BY STEVE BRENNER
Pete Rose is a lot of things to a lot of people.
Hit King. Legend. Cheat. Liar.
The man with the record number of runs in MLB – 4,256 to be exact – divides opinion like no other baseball great.
His entrance into the Hall of Fame will be forever blocked following the shame of betting on games while managing and playing for the Cincinnati Reds.
Considering baseball bosses failed to expunge the records of convicted drug cheats like Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, the refusal to allow an old man a piece of redemption in his twilight years is double standards of the highest order.
So it was no surprise to watch a row brew after Miami Marlins batter Ichiro Suzuki passed his legendary record last week.
Or did he?
When his total clicked past Rose’s in San Diego with an eighth inning double to right field , it was an undeniably proud moment for the evergreen Japanese star.
The crowd rose to acclaim his achievement.
Had a new Hit King been born?
In terms of pure numbers, perhaps.
In reality? No way.
Over a quarter of Suzuki’s hits – 1,278 – were bagged in NPB – Japan’s national league. Furthermore, if Rose’s 427 minor league hits are counted, there’s some way to go yet.
This is no slight on the game in Japan.
Many players have come to North America from the Far East and prospered.
The links between the two competitions remains strong.
Yet anyone trying to dethrone Rose perhaps are the types who’d use the goals Wayne Rooney scored as a 13 year-old in an ‘is he better than Pele ?’ argument.
The NPB isn’t MLB.
The standard is a level below. Stadia are smaller. There are fewer games. It’s basically not as good.
So you can perhaps understand Rose’s typically snarky riposte to anyone trying to shoot down his legend.
“It sounds like in Japan they’re trying to make me the Hit Queen, “ he sniped as the fear of a slump in sales of Hit King merchandise began to engulf him.
“ I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro, he’s had a Hall of Fame career, but the next thing you know, they’ll be counting his high-school hits.”
Conversely, the argument to batter Rose’s character also stands firm.
After all, his total in the majors still stands. There was no reason to diminish Ichiro, a fine player and a credit to baseball over the past 25 years.
The 42 year-old is no slouch. Indeed, once his career comes to an end he will surely revel in being named in the Hall of Fame both in the US and Japan , a serious feat indeed.
It should be noted that Ichiro led the majors in hits seven times compared to Rose’s three.
That said, he should still not be considered to have eclipsed the now 75 year-old’s records.
Rose is the master in MLB.
The best in all professional baseball? Ichiro has a decent case.
“With all respect, this is the greatest league in the world,” piped up Rodriguez.
The fabled 3,000 run mark will soon be eclipsed and that too should be warmly recognized.
The fuss of it all says much about the perception of the outspoken, gregarious Rose than anything else – and how he can divide opinion.
People should just enjoy Ichiro’s accomplishment before getting lost in out of sync comparisons.
“You don’t have to rank anybody like that,” said Angels first baseman Albert Pujols.
“Can you imagine if he were to come here right away? I think he would have easily broken Pete Rose’s record.
“Ichiro was the Pete Rose, pretty much, of baseball when he came up. You appreciate what both of the players did. Whether it’s Japan or whether it’s here in America, 3,000 hits are a lot of hits.
“It doesn’t matter where you do it.”
Ultimately this all boils down to the general dislike of a loudmouthed, legendary player.
Nevertheless, it would have just been nice for Rose to drop the nonsense for a split second and simply trot out a harmless ‘well done, Ichiro.’
But that just isn’t Pete Rose.
And it never will be.
With Jurgen Klinsmann leading the US to the semi-finals of the Copa America Centenario, soccer chiefs are hoping to have a nation fully behind them in Houston on Tuesday.
Yet the bean counters would not have been happy to watch Mexico lose for the first time in a year and see the best unbeaten run in world football brilliantly ended by Chile in the last eight.
El Tri have been the biggest box-office attractions in the Copa, backed by fans who thought the title would be bagged for the first time.
Unlike the US – the crowd for the quarter-final win in Seattle over Ecuador was well under-capacity and took the average for four games to 51,360 – the Mexicans have been playing to sell-out arenas all over the country, averaging at 70,200.
Their group stage clash with Jamaica pulled in 5.4 million watching on Univision , the NYC based Spanish network.
That was by far the largest TV audience for the Copa up until this point and was watched by more people than game 5 of the Stanley Cup.
Ticket sales have predictably reached the point of no return – the average price for Saturday’s clash in Santa Clara was an eye watering $489.
“We are the only national team in the world that can sell out all their games in another country, “ former Mexico international Pavel Pardo told the Washington Post.
“When the national team comes out , so too does the community. It’s amazing. “
As if Stephen Curry and his family didn’t have enough on their plate following that tempestuous game 6 on Thursday night, big-mouthed TV pundit Stephen A Smith decided he’d stir the pot even further.
The ESPN presenter who would marry his own voice if possible, let the nation know that Curry’s wife Ayesha – who complained of her father-in-law Del being racially profiled in Cleveland on attempting to leave the arena – was wrong and naïve to claim all the drama was ‘rigged for money’ while accusing the Cavs of holding up the Warriors family bus.
Smith couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
He rambled and shouted about how Ayesha should look at how LeBron James’ wife Savannah Brinson behaves. It was a transparent attempt to ensure the star rivals remain at loggerheads going into the decider.
“She never tweets and calls out the lying. If this were Savannah acting like this , do you know how much heat LeBron may have taken.”
Ayesha quickly hit back: “Why are you putting two women against each other like that? “ she tweeted.
“She never brings attention to herself, “ added Smith.
Unlike others I could mention.