Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 24, 2013

Hit totals should not include those made in Japan

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Who knew? Until a few days ago, only Pete Rose and Ty Cobb had ever reached the 4,000-hit plateau, and that wasn’t likely to change anytime soon.

All of a sudden, Ichiro Suzuki collects a single on Wednesday for the Yankees in a win over the Blue Jays and is pronounced by a certain four-letter network to have collected the 4,000th hit of his career.

Funny, my record book has Suzuki with 2,723 hits, which is a nice accomplishment, but it is far from 4,000. Heck, Suzuki is 39, and still needs 277 more hits to reach 3,000.

Who knew Ichiro — as he likes to be called — was even approaching such a milestone? Wouldn’t an achievement like that one draw a little national attention before it happens?

Apparently, the folks at that four-letter network decided to make their own rules — which has become habit over the years — and added the 1,278 hits Suzuki collected in nine seasons in Japan, and placed him in the 4,000 hit club with Rose and Cobb.

Excuse me?

Now I realize Japan has good baseball, but it’s not Major League Baseball. It’s more like Triple-A. Tuffy Rhodes hit 14 home runs in a very average six-year career in America, including three in one game for the Cubs. He went to Japan and blasted 474 balls over the fence.

With that reasoning, then Hank Aaron —or even Barry Bonds — is not your home run champ. That would be Sadaharu Oh, who hit a ridiculous 868 long balls in Japan.

For years, at least before steroids, it was assumed that 500 home runs would get you in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sign up Hideki Matsui, another Yankee. (See another trend here).

Remember 'Godzilla.' He hit 175 home runs, mostly with the Yankees over a 10-year career, having come to America from Japan where he connected for 332. By that reasoning, that is 507 home runs.

Is ‘Godzilla’ really a Hall of Famer? Not close, but by this reasoning, why not?

Now don’t get me wrong. Suzuki — not Ichiro to me — has been a tremendous hitter, collecting 208 or more hits 10 straight seasons after arriving in Seattle in 2001. He has always been a slap hitter, who practically leaves the batters box while swinging, and used that style to set a single-season record with 262 hits in 2004.

That is all great, but it doesn’t make him a member of the 4,000 hit club.

Now the four-letter network is speculating — which is what they do best — if Suzuki can stay around long enough, not just to reach 3,000 hits, but to pass Cobb’s 4,191 and the 4,256 by Rose, who is the undisputed all-time hit king, Pete Rose?

Confused? Aren’t we all. He could get to 3,000, but 4,256 isn’t happening. This is just another example of a sometimes bored national media trying to generate a story, twisting the numbers any which way to make their point.

Who is going to argue? They are the mighty four-letter network.

However, if you are going to use numbers from Japan to create your own records, then let’s take it even further. Why not add the 21,228 yards Warren Moon threw for in the Canadian Football League to his 49,325 in the NFL to help him edge closer to replacing Brett Favre as the all-time passing leader.

In reality, Favre doesn't hold that record, at least by this reasoning. That would be Damon Allen. Who, you are probably saying? He threw for 72,381 yards over 23 years in the CFL, which is the best mark of any quarterback in any league. Didn’t know that? I didn’t either.

Let’s keep it going. Take the 11,662 points scored by Julius Erving in the ABA and add those to his NBA numbers and he would have 3,301 more points than the all-time leader in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

See, it just doesn’t work.

Of course, there is no sport where statistics matter as much as baseball. Even the most avid of fan probably couldn’t tell you what numbers like 38,387 points (Jabbar) or 71,838 passing yards (Favre) really mean to their respective sport.

Only in baseball do fans know what it means when they hear numbers like 61, 56, 4,256, 3,000, 300, .400 or 755. Unfortunately the steroid era has tainted baseball records, but those marks are legit.

Trying to lump Suzuki in the 4,000 hit club with help from his statistics in Japan is simply nuts. Now the four-letter network is trying to figure out if he can hang around long enough to catch Rose's mark of 4,256 hits.  

Don’t count on it. As I am writing this, the 39-year-old Suzuki is 1,533 hits short.

Good luck.

Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. An avid baseball fan, Woodson encourages feedback at bwoodson@bdtonline.com.