If you count the hits that Ichiro Suzuki accumulated during his baseball career in Japan, he’s MLB’s all-time hits leader. Pete Rose, who is MLB’ hits leader if you don’t count Ichiro’s Japanese hits doesn’t (surprise) think we should.
A lesser person would match Rose’s fire with fire. A diplomatic person would say “no comment.”
Ichiro walks this razor thin line between both and sees Rose’s commentary for what it is: fear.
Rose…has argued that Ichiro’s 1,278 hits in Japan are essentially invalid.
“I don’t think you’re going to find anyone with credibility say that Japanese baseball is equivalent to major-league baseball,’’ Rose told USA Today. “I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro, but the next thing you know, they’ll be counting his high-school hits.”
All of which Ichiro takes in with a typically unique interpretation. In his mind, this is Rose’s method of paying homage to Ichiro.
“I was actually really surprised and happy that he was so serious about it, and so vocal about it,’’ he said. “Because in the 16 years I’ve been here, what I’ve noticed is, usually, let’s say Americans, if you’re looking at another player, and you feel you’re better than that person, then it’s easy for that person to give encouragement or give praise to that player.
“But as soon as they’re maybe at the same level or maybe they’ve passed that person, then they start becoming defensive and maybe stronger in their words. How I took it was, he really was interested and serious about that. He didn’t just let me be. He got into it. I was really happy he actually was even acknowledging the fact it was happening.
“Some people have told me about five years ago he did an interview where he wished and hoped I could pass that number. I feel like back then he probably didn’t think I could do it.”
Well played, Ichi.