Aug 22, 2013, 1:16 PM EDT
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.
Mar 11, 2014, 12:03 AM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Chicago Cubs. The Big Question: Is the wait almost over? It has been 105 long years since the north…
Mar 10, 2014, 10:41 PM EDT
George A. King III of the New York Post heard last month that the Yankees might look to deal a catcher before they head back north for Opening Day. That catcher could be Francisco Cervelli. According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, the 28-year-old Cervelli is drawing “lots of trade interest” from front offices around…
Mar 10, 2014, 9:35 PM EDT
The Orioles signed Manny Machado to a one-year, $519,000 contract renewal on Monday — standard operating procedure for a pre-arbitration player. The salary is $19,000 more than the major league minimum and Machado also gets a $100,000 bonus for winning the 2013 Platinum Glove Award in the American League. But he is not celebrating. According…
Mar 10, 2014, 8:28 PM EDT
Good news out of Dodgers camp Monday from MLB.com beat reporter Ken Gurnick … Greinke threw a bullpen session Monday and apparently felt no discomfort in his right calf muscle. He then went through some fielding drills and could pitch in an exhibition game this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday, although club officials are…
Mar 10, 2014, 7:14 PM EDT
White Sox manager Robin Ventura confirmed what everyone had already assumed Wednesday, naming ace lefty Chris Sale the club’s Opening Day starter according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Sale, the obvious choice for Ventura, boasts a spectacular 2.97 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 9.5 K/9 in 500 2/3 career major league innings. He tossed…
Mar 10, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
Cole Hamels arrived at the Phillies’ spring training complex last month with tendinitis in his left shoulder and then suffered a setback last Friday. He’s hoping this week will finally bring some amount of progress. CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports that Hamels is scheduled to toss a bullpen session Wednesday in camp. The ace left-hander had…
Mar 10, 2014, 5:32 PM EDT
No battle plan survives contact with the enemy, and with the Braves’ plans quickly becoming inoperative, they may be jumping in to the Ervin Santana uncertainty. Dave O’Brien of the AJC reports: Initially I didn’t think there was anything to the idea of the Braves pursuing him, but now with Beachy having more issues (he left today’s…
Mar 10, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
You can buy an official MLB baseball for, like, $15 max. Or you can let your kid go flying down a hill in is wagon while you go chase a home run ball in a meaningless spring training game: Either way, really.
Mar 10, 2014, 3:06 PM EDT
The Braves looked great on paper heading into spring training. Too bad they don’t play baseball on paper. They play it on grass and dirt, and since they started doing that Atlanta has had two pitchers leave games early due to injury. Kris Medlen left a game yesterday due to a forearm strain. He’s having…
Mar 10, 2014, 1:32 PM EDT
Barry Bonds showed up at San Francisco Giant camp in Scottsdale today, where he will begin a week as a coach/instructor. As I type this, he’s sitting with Bruce Bochy for a press conference. Barry Bonds back in a Giants uniform. pic.twitter.com/x4AJ0ZhJmt — Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) March 10, 2014 Having a guy who is among…
Mar 10, 2014, 12:18 PM EDT
Initial reports of Aledmys Diaz‘s deal with the Cardinals suggested he’d be getting at least $20 million over four seasons, but Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch now writes that the Cuban shortstop is getting significantly less upfront money. According to Goold it’s a four-year, $8 million deal, which is essentially utility infielder…
Mar 10, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT
The Fresno Grizzlies are going to wear an alternate/promotional jersey this year. They’re Awesome! Righteous! Bossa Nova! Um, Chevy Nova? No, they’re excellent! .@MattOtstot has the details on our #TMNT jerseys. Only place to get the scoop is tomorrow on @KSEE24 Sunrise. pic.twitter.com/QBZQl9zQD1 — Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) March 10, 2014 No, they’re not dignified or anything, but you can’t…
Mar 10, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Among the numerous Ervin Santana rumors swirling right now is that the Orioles remain in the mix to sign the free agent right-hander. Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com asked Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette about that specific rumor and his response was an interesting one: I really don’t know what’s real and…
Mar 10, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Sergio Romo has been one of the best relievers in baseball for six seasons now, posting a 2.27 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings for his career, but he’s gotten knocked around this spring while allowing 12 runs in three innings. That includes retiring zero of the five batters he faced in his last…
Mar 10, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT
Brandon Phillips‘ interview with MLB.com was noted mostly for his “how the [expletive] am I declining” comment, but John Fay of Cincinnati.com notes that Phillips is either lying or deluded about something else too: the source of his beef with local reporters. Phillips is not talking to the four daily beat guys who cover the…
Mar 10, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT
Matt Ehalt reports that Ike Davis now has a walking boot on his right leg. Davis has been sidelined with right calf tightness for a week. Walking boots tend not to suggest that the matter is improving. Between Davis’ calf and Lucas Duda’s hamstring barking, it would seem that the frontrunner for the Mets’ first base…
Mar 10, 2014, 8:52 AM EDT
David Laurila of FanGraphs has a fascinating interview with a former pitcher — now retired — about his PED use. It’s not clear whether this guy was a major leaguer, but his comments about PED use — extremely detailed comments about what they did for him and how they made him feel — refer to his…
Mar 10, 2014, 6:50 AM EDT
This is so weird. No one is supposed to take pictures or video in the clubhouse, yet here we have video of Juan Uribe at his locker. Seems odd. Oh, hello Hanley.
Mar 9, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted earlier that Ichiro Suzuki appears to be the odd man out in the Yankees’ outfield and adds that the Phillies could use outfield help. The Yankees, of course, will have recent free agent additions Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran in center and right, respectively, and Brett Gardner in left. Alfonso Soriano…
Mar 9, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT
The Diamondbacks took Trevor Bauer in the first round, third overall, in the 2011 draft. They sent him to the Indians in a three-team trade in December 2012. Manager Terry Francona sees why, even after Bauer has had back-to-back mediocre showings in limited Major League action, the D-Backs took him so early. Bauer has made…
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- Manny Machado calls $519K salary for 2014 “disappointing” 34
- Kris Medlen leaves game with right forearm strain 18
- Cardinals sign Cuban middle infielder Aledmys Diaz to a four-year major league contract 60
- Cardinals and Matt Carpenter agree to a six-year, $52 million extension 12