Former Mariner Ichiro Suzuki reached a significant milestone this week. It came with some controversy. But KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says it shouldn't have.
Rose: 'Wrong' Reaction
"On Wednesday, Ichiro had his career 4,257th hit. The big deal about that was that it was one more than the record held by the 'hit king' Pete Rose," Thiel said.
"But of course that counts his time in Japanese pro ball as well as the 2,979 hits he's had as a Major League player - most of those with the Mariners in 12 seasons in Seattle.
"Pete Rose seemed to be a little indignant about that, causing a little controversy. He said, 'Well, all those people in Japan, they must be calling me the hit queen.'
"Which is a) sexist and b) stupid," Thiel continued. "And also causing him to self-aggrandize, which is something that Pete does really, really well.
"He should've said, 'Congratulations Ichiro. Tremendous feat.' And leave it at that. Instead he had to say that he was being denigrated by Japanese fans.
"Nobody at MLB is looking at this as the actual record but it's still a significant feat," Thiel said.
Another MLB-Only Milestone Coming
Thiel noted that Suzuki is just 21 hits shy of the 3,000-hit plateau for Major League Baseball.
"It's a big deal ... because only 30 players in the game's 125-year history have done that," he said.
"That really is a testament to Ichiro's durability and ability because there's not going to be any dispute about his legidimacy as a Major League ballplayer.
"And I think that's going to be accepted by everyone and embraced here as well as in Japan because he did it against the best."
Japan's First Personality Export
"I think what has been forgotten has been that Ichiro was a pop culture phenom when he came here in 2001," Thiel continued.
"Japan, to that point, had never really exported a personality onto the global stage. We know about Japan's post-World War II recovery and becoming a manufacturing giant of cameras and electronic gear and cars.
"But they never exported a personality. And Ichiro was it. They were just so in love with his achievement.
"In 2001, not only - as a 27-year-old - did he hit the stage as a full-time position player, he was the Most Valuable Player in the American League in his rookie year. And, of course, he was Rookie of the Year. No one could've foreseen that kind of success in his first year.
"And he continued to do so well for the Mariners. And he's become this icon in Japan and I think he deserves to be an icon here.
"He has endured and is so consistent, at age 42, to be able to hit .347 - it's better than anybody on the Mariners is hitting right now.
"It's a part-time role. No one is suggesting he should be traded and wind up coming back to Seattle. It's just a salute to him.
"And the 3,000-hit plateau will be a significant achievement in which all of baseball should bow to Ichiro because it is a feat of unquestioned durability and ability."