m not talking about Jigger Statz.

 

Okay. Let’s go around the league.

 

AL East

 

The East Cost media bias is hilarious to me. Because instead of talking about how the Orioles keep sticking around and mashing home runs, or how the Blue Jays keep gaining ground, or even how Evan Longoria and the Rays got red-hot this week, they’re mostly picking their favorite Red Sock of the week (Steven Wright) and deciding on which reliever the Yankees have to give up if, and when, they become sellers.

 

Sure, both of those things are probably important in the long run. Wright (a knuckleballer) didn’t even know if he was going to be a starter at the beginning of the season. Now he’s the best pitcher in the division. And that’s got to be a pleasant surprise for a team that’s paying $30 million to David Price. I’m just saying that since they can’t really call the Red Sox the best team in the league any more, they’ll figure out a way to talk about whatever bright spot they can. And Wright fills that position for the time being. Next week, we’ll probably be back to Xander Bogaerts, David Price and Jackie Bradley Jr.

 

As far as the Yankees go, there are plenty of teams in contention who would love a bat like Carlos Beltran’s or the bullpen help of Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman. But, until the trade deadline, maybe I have to be the voice of reason here to say that Yankees are done and the Red Sox are are a slump or two away from being in third place.

 

AL Central

 

Does anybody want this thing? I’m not so sure. After a great month from the Indians, the streaky Royals decided they wanted to win again. Maybe they were feeling lucky after Yordano Ventura’s bullshit suspension. Maybe the whole division is mediocre. I don’t know. But I guess one interesting thing came out of the Central this week…

 

The White Sox designated Jimmy Rollins for assignment and I heard a few people discussing whether or not J-Roll is a Hall of Famer. The answer is a solid no, but it’s always fun to argue. And in case you were wondering, his career stats just aren’t there (231 HR, .264 AVG, 2,455 H), he’s not as good as Alan Trammell, who isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and he’s essentially a middle-of-the-pack shortstop with a handful of good seasons. That does include an MVP award and a ring. But he was the second-best player on his own team in both of those years. The guy has had a great career. He also had a 38-game hitting streak from 2005-2006. He was on a great Phillies team, and is the all-time leader in hits for the franchise. And he’s in the MC Hammer “Adams Groove” music video. That’s got to be worth something. He’s just not worthy of Cooperstown.

 

AL West

The Rangers are the best team in the American League. That’s become pretty clear. And that’s with Yu Darvish and Adrian Beltre fighting injuries. When you’re hot, you’re hot. And the Rangers are off to the best start in their franchise history.

 

NL East

 

The Nationals are also scorching hot. And everyone decided that their series with the Cubs, where they took 2-out-of-3, had a playoff feel to it. Even though Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester (with their sub-2 ERAs) didn’t pitch. And even though, when the Cubs destroyed them earlier in the season, nobody seemed to think it mattered. Daniel Murphy might end up being better than Bryce Harper this season. Stephen Strasburg is being hailed as the new Walter Johnson. Max Scherzer struck out 9 of the first 10 Cubs he faced on Monday. And they should just hope that Dusty Baker sending them out there to throw over 100 pitches an outing doesn’t come back and bite them. The Mets, with all their injuries and general lack of hitting, probably should though.

 

NL Central 

There hasn’t been a lot of good news for the Pirates lately, other than the emergence of Jameson Taillon, who was drafted between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in 2010. That’s a first round that also included Matt Harvey (7), Chris Sale (13) and Noah Syndergaard (38), by the way. So like, WOW. With Gerrit Cole out, the Pirates might need to call up Tyler Glasnow and hope Taillon can keep up his hot start. Because the only way they can really avoid another Wild Card this year is by not making the playoffs.

 

The team that replaced Pittsburgh for the second Wild Card spot was the Cardinals, who are finally almost playing like the St. Louis Cardinals are supposed to play. I mean, they’re still 9.5 back of the Cubs. And the Dodgers will probably pass them eventually, but I’m letting them have their moment. Even though complimenting anything about them makes me feel so gross that I might need to take a shower.

 

As for the Cubs, they still have the best record in baseball. But the bullpen seems to be a glaring weakness that is feeding the rumor mill that they’d be willing to give up one of their young stars to the Yankees for Miller or Chapman. I just hope that young star is not Kyle Schwarber. Thankfully, Albert Almora came up recently and reminded everybody just how many young position players these Cubs can afford to give up to make a run at October.

 

Speaking of trades, also keep your eye on the Brewers, who could unload Ryan Braun and/or Jonathan Lucroy. Besides the Yankees’ Nasty Boys (or No-Run-DMC for Dellin, Miller and Chapman), the Brewers are the most talked-about trade deadline team in the Majors.

 

NL West

 

If there’s any pitcher in the National League who everyone should be talking about, it’s Clayton Kershaw. And yet all of the noise is being made about Madison Bumgarner. Just so we’re clear, MadBum has only had one 5+ WAR season in his career and Kershaw has a 4.8 RIGHT NOW. In mid-June. And isn’t Johnny Cueto having a better season on the mound than Bumgarner, anyway? I guess I’ve just never experienced anything quite like a guy hitting two homers and everyone acting like that makes him the greatest pitcher in the world.

 

Well, that’s gonna do it for this week in the outfield. Next week, I’ll be off in Iowa, where there are no outfields. If you need more, check me out on the MLB Recaps on “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon. Til next time, Ichiro needs 21 hits and the Cubs’ Magic Number is 89.

 

 

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