While another member of the New York Yankees has received plenty of attention for his ascension on MLB's all-time hits list, Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is quietly embarking on his own journey to surpass some of the legends of the game.
With a single in Saturday's contest against the Cleveland Indians, Suzuki passed Hall of Famer George Sisler for 48th place on the hits list, recording No. 2,811 of his career. After adding a double in Sunday's series finale, Suzuki stands at 2,812, 27 shy of Charlie Gehringer in 47th place.
Now limited to a part-time role, the 40-year-old former superstar faces an uphill battle to join the vaunted 3,000-hits club, which has just 28 members.
However, whether or not he reaches the milestone, Suzuki has already cemented his place in the Hall of Fame, as he didn't begin his MLB career until the age of 27, when he memorably took home AL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors for the 116-win Seattle Mariners.
Had he not spent the first nine years (1992-2000) of his career with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan, Suzuki would have long ago passed 3,000 hits and might even be preparing to make a run at 4,000.
In fact, had he joined MLB when first ready, Suzuki might already have 4,000 career hits. Though he wouldn't have reached the highest level at age 18 as he did in Japan, Suzuki would have benefited from MLB's longer season of 162 games, compared to just 144 in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).
Playing in the Japan Pacific League, Suzuki recorded just 36 hits between his first two years, before bursting onto the scene with a 210-hit campaign in 1994, a season he started at the age of 20. Given that the 1994 season—in which he posted a .385/.445/.549 slash line—stands as one of Suzuki's best in Japan, he may well have already been good enough to thrive in Major League Baseball.
There's a line of thinking that Suzuki never could have registered 1,278 hits (his career total in NPB) through his age-26 season in the United States. However, his career arc in Japan hints otherwise, as Suzuki was quite clearly a superstar by the age of 20.
While we'll never know what could have been, Suzuki's total of 4,090 hits between NPB and MLB is one of the more impressive accomplishments in recent baseball history.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless specifically noted otherwise.