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09/13/09 9:41 PM ET
Baseball world wowed by Ichiro's feat
Contemporaries muse on difficulty of 200-hit streak
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
It is no small feat to collect 200 hits over the course of the season. Just ask someone who has done it three times.
"I think that's one of the hardest things in baseball because to get 200 hits you have to get at least 500 at-bats, and it's a lot of hits. You have to be playing almost the whole season," said Houston's Miguel Tejada, who made it to the magic 200 mark in 2002, '04 and '06.
Now, imagine doing it nine times. In a row.
You don't have to imagine it anymore.
That's a part of history now, because that's what Ichiro Suzuki has accomplished after he collected an infield hit in the second inning of the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday. With a ninth consecutive 200-hit season, the 35-year-old surpasses Wee Willie Keeler's mark of eight straight. He's also just one shy of Pete Rose's career total of 10 200-hit seasons, having matched Ty Cobb with nine.
Pretty heady company in baseball's annals. Among his peers, it's not quite that close. He's pulling into a category of his own.
Consider this: Only seven active players have more than one 200-hit season. Led by Derek Jeter with six and including Michael Young with five in a row, the best in the game today at racking up hits have nothing on Ichiro in this department.
"Nine times in a row is a lot," Tejada said. "I think I did it about three times, but nine times is amazing."
Vladimir Guerrero agrees: "That is a lot of hits for anybody. It is not easy."
Young is perhaps the most qualified active player to speak to 200 hits in succession, year after year. Only three players have more consecutive 200-hit seasons than Young's string of five from 2003-07: Ichiro, Keeler and Wade Boggs with seven from 1983-89. Young shares the feat of five with Charlie Gehringer (1933-37), Al Simmons (1929-33) and Chuck Klein (1929-33).
For Young, seeing Ichiro run past the 200 mark -- again -- when there are still three weeks left in the season puts an exclamation point -- again! -- on what Ichiro has accomplished through nine seasons in the United States.
Active players with more than one 200-hit season
|Ichiro Suzuki: 9|
|Derek Jeter: 6|
|Michael Young: 5|
|Juan Pierre: 4|
|Vladimir Guerrero: 4|
|Alex Rodriguez: 3|
|Miguel Tejada: 3|
|Todd Helton: 2|
"That's pretty impressive to be at that point at the beginning of September," Young said. "It's reached a point where we're starting to take him for granted but it's not an easy thing to do, especially as you get closer to 200 hits. Those last 10 can be pretty tough.
"He's been so strong, he's spoiled all of us, but the biggest thing is his endurance is unmatched. He occasionally misses some time, but then he goes out on an incredible hot streak and makes up for it."
Rose stands as the all-time hits endurance leader with his 10 200-hit seasons over the course of a 24-year career that left him with the all-time record of 4,256 hits. But Rose only went three in a row with 200 hits -- something Jeter actually has done twice.
Lou Gehrig topped out at three straight among his eight 200-hit seasons. Tony Gwynn, who topped 200 four times, only went back-to-back once.
It takes something special to do it this many times in a row, that's for sure.
"It's all about consistency," said Dodgers outfielder Juan Pierre, who has four 200-hit seasons. "First of all, you have to stay healthy. You can't go on the DL and get 200 hits very often. You have to play a whole season. You have to put together a whole season. You have to be consistent for an entire season, and with him, you're talking about consistency for nine entire seasons. It's flat-out hitting, and everybody knows how hard it is to hit. It's pretty awesome, to do that year in and year out."