The Major League Baseball season is winding down, and as riveting (or not) as these last few weeks will be, I'm not sure they'll surpass a couple of things that happened within the last week for pure baseball chitchat.

One: I couldn't help but question the sanity of the people at the top of the heap for the Philadelphia Phillies -- the people making the decisions for the franchise -- when they called Roy Halladay in the middle of the night and told him he was pitching in a Major League game the next day.

Keep in mind, Halladay hasn't pitched a big league game since May 5. He's been on the disabled list for most of that time, and only recently did he begin throwing again in live competition in the minor leagues.

A late-night phone call forced Roy Halladay into an unexpected start with the Phillies on Sunday.
A late-night phone call forced Roy Halladay into an unexpected start with the Phillies on Sunday. (C. Szagalo/AP Photo)

Two rehab starts in the Phillies' low minor league system. And neither was all that impressive.

Then the Phils played an 18-inning game Saturday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The two teams used a combined 20 pitchers in the game. And, of course, they had a game scheduled for the next day.

So the Phils used their Sunday pitcher, Tyler Cloyd, on Saturday night. For five innings, in fact. So he was a no-go for Sunday.

These are the same Phillies, by the way, who are playing 12 games below .500, almost 20 games out of first place in their division, and at least 16 games out of a chance to win a wild-card spot in the playoffs.

In other words, they do not have a snowball's chance in July of playing in the postseason.

So what do they do? They call up Halladay to pitch in Sunday's game, when just a few days earlier the front office had decided -- after a start at Low-A Lakewood -- that Halladay was nowhere near ready for a return to the bigs.

They didn't think he was ready to return, but then, because they were in a tight spot, they dragged him back to Philadelphia anyway.

It's unthinkable.

Please don't tell me a start in the big leagues is the same as a start in the minor leagues. It's not.

New York’s Ichiro Suzuki recently collected his 4,000th hit as aprofessional baseball player.
New York's Ichiro Suzuki recently collected his 4,000th hit as aprofessional baseball player. (K. Willens/AP Photo)

How many healthy pitchers were sitting in the Phillies minor league system who could have been called up to pitch one emergency start so Halladay wouldn't risk whatever baseball future he has left? He's a future Hall of Famer, and the Phils treated him like a nobody.

Especially when the Phils aren't contending for anything. It's a lost season anyway.

Sure they want to win every game left on their schedule, but not at the risk of re-injuring Doc Halladay in a game that really doesn't matter all that much.

And just in case you wondered: In six innings of solid, but less-than-exciting, work, Halladay's best fastball on Sunday was 89 mph. Enough said?

Two: A few days before Halladay's recall, Ichiro Suzuki, the Yankees outfielder, collected his 4,000th professional hit. It was cause for celebration. People -- too many people -- were mentioning his name in the same breath as Pete Rose and Ty Cobb, the only two Major League players ever to manage 4,000 hits.

Sorry, but as fine a player as Ichiro is, he doesn't qualify as a 4,000-hit player in the Major Leagues. Yes, his nine years as a player in the highest Japanese professional league should count for something, but not toward Major League records, any more than we'd include minor league records for American players.

Yes, Ichiro has 4,000 "professional" hits. But so would Hank Aaron and Stan Musial if you added in their minor league hit totals.

So define "professional." I say it's anyone who plays baseball for money. That includes, by the way, the guys who play for the York Revolution or any of the other Atlantic League teams. Does that mean anyone who's gotten paid to play should have his statistics added on to his numbers if he ever played a day in the Major Leagues?

I don't think so. There's a difference between "professional" and "Major Leagues."

There's a good chance, I think, for Ichiro to reach 3,000 Major League hits. If he keeps playing. He's 39. He's in reasonably good health. Guys with less athleticism than Ichiro have played well into their 40s. Another season or so should do it.

And keep in mind that his 2,726 hits have come in less than 13 Major League seasons. He's been a league MVP, won two batting titles and 10 Golden Gloves.

As far as I'm concerned, Ichiro is a Hall of Famer right now. If he gets to 3,000 hits, he's automatic.

He runs the bases with the best of them. He's better defensively -- fielding and throwing -- than 99 percent of big league players. He's obviously a fine hitter. There's hardly any question that Ichiro would already be in the 4,000-hit club if he'd played his entire professional career in America.

But he didn't.

So there's no point in getting tricky with the math just to create an honor that doesn't exist to anyone who takes baseball statistics seriously.

You either play in the Major Leagues or you don't.

For me, that's the end of the discussion.

Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Thurs days. E-mail: lhick