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On Ichiro Suzuki And 3,000 Hits

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The Japanese star reached a significant milestone Sunday.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Personally, I wish Ichiro Suzuki had recorded his 3,000th hit at Wrigley Field last week -- as long as the Cubs won the games.

He had his chances -- he pinch-hit in all three games and was twice robbed of hits by fine Cubs defensive plays. The first was this leaping grab by Kris Bryant, which turned into a double play:

That turned out to be important; had Ichiro's ball gone through for a hit, the Marlins would have had runners on (at least) first and second with one out, and Kyle Hendricks likely out of the game, instead of being able to complete his shutout.

The other was this tumbling catch on a sinking liner by Javier Baez in last Wednesday's game:

So it was that Ichiro got hit No. 2,999 Saturday, and started Sunday's game in which he recorded his 3,000th big-league hit on a triple, the first player to triple for that milestone since Paul Molitor.

Ichiro has 3,000 big-league hits in 16 seasons, the first player to do that in as few years since Pete Rose. He's got 10 seasons of 200+ hits and holds the single-season hits record (262), and is just the sixth player in history (Molitor, Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Eddie Collins and Ty Cobb the others) to have 3,000 or more hits and 500 or more stolen bases in his career.

There's no doubt that Ichiro will head to Hall of Fame induction when he's done playing, and that could be the most-attended Hall induction ever. I'd expect thousands of fans from Japan to make the trip to Cooperstown for Ichiro's ceremony. He's been an amazing player throughout his career, not just for his hitting, but for great defense in right field when he was younger.

That play was in his eighth major-league game, and he made similar throws many times.

According to this New York Times article, he says he'd like to play until he's 50, and given the shape he's in, his work ethic, and the fine year he's having in 2016, who's to say he can't?

He's the 30th player to record 3,000 career hits, and next up for him to pass on the list are Roberto Clemente (3,000), Al Kaline (3,007), Wade Boggs (3,010), Rafael Palmeiro (3,020) and Brock (3,023), all of whom he could pass this year.

Who's next up for this milestone?

Adrian Beltre has 2,878 hits through Sunday. At 37, Beltre is having a good, though not great, season, and he's currently averaging 1.06 hits per game. If he played in all 50 remaining Rangers games, that would equate to 53 hits, so he'd be in position to get to 3,000 in 2017. He's under contract to the Rangers through 2019, and is, in my opinion, one of the most underappreciated players in the game today. He's an excellent defensive third baseman and when he's done might be the best of all time -- only Mike Schmidt and George Brett are his equal. He ought to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Albert Pujols is about a season and a half away from 3,000 at 2,774 hits. He's not nearly the player he was in St. Louis, but as he's under contract to the Angels for five more years (yikes!) after 2016, he'll certainly get to 3,000 and probably beyond.

Carlos Beltran has 2,570 career hits, but likely will wind up retiring at the end of 2016. Another underappreciated player, he should also get Hall consideration.

The only other active player within reasonable reach of 3,000 is Miguel Cabrera, who has 2,459 hits through Sunday and is 33. He'll be a Tiger at least through 2023, when he'll be 40 (his deal has vesting options depending on his MVP vote standing for 2024 and 2025). Cabrera is on pace to have about 59 more hits this year, so he'd enter 2017 about 482 hits short of 3,000, about three seasons or so at his current pace.

Congratulations to Ichiro on his milestone. I hope he does continue to play. He's a joy to watch.