Thursday, August 22, 2013

Rant #1,026: 4,000

There are several numbers that are special in baseball.

61, for Roger Maris' untainted home run total in 1961. His "PED" was cigarettes.

511, for the number of games won by Cy Young. This is a record that nobody ever will even get close to.

56, for the hitting streak that Joe DiMaggio amassed, another one of those records that appears to be safe for the ages.

714, again, the untainted career home run total of Babe Ruth, whose only stimulants were hot dogs, lots of beer and women.

There are others, but those are the major ones.

Yesterday, another magic number was reached, and while it won't sit up there with the statistics I mentioned above, it is something to behold.

Ichiro Suzuki, rightfielder for the New York Yankees, did something that only two other players have ever achieved, and he also did something that no one else has ever achieved.

When he got his 4,000th career hit on Wednesday night during the Yankees' 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, he joined select company.

Only Pete Rose and Ty Cobb, two of the most talented--and most notorious--players ever to lace up the spikes, are the only other players to reach and go beyond this mark.

But Ichiro, as he is better known, reached the mark in a different fashion than the other two.

While Rose and Cobb did this while playing in the major leagues, Ichiro did it as both a major league player and a player in the Japanese leagues, so it is a combined 4,000.

Sure, some purists would say it was tainted, but he now stands as one of three players to reach this mark as a professional baseball player.

Purists would say that if that is the case, then all professional statistics should be added into career totals, including the minor leagues, which, after all, are professional leagues, too, where players are paid for their efforts.

So let's say Ichiro reached this mark as both a professional major league player in both the U.S. and Japan.

However you put it, that is a lot of hits.

Figure out the math.

You would have to average 200 hits over 20 years to reach 4,000. That shows consistency, staying power, lack of injury, and talent.

And Ichiro, who played the bulk of his career with the Seattle Mariners, is like the Timex watch they used to portray in those old TV commercials, he just keeps on ticking.

Sure, he is not as solid a player as he once was, but even approaching 40 years of age, he can still do it, and do it better than most players.

And unlike both Cobb and Rose, who had notorious reputations--Cobb as a racist and overall nasty person and Rose as a gambler--Ichiro has a persona that everyone loves. Along with teammate Mariano Rivera, he is one of the most revered baseball players of his generation.

So the Hall of Fame beckons when Ichiro's career is over, but when that will be is anyone's guess.

He is so sleek looking, even at this advanced baseball age, that he conceivably could play another five years--and in doing so, actually get to the 3,000 hit mark in the Major Leagues, which would probably legitimize what he has done both here and in Japan for those naysayers who look down at what he has already accomplished.

And if he could get past Rose's 4,256 hit total, that would really be something special, although again, people will look down on it, as it would be simply a "combined" record.

That may be true, but that would be some accomplishment.

So a tip of the cap to Ichiro, one of the best players of his generation.

With all the turmoil surrounding the Yankees this season, I am happy that he is on my team.

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