SAN DIEGO – In the empty confines of Petco Park, a record reportedly was broken yesterday, as Ichiro Suzuki revved his hit engine two more times. That made him the all-time leader in hits in professional baseball. But the asterisk will signify that only 2979 of those came off Major League Baseball pitchers. 1,278 were accumulated off pitchers in Japan.
Okay, so what’s what here? Let’s sift through the need for the hype generated by the zillion media outlets that need to generate stories – us included – and consider some facts, keeping in mind the words of John Adams; “Facts are stubborn things.“
Fact 1: Ever been to Japan? We have. Played rugby there. Japan is tiny. The travel is easy. Relaxing. You’re night flying to Colorado to play the next day in a different time zone and mile-high altitude, after playing a 16-inning snoozer on “getaway day.” Ichiro Suzuki clearly didn’t have to face the same travel fatigue issues that Pete Rose did. That matters when you’re trying to hit a spinning aspirin tablet hurtling towards you at 90 miles per hour. Oh, and it moves.
Fact 2: It took Tony Gwynn approximately 9 seasons to get his first 1278 hits. NINE. In his 18 years in MLB, Suzuki averaged 165 hits per season. But it took him 9 seasons to get his first 1278 hits… in Japan. How many hits do you think Gwynn would have had in Japan and how many would Suzuki have totaled here if the roles were reversed? See the point?
Fact 3: The pitching in Japan – and we’re being gracious here – is Triple-A mediocre. Consider that most of the pitchers there aren’t nearly as good as Kei Igawa. Think about that.
Fact 4: Noah Syndergaard doesn’t pitch in Japan. Neither does Jacob deGromb, Steven Matz or even… Matt Harvey. That’s one staff that Japanese hitters would face in series. Not exactly Hideki Irabu, Masato Yoshi and Takashi Saito.
Fact 5: Two of Japan’s Household Names are Tuffy Rhodes and Wladimir Balentien. Here’s what The Real Hit King had to say about that:
“It sounds like in Japan they’re trying to make me the Hit Queen,” Rose told USA Today Sports. “I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro — he’s had a Hall of Fame career — but the next thing you know, they’ll be counting his high school hits.
Pete Rose opened up a huge can o’ worms! Get ready for this, fellow hype-spinning pundits in need of garbage to spin into content: If we’re going to give Suzuki (that’s his last name, folks) an award for most hits in a form of the sport, then don’t we really need a TATHL (True All-Time Hits Leader, think tathel, rhymes with brothel))? Don’t we really need to follow a player from the first hit they get in a league of any sort, ever?! Our bet is that you’d be best served tracking a Negro League player – or some Cuban legend. And don’t you think that this whole combining of “pro” leagues needs to include Negro League players? You think for one second that a team of Negro League All-Stars wouldn’t whoop Japan’s? You bet they would. Put a prime-time Satchell Paige on the hill and let the Dice K’s of his generation face Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson. Just imagine facing Paige’s arsenal of pitches, as he described:
“I got bloopers, loopers and droppers. I got a jump ball, a be ball, a screw ball, a wobbly ball, a whipsy-dipsy-do, a hurry-up ball, a nothin’ ball and a bat dodger. My be ball is a be ball ’cause it ‘be’ right were I want it, high and inside. It wiggles like a worm. Some I throw with my knuckles, some with two fingers. My whips-dipsy-do is a special fork ball I throw underhand and sidearm that slithers and sinks. I keep my thumb off the ball and use three fingers. The middle finger sticks up high, like a bent fork.”
But let’s put this can of worms in the fridge for now and get back to Charlie Hustle, who added this about Rhodes:
“I don’t think you’re going to find anybody with credibility say that Japanese baseball is equivalent to Major League Baseball. There are too many guys that fail here and then become household names there, like Tuffy Rhodes. How can he not do anything here and hit [a record-tying] 55 home runs [in 2001] over there? It has something to do with the caliber of personnel.”
Tuffy the Buffalo, who must be gearing up to cash in on this rediscovered infamy someplace, is but one example. Rose settled for a base hit instead of swinging for the fences with his example, so we’ll help. Remember the aforementioned Wladimir Balentien? Here’s all you need to know, straight from Wikipedia:
“On August 29, 2013, Balentien hit his 51st home run of the 2013 season. With over a month of the regular season remaining, many speculated Balentien could break the Nippon Professional Baseball league season record. The record of 55 home runs in a single season was originally set by Sadaharu Oh in 1964 and later tied by Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera. A “Coco Meter” was added to Tokyo Swallows homepage so that fans could track his progress. Balentien broke the record, hitting his 56th and 57th home runs, on September 15, 2013 at home against the Hanshin Tigers.
But wait… There’s more!
“Late in the 2013 season, it was revealed that NPB had secretly introduced a livelier baseball, resulting in a marked increase in home runs league-wide. Three-term NPB commissioner Ryozo Kato was forced to resign over the scandal when the juiced baseball was revealed.”
Hey Japan, it ain’t like the guy was juiced like McGuire, Sosa and Bonds in his baseball blasphemy. Heck, the next leading home run total that season was 20 less, so get over it. Our guy(s) made sushi of your pitching. Your league is Triple-A mediocre. End. Of. Story.
And that, Ladies and Germs, is the end of our story for today. Feel free to fire away below and please follow us on Twitter @MeetTheMatts & like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts and come back tomorrow for a man that puts the Uff in Tuffy, Different Matt.
P.s… We hear Ryozo Kato will be taking over for Sandy Alderson once the Wilpons get the nudie pix Sandy has of them back.