Home PageClubhouse!

Baseball Analysis  The Baseball Guru Archives

[Previous entry: "Japanese Players of the Week, 10/4-10/10"] [Main Index] [Next entry: "Taiwan Baseball News"]

10/03/2004 Archived Entry: "MLB news: In defense of Ichiro"

MLB news: In defense of Ichiro

By Michael Toeset

While Ichiro Suzuki was approaching the single-season hits record, many sportswriters attacked the Seattle outfielder’s accomplishment, attempting to devalue it, mainly for two reasons. The most prominent writer leading the anti-record charge was Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly, who perfectly articulated the hollow charges.
The first inane reason Reilly and many others believe Ichiro undeserving of the record is the fact that he’s a singles hitter. In the critics’ minds, somehow the fact that Ichiro set a new record for most singles in a season is something to be held against him. Because Ichiro had only 37 extra-base hits compared with George Sisler’s 86 in his 1920 season, that makes him unworthy? I thought the point of baseball was to get on base. Apparently, batting average is irrelevant to Reilly and others. According to their way of thinking, Tony Batista had a better season than Ichiro.
Batista: .241 avg, .272 OBP (!), 146 hits, 76 runs, 110 RBI, 32 HR, 14 SB
Ichiro: .373 avg, .414 OBP, 262 hits, 101 runs, 60 RBI, 8 HR, 36 SB
Ask any manager in baseball if they’d rather have Ichiro or a Batista-type player on their team, and the answer every time will be “Ichiro.” Singles critics are living in a fantasy video-game world where a player needs to homer every other game to be judged significant.
The second inane charge is the “asterisk” argument, which is especially galling in this instance. As Reilly wrote, “As of last Saturday the Mariners had played 154 games, the schedule Sisler had in 1920, and Ichiro was still seven hits short of breaking the record. End of story.”
Now, believe me when I say I have nothing against pre-integration ballplayers (I think there were a plethora of outstanding players), but I think any record before integration is the one that should have an asterisk next to it.
Sure, the season until 1961 was 154 games, but those eight games mean nothing when compared with the talent level. Pre-integration players didn’t test their skills against the world’s best players – they tested their skills against the best white players.
To me, the matter is purely one of logic. For example, if you took every non-white player out of today’s major leagues and contracted a handful of teams, you’d wind up with Jim Edmonds putting up Babe Ruth numbers, hitting 50 or 60 homers every season, easily. And what might Randy Johnson accomplish if he didn’t have to face Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, et al?
Like I stated above, I’m not saying pre-integration players weren’t good and aren’t deserving, but if you want to qualify a record with an asterisk, it should be the record that was set in white baseball. There’s no way Sisler would have hit .407 with 257 hits in a white-black-Hispanic-Asian major league.
And that’s the real end of the story.

e-mail questions or comments to

Replies: 3 comments

Who cares what kind of hitter Ichiro is, the sportswriters need to stop attacking him, and accept he broke the record, second to think they need a 154-game record and a 162-game record is petty. Also, Rick Reilly isn't a writer to take seriously.

Posted by John Brooks @ 10/08/2004 06:18 PM EST

You need to send this to SI and Rick Reilly so they see reality.

Posted by Tim Toeset @ 10/04/2004 07:06 PM EST

You need to send this to SI and Rick Reilly so they see reality.

Posted by Tim Toeset @ 10/04/2004 07:06 PM EST

HomeGuru's Baseball Book StoreLink to UsBraintrust & Mailing ListsEmail the GuruContact InfoBaseball Analysis Home