Week in review: Ichiro and Rose

Ichiro Suzuki doubled last Wednesday, his second hit of the game, 44th of 2016, 2,979th of his MLB career and 4,257th of his professional career, including 1,278 in Japan.

Or one more than Pete Rose.

More than one story proclaimed Ichiro “The International Hit King,” which didn’t please Rose, who is as protective of his legacy as he once was the inside part of the plate.

You can’t blame Rose, because it’s not as if he has anything left to look after. His reputation was long since shattered.

“If you’re talking about professional hits, I’ve got 4,683 of them,” Rose said, according to the Associated Press, two days later. ”Because I believe a professional hit, and I’m not talking about Ichiro now, but I think a professional hit is when you get paid to play ball and you get hits. I played two years and two months in the minor leagues, and so I’ve got a lot more professional hits than anybody.”

It’s interesting that Rose is so good with numbers when adding his hits, but was so bad with them when he was betting on baseball. And yes Pete, you were talking about Ichiro.

Rose wants to protect his record so badly, if they’d only lift the cursed ban, he’d show them. At age 75.

It’s hard to believe Rose was really angry at Ichiro, because the faux controversy gave Pete a chance to talk about his favorite subject: Pete Rose.

It was that kind of selfishness which drove Rose to break Ty Cobb’s record, and that kind of selfishness which drives him now to maintain it.

That’s understandable, but it’s unfair to taint Ichiro, who’s likely to have 3,000 MLB hits by next month’s Hall of Fame induction, which Rose won’t be attending. Again. And it must gnaw at Rose that Ichiro will be there five years after his last at-bat while Rose remains an outcast, hawking memorabilia.

Maybe that’s what drove Rose to say, according to USA Today, “the next thing you know, they’ll be counting his high school hits.” Rose denied saying that, but his credibility as a witness, given his history, is lacking.

There was no reason for Rose to feel his record was threatened, because it isn’t. His 4,256 major league hits stand and are an accomplishment, like his career, that deserves Rose enshrinement in the Hall, faults and all. If you can’t be honest about your history why pretend to have one?

But if Rose wants us to look at the context of his record, let’s. He may not like what others see.

Rose got the last 194 hits of his career from ages 44-46, playing for the only manager in baseball who would write his name in the lineup card as often as he did: Pete Rose.

Rose was traded by the Expos in August of 1984 because he was taking at-bats from a younger, better player. Rose hit .259 with eight extra-base hits in 278 at-bats for the Expos; Terry Francona, now the Indians manager, was 19 years younger, hit .346 and had an OPS 199 points better than Rose’s.

(Francona had terrible problems with injuries in his career and never became a regular. There’s an old tale in our playback league about one of our owners waiting all season for call-ups, so Francona, who hit .321 in 46 games in 1982, would be eligible. When the rosters were expanded, as they are in September for MLB, Francona was hurt in the first game he played. That owner’s 1982 set of APBA cards is one short, Francona’s having been burned on the stove immediately after his season-ending injury.)

Rose was 43, couldn’t hit or run and had no power when he was traded. Otherwise, he was a pretty good first baseman. He also 4,062 hits, so he wasn’t done playing.

The Reds wanted him in uniform to attract fans and didn’t much care what he did when he wore it, so they made him manager. (That became more obvious in just a few years.) The 1984 Reds finished fifth in the NL West and ninth in attendance, and Rose batted .365 in 96 at-bats the last six weeks.

But in 1985 the Reds won 89 games and finished second in the NL West, despite their first baseman batting .264 with 14 extra-base hits in 401 at-bats. That would be Pete Rose (Rose did walk 86 times against 35 strikeouts).

The Reds had better options — infielder Nick Esasky played left field and hit .262 and 21 home runs; outfielder Gary Redus was limited to 295 plate appearances, in which he walked 48 times and stole 44 bases; Tony Perez, at age 43, hit .328 in 207 plate appearances; Eric Davis, at age 23, hit .246 and slugged .516 in 131 plate appearances.

All were better than Rose, even if Rose disagreed. But Rose decided who played and he did so often enough to get 107 hits (91 of them singles) closer to Cobb’s record.

The next year he was much worse, hitting .219 with a .586 OPS in 272 plate appearances, most of which would have been better served if they had been given to young players Esasky and Kal Daniels. But Rose still played 72 games at age 45, despite compiling a -0.9 WAR (compare that to Gordie Howe playing a full season in the NHL at age 51, scoring 15 goals and being a +9. Why did he retire?)

The ’86 Reds finished second in the NL West, which was fitting, since that’s where they ranked among Rose’s priorities.

Ichiro is 42 years old, batting .354, having his best season in more than half a decade. At age 42, Rose hit .245 and slugged .286 in 151 games for the Phillies. He was awful (his -2.1 WAR seems better than it should have been).

Pete Rose had 4,256 hits in MLB, more than Ichiro, more than Ty Cobb, more than anyone who’s ever played. As he uses every oportunity to remind us.

But if Rose wants to compare careers with Ichiro, and how each comported himself, he might be sorely disappointed with what those who do discover.

Also of note:

  • In his last start for the Padres, James Shields gave up 10 runs in 2.2 innings. You have to wonder if the White Sox scouted that game. Since trading for him, Shields has pitched 8.2 innings and given up 24 hits, 21 earned runs, nine walks and five homers. That would be an ERA of 21.81. Is too late to bring back Mat Latos?
  • On May 9, the White Sox beat Texas to improve their record to 23-10 and their lead in the AL Central to six games. Since then, they’re 10-26 and have fallen 11-and-a-half games. Those kinds of collapses usually seem as if they take centuries.
  • Speaking of, the Phillies were 24-17 after beating the Marlins on May 18. Since then, they’re 6-23 and have gone from a half-game out of first place to 13 out. Their problem, for the most part, is offense. In the 29 games since, they’ve scored 88 runs, or 3.0 a game. They’ve scored five runs or more six times, and won five. They’ve scored two runs or fewer 16 times, and lost them all.
  • Remember when folks thought the Rays got the better of the deal with the Royals because the former got Wil Myers and the latter got Shields (and Wade Davis)?  Myers was Rookie of the Year at age 22 (.293/.354/.478, 13 homers) but then hit just 14 homers over the next two injury-plagued years and was traded to San Diego in a complicated three-way deal in which neither the Padres nor Rays won (the Rays lost and the Nationals got Trea Turner from the Padres). Myers is having his best season in 2016, hitting .292, slugging .535 and stealing nine bases.
  • And remember the reaction to the Ian Desmond signing? That the Rangers were wrong to forfeit the No. 19 pick to sign him? Desmond is batting .309, slugging .495, has 13 steals, 19 doubles and is playing an able center field (0.6 defensive WAR). Seems more like a bargain.
  • Orioles reliever Mychal Givens is holding righties to a .159 average and has fanned 35 in 88 at-bats. He’s not as good vs. lefties, who are batting .444 and slugging .667 against him.
  • David Ortiz was intentionally walked Sunday in the bottom of the seventh. That’s not unusual; it’s the seventh time opponents have done so this year. Only the Mariners did it with two outs and no one on base. Ortiz tried to make them pay. He stole second — without a throw. (link here). He’s 2-2 stealing this, his first steals since 2013, and 17-26 in his career.







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