(USA Today Sports ) -- New York Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki may have 4,000 career professional hits, but never, ever, will he catch all-time hit leader Pete Rose.
So says the only other man still alive to collect 4,000 hits.
"He's still 600 hits away from catching [teammate] Derek Jeter,'' Rose told USA TODAY Sports, "so how can he catch me?''
Rose's methodology: Jeter has 3,308 major league hits, Suzuki 2,722. Yes, Rose discounts the 1,278 hits Suzuki amassed while playing in Japan's top league - at least as they relate to being considered the Hit King.
Therefore, if Suzuki has 4,000 career hits, Rose says, then he has 4,673 hits.
"Hey, if we're counting professional hits,'' says Rose, the major-league hit leader at 4,256, "then add on my 427 career hits in the minors. I was a professional then, too.
"If you look at the records, Henry Aaron has 4,000 professional hits. So did Stan Musial.''
Rose may be 72 years old, and produced his last hit in 1986, but the man knows his baseball stats.
Aaron indeed had 4,095 professional hits - 3,771 in the major leagues and 371 in the minors. Musial had 4,001 professional hits - 3,630 hits in the majors and 371 in the minors.
"I don't want to take anything away from (Suzuki),'' Rose says, "but does anybody remember making a big deal when Henry Aaron had 755 homers and [Japanese slugger] Sadaharu Oh passed him?
"Are we now supposed to count Warren Moon's passing yards in the Canadian Football League to his NFL career stats?
"When you compare yourself to me, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Nap Lajoie, we all did it in the states.''
Don't misinterpret Rose's opinion of Suzuki. Rose believes he is one of the greatest hitters of his era. Rose may never get into the Hall of Fame after receiving a lifetime ban for gambling, but he says that Suzuki richly deserves the honor.
"Listen, if I'm voting today for the Hall of Fame,'' Rose says, "Ichiro has got my vote. He's got the  Gold Gloves. The golden arm. A lot of hits. There's really nothing wrong with his game.
"I wouldn't even make him wait five years, I'll tell you that.''
Yet, Rose says, Ichiro will never the all-time hits' king.
"If people consider him to have the record if he gets to 4,257 hits,'' Rose says, "I'll come back and play if I'm reinstated. I'm sure even at my age I can hit a 15-hopper up the middle and crawl to first base for a hit.''
"I wish I could have played against him,'' Rose says. "Battling him for 200 hits. Or battling him for batting titles. That would have been something.''
Who knows, Rose says, if he had gotten off to a better start in his career, maybe he would have had 4,500 hits. He had just 309 hits his first two major-league seasons, while Ichiro had 450 hits his first two seasons with the Seattle Mariners.
"I'm not here to knock Japanese baseball,'' Rose says. "I respect the way they play, the way they practice and I just wish more good players would come over here and play.
"When he came here, he was already an established hitter. If he had spent his first eight seasons in the states, who knows how many hits he would have? Everyone's got an opinion.''
Yet, no matter how you view Ichiro's 4,000 hits, if nothing else, Rose says, it's a debate that at least pushes the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal off the sports pages.
Well, at least for a few minutes.
"As a baseball fan,'' Rose says, "I'm tired of reading about PEDs. I'm tired of hearing about the appeals and suspensions. This is a good thing for baseball.
"The Pirates are a good thing for baseball. Atlanta's 14-game winning streak was a good thing for baseball. [Yasiel] Puig and the Dodgers are a good thing for baseball.
"So this is good. Especially that he did in New York.
"Baseball needed this.''