Rose deserves title of MLB all-time hit leader over Ichiro

Published 1:28 am Monday, July 25, 2016

The Bambino vs. Hammerin’ Hank. Bird vs. Magic. Jordan vs. LeBron. The Hit King vs. the Nippon Sultan.

Sports has always tried to compare players of different eras and the latest debate has Pete Rose matched against Suzuki Ichiro.

Rose is Major League Baseball’s all-time hit leader with a 4,256 total. He not only calls himself The Hit King, he has it trademarked.

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Ichiro is closing in on 3,000 career hits in the majors and has surpassed Rose’s total when added to his hit total while playing in Japan.

Ichiro got a lot of hits in Japan at a level that would be considered a mix between Class AA and AAA in America.

Now that is not to say Ichiro isn’t a great hitter because he obviously has proven himself. But in sports today we tend to look at the present and consider it to be the greatest period of sports in history.

It has happened that way for more than 100 years and will continue. In 20 years sports writers will be talking about how great the players and their accomplishments are and how much better they were than players like Ichiro.

But not Rose.

There was a comparison between Rose and Ichiro from age 27 to 42, the years in which Ichiro has played in the major leagues.

Rose hit .309 during that age span with 3,091 hits while Ichiro has batted .314 with 2,996 hits.

Still, this is like comparing apples to oranges.

Ichiro has played during the expansion era that now features 30 teams and some watered down pitching staffs.

Major League Baseball added the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators (now Texas Rangers) in 1961 to the American League.

The New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s (now the Astros) were added to the National League in 1962.

The next expansion came in 1969 with the San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos in the NL and the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots (now Milwaukee Brewers) in the AL. Milwaukee has since moved to the NL.

The next two additions were the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays to the AL in 1977. The NL did expanded again until 1993 with the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins (now Miami).

Finally, 1998 brought the Arizona Diamondbacks (NL) and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (AL).

Teams are fortunate in today’s game to have two or three strong starting pitchers. Most teams have one ace and if you hit the series at the right time, you miss him completely.

While Rose saw some expansion before his retiring in 1986, there were fewer expansion teams than Ichiro has seen plus the teams during his early career had stacked rotations.

Rose saw these kinds of pitching staffs:

St. Louis: Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Ray Washburn, Nelson Briles;

San Francisco: Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Mike McCormick, Ray Sadecki;

Chicago Cubs: Ferguson Jenkins, Ken Holtzman, Joe Niekro, Curt Simmons;

Philadelphia Phillies: Jim Bunning, Larry Jackson, Rick Wise, Chris Short;

Atlanta Braves: Phil Niekro, Pat Jarvis, Ken Johnson;

Los Angeles Dodgers: Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Claude Osteen, Don Sutton, Bill Singer;

Houston Astros: Mike Cuellar, Dave Giusti, Don Wilson.

Even the Mets had a young but impressive staff in the late 1960s that included Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan.

Those were all very good pitchers and many were elected to the Hall of Fame.

Ichiro has seen some good pitchers during his career, but not the day-in, day-out talent Rose went again. In fact, Ichiro not only missed all those great pitchers of the Rose era but he got to spend the first part of his career batting against Japan pitchers.

How good is Japanese pitching overall? Wladimir Balentien set a single-season record with 60 home runs while playing in Japan in 2013. Balentien had 15 career home runs in the major leagues.

And there have been other examples of hitters who struggled to play in the major leagues and became slugging stars in Japan.

The fact Rose did see some expansion pitching it might explain the fact he had more hits after the age of 30 than any player in baseball history.

But if we’re going to blow off Sadaharu Oh’s 868 career home runs compared to Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and even steroid sluggers like Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, then how do you justify Ichiro’s hit total being better when compared to Rose?

Well, you can’t. Decision: Pete Rose.


Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.