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All Hail the Captain!
For position players, 3,000 hits (or 500 home runs) is the Bifrost from whence the ascension to Asgard occurs. Last week we saw a historic achievement by Captain Clutch, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees. Jeter, the first Yankee to ever claim 3,000 hits (isnít that amazing that with all their immortals no one before has ever done it?), became only the second player to hit a homer for hit 3,000 (Wade Boggs did it with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on August 7, 1999 in a 15-10 loss vs. the Cleveland Indians), as well as only the second player to have a five-hit game on the special day (Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros did it on June 28, 2007 in an 11-inning 8-5 win over the Colorado Rockies. He was 5-for-6). I hesitate to say he will be a unanimous choice, but he will be a slam-dunk first-rounder.
Number Two becomes the 28th player to achieve this hallowed objective and the first of the 2010ís. Of the 26 eligible for the Hall of Fame, only two, Pete Rose (the all-time hits leader banned for gambling) and Rafael Palmeiro (one of only four players with 500 HRs and 3,000+ hits but tainted by performance-enhancing drugs) are enshrined in Cooperstown. Biggio, a seven-time All-Star, five time Silver Slugger and four-time Gold Glover, will waltz in when he is eligible.
Players on the short list to attain 3,000 hits in the near future include catcher Ivan ďPudgeĒ Rodriguez of the Washington Nationals, shortstop-third baseman Omar Vizquel of the Chicago White Sox, third baseman Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees; all are within 250 hits of the summit, but A-Rod is the best bet to actually achieve it (Pudge (needs 158 hits) and Omar (needs 169) just may not have enough At-bats left to do it). Pudge and Omar, as practitioners at the premium defensive positions of catcher and shortstop, are locks for the Hall of Fame in any event. As for A-Rod, he will likely get in but there will be enough ill-will due to his PED use that itís not likely to be on the first ballot.
The first player to reach 3,000 hits was the great Cap Anson, with 3,415; his totals are entirely from the 19th century, however, and score-keeping was inconsistent enough that the exact total forms the basis for debate in many scholarly circles. In the first decade of the 20th Century, no one reached 3,000; and in the 1910ís only Nap Lajoie, who had the most hits (3,242) of any player who never reached the World Series, and the great Honus Wagner got there. The 1920ís saw Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Eddie Collins crest the wave, while the 1930ís were barren, the 1940ís produced only Paul ďBig PoisonĒ Waner and the 1950ís saw only Stan ďThe ManĒ Musial who had 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road. You canít make this up!
After Musial no one in the 1960ís accomplished the feat, but seven players in the 1970ís did it (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline, Pete Rose, Lou Brock and Carl Yastrzemski) and the 1980ís were again fallow.
The 1990ís again saw seven players reach the goal (Robin Yount, George Brett, Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray, Paul Molitor, Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs), and we had four in the 2000ís (Cal Ripken, Rickey Henderson, Rafael Palmeiro, and Craig Biggio).
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