He’s done it! With his seventh-inning triple during Sunday’s game against the Colorado Rockies, Ichiro Suzuki of the Miami Marlins has become the latest member of Major League Baseball’s 3,000 hit club.
The historic hit came against Rockies pitcher Chris Rusin. On the third pitch of the at-bat, Ichiro clobbered an 86 mph cutter, sending it deep to right field. The ball sailed to the wall. Right fielder Gerardo Parra jumped to try and make the catch, but the ball bounced off the wall above his glove. Suzuki showed off his trademark speed, racing to third on the play.
With the triple, Ichiro joins Minnesota Twins Hall of Famer Paul Molitor as the only member of the 3,000th hit club to reach the milestone with a three-bagger.
As the latest member of the 3,000 hit club, Suzuki joins an illustrious club filled with Hall of Fame players. Of the 29 previous players with 3,000 hits, only four are not currently in the baseball Hall of Fame.
One of those players is New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who will cruise into the Hall on the first-ballot when he’s eligible. His former teammate Alex Rodriguez is also a member of the club, though could be kept out due to his admission of steroid use during his playing career.
The two other players, Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro, have been kept out of the Hall of Fame due to off the field issues. Rose accepted a life-time ban from the game for gambling, and Palmeiro’s case for enshrinement was killed by a positive steroid test.
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Ichiro’s career hasn’t been filled with controversy or off the field issues, so reaching this milestone all but guarantees he’ll surge into the Hall of Fame on the first-ballot. That was the likely outcome even before his 3,000th hit, but the milestone serves as a significant moment in what has been an excellent career.
Ichiro was a trailblazer, becoming the first position player to come over from Nippon Professional Baseball. He was 27 during his first season in the majors, in which he won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP award, and helped the Seattle Mariners win a major-league record 116 games.
Due to his late start in the majors, Ichiro needed to collect hits at a furious pace in order to make it to 3,000. He’s done just that. Ichiro has led the majors in hits seven times. He’s averaged 199 hits per season. It took him just 16 seasons to reach 3,000 major-league hits.
After a few down years with the New York Yankees, Ichiro has experienced a career resurgence in 2016. The 42-year-old is hitting .318/.389/.373 over 94 games. He’s produced those numbers in a part-time role.
In June, Ichiro recorded his 4,257th hit in professional baseball. Of those hits, 1,278 came while Ichiro was playing in Japan. While he’s not officially recognized as MLB’s hit king, the league celebrated the event.
While Rose’s major-league record of 4,256 hits is safe, Ichiro can still make a dent in the all-time hits leaderboard before the season ends. He needs just one hit to pass Roberto Clemente, eight to pass Al Kaline, 11 to pass Wade Boggs, 21 to pass Rafael Palmeiro and 24 to pass Lou Brock. If Ichiro can manage that moving forward, he’ll end the season 25th on the all-time hits leaderboard.
Whether or not Ichiro can get there will depend on how well, and how much, he plays during the second half. After a hot start to the season, Ichiro went into a bit of a slump as he neared 3,000 hits. Over his last 19 games, Ichiro has hit just .229/.270/.286.
Of course, it’s entirely possible Ichiro continues to climb that list after this season. While he’s 42 years old, Ichiro does not have firm retirement plans. His agent told Jon Morosi of Fox Sports last October that Ichiro plans to play “in 2016 and beyond.” Ichiro has previously mentioned playing until he’s 50.
Given that Ichiro has found the fountain of youth this year, that statement seems a lot less crazy today.
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