Aug 22, 2013, 1:16 PM EST
First of all, the Ichiro getting to 4,000 total hits thing is awesome. No qualifier. It’s awesome. Ichiro is a singular player, absolutely one-of-a-kind. No player in Major League Baseball history has stockpiled hits as quickly as Ichiro Suzuki. He has 2,722 hits in his first 13 seasons — that’s 175 more than Pete Rose. The fact that he now has 4,000 hits between his time in Japan and his time in the Major Leagues is a wonderful achievement and I’m glad it’s being celebrated. No qualifier. It’s awesome.
The other day on Twitter, I wrote that his 4,000 hits was similar to the 70,000 yards that Warren Moon garnered between the NFL and the Canadian Football League. Many people seemed to dislike this comparison. They seemed to think that it was an insult to Japanese baseball to compare it to the CFL. And, look, I have no idea about the quality comparison — I was never much good at those logic puzzles, you know, “Japanese baseball is to Major League Baseball as the Canadian Football League is to the National Football League,” true-false statements you see on the SAT.
People seemed to think that I was diminishing Ichiro by making the Moon comparison. But, in fact, I think I was lifting Ichiro up by making the Moon comparison.
Here’s why: Both statistics tell amazing stories.
Warren Moon was good enough to be an NFL quarterback when he came out of Washington in 1977. There is absolutely no doubt about this. He was a dazzling high school quarterback who was given few looks by colleges. Washington did offer him a chance. And at Washington, he was MVP of the Rose Bowl his senior season.
He had a bazooka of an arm — has anyone since Joe Namath thrown such a smooth ball with such ease? He was also 6-foot-3, had a bit of mobility, he was really the ideal quarterback prospect. Not a single team drafted him, and this was in the days when the NFL Draft was 12 stinking rounds. Fourteen quarterbacks were drafted. But not Warren Moon. It’s obvious why, just as it’s obvious why few colleges gave him a look. He was a black quarterback, and this was the time when football people simply did not believe in the leadership or the decision-making of black quarterbacks. That simple. Before the 1978 draft, Warren Moon’s draft, only eight black quarterbacks had EVER been drafted by NFL teams, none higher than the sixth round.
That year, a little sports history was made: Doug Williams became the first black quarterback taken in the first round of the NFL draft. That bit of history was heady stuff for the NFL though — no black quarterback would be drafted for the next five years. This gap included Warren Moon.
So here’s what he did: He went to play football in Canada. And he was a superstar. He was a crazy, fantastic, one-of-a-kind superstar. He led the Edmonton Eskimos to five straight Grey Cup championships. There are those who believe the Eskimos could have competed with NFL teams. Moon became the first quarterback at any professional level to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season, and the next season was closer to 6,000. He led the team back in a crazy, legendary Grey Cup comeback in 1981. He was MVP of the Grey Cup again in 1983.
Then, finally, at age 28, he went to the NFL, to play for some terrible Houston Oilers teams. He threw for a lot of yards and a lot of interceptions and lost a lot of games until Jerry Glanville became his coach, and things began to shift. Then Jack Pardee came along, and his assistant Kevin Gilbride installed the run-and-shoot offense, and Moon went wild, streaming perfect and beautiful spirals all over the field, four times throwing for more than 4,000 yards, playing in nine Pro Bowls, passing his way into the Hall of Fame.
We talk a lot about statistics here, argue a lot about them. That’s fun, I think, and I’ll keep doing it forever probably. In the end, though, when you boil it down to the essence, I like the statistics that tell something like a true story. That is why I don’t like when an announcer says something like, “Bobby Wallflower is hitting .429 with runners in scoring position, so this is the guy you want up there,” only to find that Bobby Wallflower is three-for-seven with runners in scoring position. That’s not a true story. I don’t like when someone makes a big deal out of Todd Helton passing Joe DiMaggio in home runs. DiMaggio missed three prime years while serving his country in World War II and played his career at Yankee Stadium when it was a graveyard for right-handed hitters. Todd Helton is a great player, absolutely great. But use other ways of demonstrating that. The DiMaggio home run comparison does not tell a true story.
Tom Tango makes the excellent point that before we start counting Japanese statistics, we should probably count postseason Major League statistics — so Hank Aaron would actually have 761 home runs, and Derek Jeter would actually have 3,508 hits, and David Cone would actually have 202 career victories, rather than the thinner-looking 194 wins that earned him just 3.9% of the vote his one year on the Hall of Fame ballot.
I agree: I think counting postseason statistics would tell a truer story. But what about counting Japanese stats and Canadian Football League stats? Well, I have two thoughts on that. I don’t think it’s of much use as a point of comparison. I mean, Ichiro’s 4,000 hits do not really compare with Rose’s. Moon’s combined passing yards do not really compare with Marino’s or Manning’s or Favre’s. So, if you trying to make comparisons, no, I don’t think that’s dependable. And it leads to people griping that Stan Musial doesn’t get to count his minor league hits, which I don’t think is particularly helpful.
But if you are trying to tell a story? Ichiro’s 4,000 hits … Moon’s 70,000 yards … Satchel Paige’s 1,000-plus worldwide victories … Sadaharu Oh’s 868 home runs … Lynette Woodard’s 3,649 points … Bill Tilden’s six year stretch when he did not lose a single meaningful tennis match … these tell incomparable stories. And so, for get comparisons, forget what it means for the record books. They’re wonderful on their own.
Would Ichiro have 4,000 hits had he started in the Major Leagues instead of Japan? I’ll go one-step further: I think he’d have MORE than 4,000 hits. But that’s not how history played out. Would Warren Moon have 70,000 passing yards had he started in the NFL instead of Canada? Probably not, but I’ll go one step further. I think he would have been the first black quarterback to star in the NFL and might have helped create opportunities for black quarterbacks a lot earlier. Unfortunately, that’s not how history worked out either.
Dec 11, 2013, 12:06 PM EST
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Shin-Soo Choo wants $140 million over seven years. Buster Olney was hearing the same thing. Scott Boras doesn’t do bargains — or if he does, he does them quietly, much later and after his demands aren’t met — so this is no huge surprise. At the moment Joel Sherman…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:51 AM EST
Davey Johnson is taking retirement seriously, staying away from the winter meetings and telling the Nationals he doesn’t want to be involved in spring training, but Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that new manager Matt Williams is trying to change his mind: I asked him to come to spring training. He’s not far from the…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:30 AM EST
A David Price-to-the-Mariners trade just got a lot harder: Just saw David Price’s agent, Bo McKinnis, in lobby. Asked if Price would consider extension with #Mariners. Said no. MORE — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 11, 2013 Asked McKinnis if Price would consider extensions with other teams. Said yes. Asked which clubs. He declined to answer.…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:19 AM EST
Homer Bailey is one season from free agency and looking at a huge payday, leading to speculation that the Reds might shop him this offseason. Yesterday general manager Walt Jocketty addressed those rumors–and specifically one regarding the Yankees calling him about Bailey–telling Mark Sheldon of MLB.com: I told them we’re not trading him. We’re trying…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
My second ” . . . for some reason” post of the day: #Marlins have expressed interest in OF Delmon Young….http://t.co/uWJzH6h5pu @Sportsmanias — clarkspencer (@clarkspencer) December 11, 2013 Well, I suppose you have to have 40 men on a roster, so he’s better than “TBD.” Not much better, though. Young hit .260/.307/.407 with 11…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:47 AM EST
Barry Zito is a free agent for the first time since 2007 after getting a $7 million buyout from the Giants to officially end his seven-year, $126 million contract. He’s also 36 years old and coming off a 5.74 ERA, but Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports that Zito definitely plans to continue pitching. However, at…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:30 AM EST
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — Eric Nadel, the radio voice of the Texas Rangers, has been named the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award. The Fick Award is presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The fourth time was the charm for Nadel, as he was previously…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
Don Mattingly is unhappy about the possibility of entering 2014 in the final year of his contract, but the Dodgers manager declined to address the topic yesterday during what Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times called an “awkward” press conference. Two months ago there was speculation that Mattingly might quit if he didn’t get…
Dec 11, 2013, 9:50 AM EST
No one has worn number 6 for the Yankees since Joe Torre left the team. And now, no one will wear it again. Mark Feinsand of the Daily News reports that the Yankees are retiring Joe Torre’s number. The Yankees are not one of those clubs who only retire Hall of Famer numbers — Ron Guidry’s…
Dec 11, 2013, 9:16 AM EST
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that there are “no legs” to this. Sorry to hear about your legs, Justin Masterson. But you can live a full healthy life without them, I’m sure. 9:16 AM: Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Yankees are interested in Justin Masterson. Which makes sense, as the Yankees can use starting…
Dec 11, 2013, 8:57 AM EST
I used to always add “for some reason” to headlines like that, but at this point I figure it is assumed: #rays are casting wide net in search for 1B types. another free agent who interests them is power bat mark reynolds. — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 11, 2013 Reynolds hit .220/.306/.393 with 21…
Dec 11, 2013, 8:34 AM EST
Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated retweeted an interesting story from the UK involving Newcastle United of the Premier League. You can read it here. The upshot: Newcastle has sent around letters to newspapers telling them that they will no longer be able to interview players unless they pay the club for privilege to do so.…
Dec 11, 2013, 7:02 AM EST
At a time when concussions have become the most significant injury on the minds of athletes, coaches, teams and — increasingly — the legal system, baseball will move today to consider abolishing home plate collisions. As Derrick Goold reported this morning, this past weekend, team trainers and medical officials were told in a presentation here in…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:06 AM EST
Bob Elliott cuts to the chase in the Toronto Sun: Colby Rasmus is on the market and has been offered to two teams by the Blue Jays for starting pitching. Toronto probably wants a good, cost-controlled starter in return for the 27-year-old Rasmus, who had an .840 OPS, 22 homers and 66 RBI in 118…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:14 PM EST
The Cardinals got most of their offseason shopping done early this year, but the club still wants to add a right-handed-hitting infielder to provide insurance behind young second baseman Kolten Wong. And there may be a specific target in mind. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Cards spoke to the agent…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:17 PM EST
Bob Nightengale of USA Today has the scoop on the Yankees’ reliever search … The #Yankees would love to grab two relievers and have had lots of internal discussions about Joaquin Benoit — Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 11, 2013 Benoit registered an exceptional 2.01 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 73/22 K/BB ratio in 67 innings this…
Dec 10, 2013, 9:21 PM EST
From FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi comes word that the Cubs, Pirates, Royals and Braves are among the teams with interest in free agent Jason Hammel. The Giants requested the 31-year-old’s medical records at one point earlier this offseason, but they’ve apparently moved on after signing Tim Hudson and re-upping with Ryan Vogelsong. Hammel, who’s said…
Dec 10, 2013, 8:37 PM EST
Mark Mulder hasn’t pitched in a major league game since 2008 and chronic left shoulder issues robbed him of his ability to effectively retire batters by early 2006, but the veteran southpaw has been working on mechanical changes to his delivery between rounds of golf and he wants to sign with a team this winter…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:55 PM EST
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has the story: Let there be no confusion: [Ryan] Zimmerman will remain the Nationals’ everyday third baseman in 2014. But, Zimmerman confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the Nationals’ plans for him next season include spot duty at first base. Zimmerman will take some grounders at first base during spring training,…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:08 PM EST
As first reported by MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, the Mets have re-signed right-hander Jeremy Hefner to a one-year contract. No word yet on the financials. Hefner was non-tendered by the Mets earlier this month after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in late August. He’s likely to sit out for the entire 2014 season, so this deal…
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- D’backs, Angels, White Sox agree to three-team Mark Trumbo deal 65
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