I have no idea if Pete Rose ever gambled on baseball. Quite honestly, I do not understand the evidence against him, and gambling has nothing to do with whether or not Rose is/or even should be baseball’s “hit king”. However, for some odd reason I would rather have Ichiro as baseball’s all-time hits leader, or at least I think that by the end of his career he should have that title. Maybe I feel that way for selfish reasons, because I was too young to ever see Rose play, but can still remember how excited I got, as a kid, to see Ichiro lead off an All-star game for the American League. Ichiro is the best leadoff hitter I’ve seen play, and the best hitter I have ever seen, at least in terms of hits (my apologies to Barry Bonds), and I think that it’s unfortunate that the incredible numbers he put up in Japan, during his youth, will never be considered in MLB’s record books.
...So, I first took his reasoning at face value and considered how many career hits Ichiro would have had under the assumption that he started in the US at age-20 and put up the same numbers (batting average) as he did in Japan, while playing 162-game seasons. After eliminating Ichiro’s brief age-18 and 19 seasons from the sample, his age-20 to 26 hit total in Japan, translates to 1548 hits, given the MLB’s 162-game season.
I then combined that number with his 2517 career MLB hits, to get a grand total of 4065 hits, just 192 hits away from breaking Rose’s record (4256 hits). ZIPS projects 89 hits for Ichiro the rest of this season; thus he would only need about 100 more hits to become the hit king. Ichiro will become a free agent after this season, but it’s unlikely that he will retire. Although he was around or below-replacement level last season, his defense has been phenomenal this season and could be reason enough for a team to sign him, not to mention the number of fans Ichiro’s name could bring to a new ballclub, for a season. One more season would be all that Ichiro would need to break Rose’s record, in this unrealistic “what if?” scenario.