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.
Oct 25, 2014, 12:01 PM EDT
We learned yesterday that Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove bone spurs from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture to the navicular bone in his foot. Everyone was caught off guard by the extent of his injuries.
Oct 25, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
After Joe Maddon stepped down as manager of the Rays yesterday, there was plenty of speculation about what his next move could be, but we didn’t hear much about who could replace him in Tampa Bay. Look for that to change soon.
Oct 25, 2014, 10:16 AM EDT
Yes, it would have been closer had Blanco continued to run, but it was a heck of a play by Perez.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:35 AM EDT
Ned Yost was hoping that Jarrod Dyson made an out last night. Really.
Oct 25, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT
After losing Game 1, the Royals have responded with two straight victories to grab a lead in the series. Can the Giants answer? That’s the big question going into Game 4.
Oct 24, 2014, 11:51 PM EDT
Ryan Vogelsong will start as scheduled in Game 4 of the World Series against the Royals. Madison Bumgarner will not pitch on short rest.
Oct 24, 2014, 11:27 PM EDT
The Royals’ bullpen was solid, allowing only two base runners in four innings to preserve Jeremy Guthrie’s win in Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants.
Oct 24, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT
Brandon Finnegan achieved a rather rare feat with his first appearance of the World Series in Game 3 on Friday night against the Giants.
Oct 24, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT
Cole Hamels is updating his 20-team no-trade list, which will dictate if and how the Phillies shop him over the off-season.
Oct 24, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT
The Giants fought back in the bottom of the sixth inning with two runs, making it a one-run game again. The Royals lead 3-2 heading into the seventh inning.
Oct 24, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
The Royals extended their lead over the Giants to 3-0 thanks to an Alex Gordon RBI double and an Eric Hosmer RBI single in the top of the sixth inning of Game 3 of the World Series.
Oct 24, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT
The Twins are expected to consider free agent manager Joe Maddon for their managerial vacancy.
Oct 24, 2014, 9:08 PM EDT
The Royals have a narrow lead through the first three innings of Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants.
Oct 24, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Victor Martinez is going to use his monster 2014 season to attempt to get a four-year deal over the off-season.
Bruce Bochy, Dave Righetti have discussed using Madison Bumgarner on short rest if Giants lose Game 3
Oct 24, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
The Giants have kicked around the idea of using Madison Bumgarner on short rest if they lose Game 3 of the World Series against the Royals.
Oct 24, 2014, 7:43 PM EDT
No word yet on the exact role Towers would fill in Cincinnati.
Oct 24, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT
Paul Konerko and Jimmy Rollins are your co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award.
Oct 24, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
The Royals bullpen is really good. So good, in fact, that you can’t really use it incorrectly, Joe Posnanski writes.
Oct 24, 2014, 6:37 PM EDT
Being in the World Series hasn’t stopped the Royals from tweaking the margins of their 40-man roster.
Oct 24, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
Joe Maddon is looking to become at least the second-highest paid manager in baseball.
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- Behind strong bullpen, Royals edge Giants 3-2 to take a 2-1 World Series lead 31
- Paul Konerko, Jimmy Rollins named co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award 2
- The greatest trick this Royals bullpen ever pulled … 3
- Adam Wainwright underwent elbow surgery to “trim” cartilage 12
- World Series, Game 3: Royals vs. Giants lineups 1
- Andrew Friedman got $35 million to leave the Rays for the Dodgers … and he might be underpaid 13
- Shocker! Joe Maddon to opt out of his contract and leave the Rays 143
- Shocker! Joe Maddon to opt out of his contract and leave the Rays (143)
- Erroneous Narrative Alert: no, the Giants are not a “gritty,” anti-stats organization (122)
- Pedro Martinez has some opinions about who the new “face of baseball” is (112)
- PANTY RAID! Homeland Security agents confiscate unlicensed Kansas City Royals underwear (109)
- The World Series ratings are low. So what? (101)