If Ichiro had been born in California ...

September, 10, 2010
9/10/10
7:01
PM ET
This bit from Rick Reilly's story about Pete Rose reminded me of something ...
    And don't even get him started on Ichiro, who trails Rose by more than 2,000 hits.

    "Do you realize that Ichiro has had three or four seasons where about 27, 28 percent of his hits are infield hits? The guy has to be the luckiest guy in the history of the world to get that many infield hits!"

    Q: Ichiro had 1,278 hits in Japan. Should those count?

    "OK, you gonna let me go over to Japan and play for five or six years? Nothing against Japanese baseball, but it's basically Triple-A ball."

Leaving aside Rose's take (which is silly) on infield hits, he's at least somewhat correct about Japanese baseball: It's not Major League Baseball.

But when Ichiro did get his chance to play Major League Baseball, he immediately collected more hits (242) and batted higher (.350) than Pete Rose ever did in a single season. I certainly wouldn't argue that Ichiro's hits in Japan should "count" ... but doesn't his rookie season suggest that he could have done some amazing things in these majors before he actually did?

In Ichiro's first five seasons with the Mariners, he averaged 226 hits per season. Let's assume he was good enough to play in the majors at 22 -- the age at which Pete Rose was a rookie -- and let's assume, further, that he would have averaged 200 hits per season in his first five seasons.

That would give him 3,213 hits right now, at 36.

At the end of his Age 36 season, Rose had 2,966 hits.

Of course, we don't know if Ichiro will finish as strong as Rose did.

But earlier today I wrote about the requisite recipe for reaching 4,000 hits ... and somehow I forgot the most obvious extent example.

Ichiro has it all. He's incredibly durable. He's incredibly talented. He's a leadoff man who doesn't walk much (he walks significantly less often than Rose did). If you were looking for a single player on the planet who might collect 4,000 hits and perhaps even challenge Charlie Hustle's record, this is exactly the player you would choose.

Except for one thing: This player was born in the wrong country.

Maybe the next one won't be.

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