Results tagged ‘ Baseball Writers' Association of America ’
Although he has not played a game in the major leagues since the end of the 2006 season and has already fallen off the Hall of Fame ballot, Bernie Williams has never officially announced his retirement as a player.
That will change at 5:45 p.m. Friday in the press conference room at Yankee Stadium before the first game of this season’s Subway Series when Williams will formally sign his retirement papers in a ceremony to be overseen by general manager Brian Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman.
During Friday’s press conference, the Yankees will unveil a logo related to his uniform number (51) retirement and Monument Park plaque dedication, which will take place on Sunday, May 24, prior to the Yankees’ 8:05 p.m. game against the Texas Rangers.
Additionally Friday — in an on-field ceremony at approximately 6:45 p.m. — the Hard Rock Cafe will debut a souvenir pin that honors Williams. Fifteen percent of net sales from the pins will go to Hillside Food Outreach (www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org).
Bernie will also throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Mets.
Williams, 46, played his entire 16-year major-league career with the Yankees (1991-2006). The switch hitter batted .297 over 2,076 games. In franchise history, the former center fielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits (2,336), sixth in games played and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257). The five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001), four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000) and Silver Slugger Award recipient (2002) won the American League batting title in 1998 with a .339 average.
A four-time World Series champion in pinstripes (1996, ’98, ’99, 2000), Williams is the Yankees’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and is third in games played (121). He was named the 1996 AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player after batting .474 with two home runs and six RBI in 19 at-bats in the Yankees’ five-game series against the Orioles. In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, Williams hit a 10th-inning home run to win the game for the Yankees.
I remember telling Bernie when the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot came out by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America that whether he liked it or not he was officially retired. He just laughed and said, “Man, I can’t believe five years went by so fast.”
Williams stayed on the ballot for only two years. He received 9.6 percent of the vote in 2012 and 3.3 percent in 2013. Players need to achieve 75 percent of the vote to gain election and are dropped from consideration if they do not get five percent of the vote. I voted for him both years and wish more of my colleagues recognized the Hall of Fame worthiness of his career.
There is a very good article in the April edition of Yankees Magazine by Bergen Record baseball columnist Bob Klapisch, “Honoring Ellie,” that details the life and career of the late Elston Howard, the first African-American player in franchise history.
Tuesday marked the 60th anniversary of Howard’s first game with the Yankees April 14, 1955, an 8-4 Red Sox victory at Fenway Park. Howard entered the game as a defensive replacement for Irv Noren in left field in the sixth inning. Two innings later, Howard got his first major-league hit and RBI in his first time up in the big leagues with a single that scored Mickey Mantle from second base.
Howard was used in the outfield and first base as well as serving as Yogi Berra’s primary backup catcher in the 1950s until he took over as the No. 1 catcher in 1960 with Yogi moving into a platoon in left field with Hector Lopez and catching on occasion.
Howard won two Gold Gloves for his defensive work behind the plate and was a major contributor to nine American League pennan-winning teams in his first 10 seasons with the club. The New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America honored him with its Babe Ruth Award as the outstanding player of the 1958 World Series. Five years later, Howard was again tabbed by the BBWAA as the AL Most Valuable Player for a 1963 season in which he batted .287 with 28 home runs and 85 RBI.
Ellie played in 11 All-Star Games and in 10 World Series overall (including 1967 after being traded to the Red Sox). A clubhouse leader as a player from 1955-67 and as a Yankees coach from 1969-79, Howard’s dignified manner and competitive spirit set a powerful example.
A little-known fact about Ellie is that he was credited with having developed the “doughnut,” the weighted circular device players use on their bats in the on-deck circle. Howard died in 1980 at the age of 51.
Stephen Drew’s pinch-hit, go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning Monday night at Baltimore marked the first pinch-hit grand slam for the Yankees since Jorge Posada June 6, 2001, also against the Orioles and Mike Trombley. According to the Elias Bureau, since 1980, the only other Yankees players to hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead grand slam are Posada and Glenallen Hill (2000). It was Drew’s third career grand slam, his first for the Yankees and first overall since May 15, 2013 for the Red Sox at St. Petersburg, Fla. It was Drew’s second career pinch-hit home run. The other was Sept. 30, 2006 for the Diamondbacks off the Padres’ Cla Meredith.
The Yankees are back to being the Bronx Bombers. With 12 home runs in seven games this season, the Yanks are tied with Baltimore for the major league lead. They did not reach a dozen homers in 2014 until their 12th game. . .Michael Pineda struck out nine batters without issuing a walk Monday night at Camden Yards. CC Sabathia, Tuesday night’s scheduled starter, had eight strikeouts and no walks last Thursday against the Blue Jays. Only two other pitchers in the majors have recorded games with no walks and at least eight strikeouts: the Dodgers’ Brandon McCarthy and the Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez.
MINNEAPOLIS — It was typical of Derek Jeter to take a matter-of-fact approach to the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field and not place any special significance of his last go-round among the top players of the game.
The FOX network that is broadcasting Tuesday night’s event had wanted to have a microphone on Jeter to record his throughs during the game. You know his answer to that, an emphatic no. Yankees fans would have been proud of Jeter’s appearance at Monday’s media session at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. While most players were dressed casually, there was Jeter in a power blue suit complete with tie. Classy, as usual.
“I don’t go into things with expectations,” Jeter told reporters. “I’m looking forward to playing the game, and I pretty much stopped it right there. I’ve always enjoyed All-Star Games, and I’ve always appreciated it, so I don’t think I’ll treat this one any differently. Everybody wants me to be so emotional all of the time, but I’m coming here to play the game, and everything else that comes with it, I don’t know.”
Opposing catcher Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers for one cannot wait to see what the reaction to Jeter will be.
“When he comes to the plate, you know he’s going to get a two-minute standing ovation,” Lucroy said. “I was telling my wife, ‘What am I going to do? It’s going to be awkward.’ I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my hands. I may drop everything and start cheering myself.”
Jeter has been pretty coy about this farewell tour stuff, not wanting teams to over-do it. He’s a different sort from Mariano Rivera, who basked in the glow of his farewell tour a year ago. Jeter just wants to go about his business. There is still baseball to play this year. He is still wearing a Yankees uniform. He is still ready to contribute on a daily basis.
I cannot believe that some writers criticized American League manager John Farrell of the Red Sox for batting Jeter leadoff in the game, claiming the Yankees captain was not deserving due to his .272 batting average. Give me a break. Have these people no sense of propriety. Jeter earned the spot not just for this season but for all 19 years that preceded it.
I would like to remind these critics that Jeter has had one of the best All-Star careers in the game’s history. He took a .440 average into Tuesday night’s game with five runs, one double, one home run and three RBI in 25 at-bats. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2000 game at Turner Field in Atlanta when he went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI. Later that year, he was the MVP of the Yankees’ World Series triumph over the Mets. His All-Star home run came in 2001 at Safeco Field in Seattle.
Farrell is not alone in his admiration for Jeter. Listen to what two other managers, AL coaches Ron Gardenhire of the Twins and Terry Francona of the Indians, had to say about Jeter to USA Today:
“Although he has kicked our butt a lot of times and knocked us out of the playoffs, I admire him so much,” Gardenhire said, referring to the Yankees beating the Twins, 12-2, in postseason games with Jeter at shortstop.
Added Francona, “That’s the single high point of being here, to watch him in person. I am thrilled. He represents what is good about this game.”
Chiming in was National League shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies: “He’s everything I always wanted to be. He’s why I play shortstop. He’s why I wear No. 2. And to be starting across the side opposite side of him in his final All-Star Game will definitely be cool.”
It was also typical of Jeter when asked his favorite All-Star moment not to pick a game in which he starred. He picked the 1999 game at Fenway Park in Boston when he was 0-for-1. What made it special to Jeter was that the All-Century Team was honored before the game.
“All those great players on the field, and I get a tap on my shoulder,” Jeter recalled. “It’s Hank Aaron. He said he was looking for me because he wanted to meet me. He wants to meet me? That’s one of the best moments on the baseball field that stands out for me.”
In the same vein, commissioner Bud Selig commented on Jeter during his annual question-and-answer session at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s All-Star meeting at the Marriott City Center Hotel.
“If you said two decades ago that this is the guy you wanted to be the face of baseball and being what this generation will remember, you couldn’t have written a script better,” Selig said. “I said to a friend of mine last night talking about Henry Aaron, ‘How lucky can you be to have an American icon like Henry Aaron?’ How lucky can this sport be to have an icon for this generation like Derek Jeter? He has just been remarkable.”
One of baseball’s most memorable moments had nothing to do with a ball being pitched or hit. It was a speech delivered July 4, 1939 by Lou Gehrig at Yankee Stadium as he bid farewell to the game and his fans.
Having been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Gehrig took himself out of the lineup May 2, 1939, in Detroit, thereby ending a consecutive game streak of 2,130 games that lasted as a record until broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken Jr.
On the Fourth of July that year, the Yankees honored the “Iron Horse” at the Stadium before a sellout crowd of nearly 70,000 people. Along the baselines stood his teammates from the current Yankees and those from years gone by, the famous “Murderers Row” teams of the 1920s, including Babe Ruth.
Gehrig had not prepared a speech. He did not expect to talk but just to wave his cap in appreciation. Yankees manager Joe McCarthy whispered to Gehrig, “Lou, you’ve got to say something,” and out of the first baseman’s mouth came words of emotion and dignity.
Here is what Lou Gehrig said:
“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
“Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.
“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.
“So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”
That moment will be celebrated this week. At Yankee Stadium Wednesday, the first 18,000 customers will receive a Lou Gehrig bobblehead that depicts him the day he gave that speech.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of Lou Gehrig Day in Cooperstown, N.Y., with special programming while teaming up with the ALS Association Upstate New York Chapter to honor the Hall of Fame first baseman.
The Museum will offer tributes throughout the day Friday, July 4 as well as provide complimentary admission for those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and a care-giver, pre-arranged through The ALS Association UNY Chapter.
Gehrig was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939 in a special election by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America before passing away June 2, 1941.
Special programs offered by the Museum Friday, July 4 – all included with Museum admission – will feature:
10 a.m. – The Plaques of the Gallery (Buck O’Neil Award, 1st Floor)
Learn about the history of the Hall of Fame Gallery and the process by which each plaque is made and installed in this 20-minute guided tour.
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – Operation Gratitude (Learning Center, 1st Floor)
Honor the military personnel and veterans by taking some time out of your visit to write a letter to our soldiers and veterans. All letters will be sent to Operation Gratitude. In honor of the 4th of July we will be handing out American Flags participants in this Museum program.
11 a.m. – Guided Tour: Lou Gehrig (Location, 2nd Floor)
Gehrig’s career will be highlighted in a guided tour throughout the Museum focusing on artifacts that relate to the Iron Horse.
1 p.m. – Artifact Spotlight: Lou Gehrig (Bullpen Theater, 1st Floor)
Get an up-close look at artifacts highlighting Gehrig’s career not currently on exhibit, and learn about the stories behind them.
2 p.m. – A Tribute to Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” Speech
A tribute features a first baseman from each major league team reciting a line from Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech.
3 p.m. – Lou Gehrig Trivia (Bullpen Theater, 1st Floor)
Test your knowledge of Gehrig in this interactive game show. Make your way through nine ‘innings’ of questions, and win a free year-long membership to the Museum.
4 p.m. – “The Pride of the Yankees” (Bullpen Theater, 1st Floor)
A special screening of the 1942 film starring Gary Cooper as Gehrig and featuring Babe Ruth as himself. Gehrig died only one year before its release at the age of 37.
For more information about Lou Gehrig, please visit http://www.baseballhall.org/hof/gehrig-lou.
Babe Ruth’s Hall of Fame plaque will be leaving Cooperstown, N.Y., for the first time and will travel to New York City next week. It will be on display Tuesday at Yankee Stadium and Wednesday at Grand Central Terminal in support of Metro-North’s “Getaway Day Staycation Showcase Featuring I Love NY’s Path Through History.”
Elected in the original class to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 1936, Ruth made his major league debut 100 years ago this season July 11, 1914. In honor of his 100th anniversary in the majors, the Hall is opening a new gallery in his honor, Babe Ruth: His Life and Legend, Friday, June 13, one day after the museum celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Tuesday, the Ruth plaque will be a part of an on-field pre-game ceremony hosted by the Yankees in recognition of the Ruth exhibit opening in Cooperstown. The Ruth plaque will then be on display for fans to see in the Yankees Museum presented by Bank of America at the Stadium, from approximately 7:30 p.m. through the end of the eighth inning of the Yankees’ game against the Mets.
The plaque will be featured in Metro-North’s “Getaway Day Staycation Showcase Featuring Path Through History” from 11:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal. The plaque will be a part of the museum’s presence to promote New York State’s “Path Through History” Weekend to Cooperstown and the central Leatherstocking Region June 12-14. The Path Through History, launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, highlights historically and culturally significant sites and events throughout New York State, and the special Path Through History weekends are designed to make it easy to experience the Empire State’s rich heritage and diverse attractions.
The Ruth plaque will remain on display at the Hall of Fame through Sunday, May 11 and will be back on display in the Hall’s Gallery Thursday, May 15. For more information, please visit http://www.baseballhall.org/hof/ruth-babe.
Friday night’s opener of a three-game series against the Rays marked the 1,000th career game as Yankees manager for Joe Girardi. He became the seventh active manager to manage 1,000 games with his current team and the sixth Yankees skipper to go into four figures.
Girardi’s .580 winning percentage based on a 579-420 record entering play Friday night was the highest among the 1,000-game managers, ahead of the Angels’ Mike Scioscia (.543 on 1,247-1,048), the Rangers’ Ron Washington (.538 on 626-537), the Rays’ Joe Maddon (.520 on 690-636), the Giants’ Bruce Bochy (.513 on 596-566) the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire (.512 on 1,010-961) and the Padres’ Buddy Black (.475 on 533-611).
Girardi’s winning percentage ranks fifth on the Yankees’ list of 1,000-plus game managers, behind Joe McCarthy (.627 on 1,460-867), Casey Stengel (.623 on 1,149-696), Joe Torre (.605 on 1,173-767) and Miller Huggins (.597 on 1,067-719) and ahead of Ralph Houk (.539 on 944-806).
Friday also was the 75th anniversary of the end of Lou Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 consecutive games. Gehrig took himself out of the lineup May 2, 1939 at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium, a 22-2 Yankees victory over the Tigers. Babe Dahlgren played first base and had a double and a home run.
Gehrig, who was later diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral schleroris (ALS), did not play another game in the majors and died in 1941, two years after the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted him into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by acclamation.
Future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. eventually broke Gehrig’s mark in 1995 and continued the streak to 2,632 before he ended it Sept. 19, 1998 in a game between the Orioles and the Yankees at Baltimore’s Camden Yards.
Mariano Rivera’s legacy received some more added cache Wednesday with the announcement by Major League Baseball that from now on the American League Relief Pitcher of the Year Award will be named after him. The corresponding award in the National League will be named after Trevor Hoffman, who was the first reliever to reach the 600-save plateau and whose record of 601 Mo obliterated by running the number to 652.
The new award replaces the Delivery Man of the Year Award that was presented to one reliever every year instead of one in each league as was done previously with the Rolaids Fireman of the Year Award. Rivera won the Delivery Man of the Year Award three times and the Fireman of the Year Award five times. Hoffman was a two-time Rolaids Award winner.
Those awards were based strictly on statistics. The Rivera and Hoffman Awards will be a vote of nine former relief artists. In addition to Rivera and Hoffman, the other committee members will be Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage as well as former closers Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner.
The committee members may vote up to three pitchers in order of preference with a tabulation system awarding five points for first place, three for second and one for third, similar to that of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year Awards.
Other MLB awards named after former players include the Henry Aaron Award for offensive performance and the Edgar Martinez Award for the top designated hitter in the AL. The BBWAA’s Most Valuable Player Award trophy is named for former commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The writers’ pitching award is named for Cy Young.
“Both Mariano and Trevor represented our sport magnificently on and off the mound and earned the universal respect of our fans in their legendary careers,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “I believe it is important to redefine an existing award in honor of their contributions to baseball, and I am delighted that many of the most respected relievers decorated relievers in history will select the winners.”
Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese pitcher that the Yankees signed to a seven-year contract during the off-season, has already made a strong impression. The righthander who has earned a spot in the club’s 2014 rotation was named this year’s recipient of the James P. Dawson Award as the outstanding rookie in Yankees camp.
The award has been presented annually since 1956, three years after Dawson, a 45-year veteran of the New York Times, died while covering spring training at the age of 57. Dawson joined the Times as a copy boy in 1908 when he was 12 years old. The award is voted upon each year by beat writers who cover the Yankees.
Tanaka, 25, had a 2-0 record with a 2.14 ERA (21.0IP, 5ER) in five exhibition appearances, including three starts, that totaled 21 innings and led the squad with 26 strikeouts. He allowed 15 hits and three walks. Last year Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA (212.0IP, 30ER, 183K) and 183 strikeouts in 28 appearances (27 starts) covering 212 innings with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. Tanaka was signed Jan. 22 by the Yankees via the posting system from the Golden Eagles to a seven-year deal.
Two former winners of the honor, Tony Kubek in 1957 and Tom Tresh in 1962, went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. What about Derek Jeter, the 1996 Jackie Robison Rookie of the Year Award winner? He lost out that year to another foreign-born right-handed pitcher, Mark Hutton of Australia.
The Dawson Award first was presented to outfielder Norm Siebern by manager Casey Stengel in St. Petersburg, Fla., at the conclusion of spring training in 1956. In conjunction with the award, Tanaka will receive a watch from Betteridge Jewelers.
Well, that was quick. All things considered, the Yankees were fortunate to keep their manager in place in a relatively quick period of time during an off-season that promises to be busy. Surely a fourth year on the contract extension was a deal doer. Other clubs – notably the Cubs, Nationals and Reds – as well as a television network or two may have had designs on Girardi, but four-year contracts at seven figures per annum are hard to come by, so the Yankees were able to retain the guy they wanted to continue running the club before his current pact was to expire Oct. 31.
Girardi was deserving of the extension. Even with the World Series championship of 2009 at the top of his accomplishments, Joe’s effort with the 2013 Yankees may have been his best work. It certainly was his most arduous. With the abundance of injuries the Yankees had to deal with, just running out a healthy lineup every day was an ordeal for the manager.
Much was made in the media of Girardi’s Illinois background and ties to the Cubs as a fan while growing up and as a catcher as a player being a temptation for him to go off to Wrigley Field. On a conference phone hookup Wednesday, Girardi emphasized it was a family decision. Mom and the kids were A-OK with the Yankees and New York. The Girardi’s have made solid roots in Westchester County.
And let us not forget that Joe Girardi despite all the Cubs history has become a part of Yankees history as well. He fits in very well come Old Timers’ Day as a player who was part of three World Series championship clubs as a player (1996, ’98-99) as well as his one as a manager. He pointed out that in his conversation with the family that getting to manage in the same place for 10 years, which would be the case if Girardi fulfills the whole contract, is pretty special.
Over his first six years as Yankees manager the club has led the major leagues in home runs (1,236), ranked second in runs (4,884) and seventh in hits (8,836) and batting average (.265). The Yankees have also committed the fewest errors (484) over the span with a majors-best .986 team fielding percentage.
In 2013, Girardi did a good job getting the beaten-up Yankees to an 85-77 finish and third-place tie in the American League East with the Orioles. He got his 500th win as Yankees manager May 10 at Kansas City. The club made just 69 errors in 2013, the third-lowest total in the majors and tying the franchise record for fewest in a season (also 2010). Their .988 fielding percentage set a franchise record, fractionally better than their .988 mark in 2010.
In 2009, Girardi became the ninth Yankees manager to win a World Series, and just the fourth to do so in his postseason managerial debut, joining Casey Stengel (1949), Ralph Houk (1961) and Bob Lemon (1978). Girardi also joined Houk and Billy Martin as the only men to win World Series for the club as players and managers.
Girardi was named the 32nd manager of the Yankees Oct. 30, 2007, becoming the 17th Yankees manager to have played for the club and the fourth former Yankees catcher to skipper the team, joining Bill Dickey, Houk and Yogi Berra.
In 2006, Girardi was named National League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America after guiding the Marlins to a 78-84 record in his first season as a big league manager. With the award, he matched the Astros’ Hal Lanier (1986) and the Giants’ Dusty Baker (1993) as the only managers to win the honor in their managerial debuts.
In 15 major-league seasons as a catcher, Girardi played for the Cubs (1989-92 and 2000-02), Rockies (1993-95), Yankees (1996-99) and Cardinals (2003) and batted .267 with 454 runs, 186 doubles, 36 home runs and 422 RBI in 4,127 at-bats over 1,277 games. He had a .991 career fielding percentage and threw out 27.6 percent of potential base stealers. Girardi was named to the National League All-Star team in 2000 with the Cubs.
With the Yankees, Girardi was behind the plate for Dwight Gooden’s hitter May 14, 1996 against the Mariners and David Cone’s perfect game July 18, 1999 against the Expos. In World Series Game 6 against the Braves in 1996, Girardi tripled in the game’s first run in a three-run third inning off Greg Maddux as the Yankees clinched their first championship since 1978 with a 3-2 victory. He has a .566 winning percentage with a 642-492 record as a manager and is 21-17 in postseason play.
There is no question that what Ichiro Suzuki has done is an amazing accomplishment. Banging out 4,000 hits in a professional baseball career is nothing short of astounding. Yet in his case some perspective is in order. Those who are already comparing Ichiro to the major leagues’ only 4,000-hit batters, Pete Rose and Ty Cobb, are not entirely accurate.
Suzuki’s 4,000 hits are a combined total, that of 2,722 here in the major leagues and 1,278 in Japan’s Pacific League. That is why his achievement is more in line with Henry Aaron and Stan Musial than with Rose and Cobb, who surpassed 4,000 hits entirely in the majors, Rose with 4,256 and Cobb with 4,189.
Aaron and Musial also had more than 4,000 hits if you count what they did in the minor leagues. Aaron had 3,771 career hits. Add his 324 hits in the minors and you get 4,095 (and that’s not counting what he had in the Negro Leagues, a number no one is quite sure of). Musial had 3,630 career hits. Add his 371 hits in the minors and you get 4,001.
Like it or not, Ichiro falls into their category.
Why? All he has to do is look at his American League Rookie of the Year trophy for the answer. If he was considered a rookie when he broke into the majors with the Mariners in 2001, then the statistics Suzuki piled up in Japan were not considered equal to the major-league standard. That is the opinion of Major League Baseball.
You can argue left and right about whether that is fair or not, but the fact is that if Ichiro was considered a rookie in 2001 then the hits he had in Japan are akin to what minor league records are in North America.
This issue was first broached in 1995 when Dodgers pitcher Hideo Nomo began the migration of Asian players to the majors. As the secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and responsible for conducting the annual awards voting, I contacted the commissioner’s office for a clarification of Nomo’s status. Did he or did he not qualify for the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award?
Yes, I was told, which was not good news for Chipper Jones that year. He finished second to Nomo in the voting. The reasoning used was that players who entered the majors from the Negro Leagues in the late 1940s and early 1950s were considered rookies in the majors even though they had been professionals playing in organized leagues, and that Asian players entering the majors fit the same profile. That opened the door for Kazuhiro Sasaki and Ichiro to also win Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and 2001, respectively, the same way that Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Sam Jethroe, Willie Mays, Joe Black and Junior Gilliam won the award five decades earlier.
Not all the writers agreed with this viewpoint. Some still don’t. I remember how upset Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner was in 2003 when Hideki Matsui finished second to Royals shortstop Angel Berroa for AL Rookie of the Year. Two writers on that committee later admitted that they did not believe Matsui should have been considered a rookie and left him off their ballots.
Steinbrenner called me personally to complain about the balloting. I told him the two writers’ prejudice was expressed after the fact. How could I know when counting the ballots what was on the minds of every voter? I told him that if those writers had told me of their opinions beforehand I would have excused them from voting and replaced them. On Rookie of the Year ballots, it clearly states that players from foreign leagues who are in their first year of play in the American or National League are considered rookies.
What I am getting at is that it is a bit murky about how we should treat the statistics that Nomo, Ichiro and Matsui put up in Japan in comparison to their major-league achievements. In no way am I undermining what Ichiro has done. I have already written stories in two prominent Japanese publications that Ichiro is on a fast track to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
What Suzuki has done in the States is phenomenal — 10 straight seasons of 200 or more hits and the all-time record for hits in a single season (262 in 2004), breaking the previous mark of Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler of the old St. Louis Browns that stood for 83 years. Despite that, Ichiro cannot fairly be placed in the same category with Rose and Cobb, but I would take being compared with the Hammer and the Man any day of the week.