Ichiro Suzuki is four hits from passing Pete Rose as professional baseball's all-time hits leader, counting his hits in Japan.
When it happens, Rose will almost assuredly keep signing baseballs with the moniker "Hit King." The 75-year-old won't acknowledge Suzuki when he passes his record mark, and insists that he'll still hold the title since he did it all in the majors.
"It sounds like in Japan they're trying to make me the 'Hit Queen,'" Rose told Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "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."
Suzuki comes into Monday's action owning 2,974 hits in his Major League Baseball career - 26 shy of 3,000 - with another 1,278 accumulated over nine seasons in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball for a total of 4,252 pro hits. He's already one of just seven players to have compiled over 4,000 career hits across all professional levels. Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said the museum will "absolutely" acknowledge Suzuki's 4,257th hit.
Rose, who presumably doesn't count the 427 minor-league hits he recorded before making his big-league debut in 1963 as part of his total, doesn't believe a fair comparison can be made between Japan's highest level and MLB. It's in that spirit that he vociferously defended his crown.
"I don't think you're going to find anybody with credibility say that Japanese baseball is equivalent to major-league baseball," Rose explained. "There are too many guys that fail here, and then become household names there, like Tuffy Rhodes. How can he not do anything here, and hit (a record-tying) 55 home runs (in 2001) over there?
"It has something to do with the caliber of personnel."
For his part, Suzuki isn't worried about whether he'll be bestowed the title of "Hit King" in the days to come. He'd actually be far more impressed if a player managed to catch Rose while playing his career solely in Japan.
"That would be a bigger accomplishment because of the few games they play over there," the 42-year-old said. "We play more games here. So for somebody to pass Pete Rose, just playing baseball games in Japan, would be unbelievable."