Pete Rose made it clear this week that he doesn’t think Ichiro Suzuki will be the all-time hits leader. Alex Rodriguez agrees with him.
Ichiro, now a part-time outfielder for the Miami Marlins, surpassed Rose’s major-league record of 4,256 hits when he had two hits in the Marlins’ game at San Diego on Wednesday afternoon. Ichiro has 2,979 hits in the major leagues and 1,278 hits during his nine-year professional career in Japan.
Rose told USA Today earlier this week that Ichiro’s hits in Japan should not count. Rodriguez backed up Rose before Wednesday afternoon’s game in Colorado against the Rockies.
“I think the major leagues is the major leagues,” the Yankees designated hitter said. “This is the greatest league in the world. All due respect to any league out there including all of them, to me, the major leagues — there’s only one.”
Still, Rodriguez is amazed that Ichiro is closing in on 3,000 hits in the major leagues despite starting his MLB career at age 27.
“It’s hard to fathom,” Rodriguez said. “ . . . It’s hard to comprehend. I remember I had dinner with Ichiro back around ’02-03 at his house and he told me he wanted to play until he was 50. I almost fell out of my chair. He has tremendous passion and focus. It’s awesome.”
When asked to rank Ichiro among the hitters he’s played with, Rodriguez said he would be near the top.
“It’s hard to rank,” he said. “I’d say he’s on an island by himself because he’s so unique. I’ve always been intrigued by guys like Wade Boggs and Ichiro, who if they really put their minds to it could probably hit 25 home runs, but they chose to hit 250 hits or 220 hits. He’s right there at the top. When it comes to singles hitters, he’s right there at the top.”
And what if Ichiro had played his entire career in the major leagues? Would he be challenging Rose’s record?
“I don’t want Pete to get mad at me,” Rodriguez said. “With Ichiro, anything is possible. You never doubt legends, and both Pete and Ichiro are legends.”
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said Ichiro’s “hand-eye coordination is unbelievable, because he’s moving while he’s hitting the ball, which you definitely don’t teach.
“To be able to hit pitches all over the zone, to really be able to place the ball . . . there’s very few guys that have ever played the game that can really hit it where they want to, and that’s the reason he had 4,000-plus hits in professional baseball, because his hand-eye coordination is so good and he can control that bat as well as anyone’s ever done.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi managed Ichiro for two-and-a- half seasons in the Bronx.
“He’s a remarkable hitter,” Girardi said. “He’s had a remarkable career. It would have been interesting if he had played here his whole professional career to see where he would be at.”