These days, Pete Rose is little more than the human embodiment of a comment section. He offers a response that breaks the limitations of obnoxiousness. The offended pounce. His defensive fans swarm. And it all devolves into something horrible and nasty and so very typical in regards to Rose. His action is Sleeping Beauty-level tired.
This article will not fall down that wormhole of ignorance.
So forget the previous two paragraphs. Let’s make this about Ichiro.
Let’s marvel at the curious way he plays baseball. He is what it’d look like if a swan could swing a bat. He is powerful and graceful and dexterous well beyond what his 5-foot-9, 170-pound body ought create. Nobody knows Ichiro better than Ichiro himself.
Let’s value how he remained true to himself. Ichiro belongs in the black and white pictures of a bygone era, smacking and flitting and causing chaos. He is of another era, and yet he refused to bend his game – his principles – to the one in which he played. That conviction was earned by him. He was good that it was not possible to question him.
Let’s remember his 262 hits in one season. Think about that: One season, 161 games, 262 hits. In the last 10 years, there have been four 50-hit months. Yes, over the course of a single season, Ichiro matched what it took every other player in baseball joined a decade to do.
Let’s value that at 42 years old, not only does Ichiro seem neck down same as ever – there’s enough salt amid his pepper to give away his age – that is true but he’s playing like some Benjamin Buttoned variant of himself, also. His two hits Wednesday shoved his season average to .349. Among hitters with at least 125 at-bats, Xander Bogaerts and just Daniel Murphy can claim better batting averages.
Let us hope Terry Collins can find a spot on the National League’s All-Star Game roster so he can give his renowned pep talk yet another time.
Let us curse the unfairness of Ichiro not having seen just one pitch in the World Series. He played for the most winning 162-game regular season team ever, the 116-46 Mariners. He spent three years with the most winning franchise ever, the New York Yankees. Nothing. Not a measly plate appearance. And the Marlins, though improved, aren’t unlikely to play in October this season. Which means barring a trade, Ichiro will have gone to the plate more than 10,000 times in the major leagues without having progressed past the ALCS.
Let’s strive to be more like him. Shortly after his visit, he wrote a check to a museum that struggles to find modern players willing to help keep it strong through donations. Ichiro has made more than $100 million in his career. Still, to earmark even a fraction of that revealed Ichiro’s admiration for the game and history.
Let’s applaud, in fact, the risk he took in coming here. Ichiro was on his way to being the most beloved player in Japan since Shigeo Nagashima – and, in all likelihood, surpassing him. And after nine years spent making mincemeat of Pacific League pitchers, at 27 years old, he packed up and signed with the Seattle Mariners for three years and $14 million. And though he looked nothing like any other player in the game, everybody convinced that the underestimation of top-notch Japanese position players was wrongheaded. The depth of the Japanese player pool lessens the ability to translate those 1,278 hits one for one; the top of it is no different than that in the United or Venezuela Republic States or Dominican or Cuba or Puerto Rico or anyplace.
Eventually, let’s celebrate 3,000. Let’s actually celebrate 3,000. 15 years later and let’s delight in the improbability of a guy arriving in the big leagues at 27 years old not only chugging toward 3,000 hits but rushing it. Let’s tune in during Ichiro at-bats because they are less likely than any to end in a strikeout and the visual of him stopping up down the first base line even at 42 is worth viewing. Let us at least make 3,000 exceptional enough to keep anyone from believing to ask some old man with a bad dye job what he thinks about it. if we are not going to give 4,257.
Maybe his 4,257 hits are not as good as those of the man with 4,256. Everything else makes up for it.