Saturday, July 9, 2011

The 3,000 Hit Club, Now 28 Strong, In Perspective

Only five players have gotten to 3,000 hits faster. Only five other players have gotten 190 or more hits in a season at least 10 times, as Jeter has. Only two other shortstops have reached 3,000 hits...

Look, nobody loves debating whether this man is one of the most overrated or underrated players in history more than me. I did, after all, write a book about that once (shameless book-plug link). But there's other stuff to talk about.

And I would never dismiss the importance, to the Yankees, of the clear reality that Jeter isn't the same player he used to be. But there's other stuff to talk about besides that, too.

The reason is this: What Derek Jeter is now -- as a player, as a hitter -- has very little to do with how he got to the precipice of 3,000 hits.

You know what got him here? Greatness. That's what. Pure, relentless, machine-like greatness. For a decade and a half. Nonstop.

-- Jayson Stark, ESPN

Jeter is about to accomplish something no Yankee has ever done. That should say enough. At 37, he isn't the same player he was at 27. Discounting a juiced-up Barry Bonds, you would be hard-pressed to find any athlete who has ever been as good or better at 37 than at 27.

He is one of the best players the game has ever had. Also one of its best people. A great ambassador, a guy about whom there has never been a whiff of controversy -- an amazing thing in this age of Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle.

There has always been jealousy because of the fact that Jeter is a Yankee, because of the championships, because of the beautiful, well-known women who have always attached themselves to him. That, largely, is what has driven much of the anti-Jeter sentiment for the past several years.

For the next few days, though, there should be only appreciation for one of the greatest careers baseball has ever seen. And celebration at Yankee Stadium.

-- Ed Valentine, SB Nation New York

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For the record, here's the 28 current members of the 3,000 Hit Club, in chronological order of when they reached it:

* Adrian Constantine Anson, nicknamed "Anse," "Cap" and "Pop," Marshalltown, Iowa, 1852-1922, first baseman-manager, Chicago White Stockings (forerunner of the Cubs), off George Blackburn of the Baltimore Orioles (National League version), at West Side Park in Chicago, July 18, 1897. Blackburn was signed by the Orioles that month, and was released before the month was out, never to appear in the major leagues again. Anson's career hit total, and thus the exact moment of his 3,000th hit, or even whether he got that far, is open to debate, due to changes in rules and record-keeping. The Sporting News, known as "The Bible of Baseball" before it took its focus off baseball and started covering other sports (and also auto racing, which is NOT a sport), says that Anson had 3,012 hits in his major league career, from 1876 to 1897, and Major League Baseball management accepts that aggressively-researched fact to be true; if this is correct, and if this is whose count you choose to accept, then the information I've cited above on his 3,000th hit is correct. Some sources credit Anson's service in the first professional league, the National Association of 1871 to 1875, as "major league," but most sources don't; if you count his stats in that league, then he actually had 3,418 hits, and his 3,000th came a lot sooner. For a long time, The Baseball Encyclopedia (published by Macmillan Publishers and thus often called "The Macmillan Encyclopedia" or "Big Mac") cited him as having had 3,055, then took out 60 hits because of the 1887 season, the one season in MLB history in which walks were counted as hits, dropping him to 2,995. The Baseball Hall of Fame, which relies on the Elias Sports Bureau, credits Anson with 3,081. All other players on this list (until Jeter) played all or most of their careers in the 20th Century, and all other players on this list have had any disputes as to their totals wiped away.

* John Peter "Honus" Wagner, "the Flying Dutchman," Carnegie, Pennsylvania, 1874-1955, shortstop, Pittsburgh Pirates, off Erskine Mayer of the Philadelphia Phillies, at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, June 9, 1914. Finished with 3,415; if Anson's NA totals are not counted, then Wagner broke his record, and it was Wagner's record that Ty Cobb broke.

* Napoleon "Nap" or "Larry" Lajoie (LAH-zhoh-way, apparently no middle name), Woonsocket, Rhode Island, 1874-1959, second baseman-manager, Cleveland Naps (forerunners of the Indians, and yes they were named for him at the time), off Marty McHale of the New York Yankees, at the Polo Grounds in New York, September 27, 1914, the same season as Wagner. Finished with 3,242.

* Tyrus Raymond "Ty" Cobb, "the Georgia Peach," Royston, Georgia, 1886-1961, center fielder-manager, Detroit Tigers, off Elmer Myers of the St. Louis Browns, at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, August 15, 1921. Had been credited with 4,191 hits, an all-time record until 1985, but research done after Pete Rose surpassed that figure shows that Cobb had 4,189. (This is also why his lifetime batting average, so long cited as .367, is usually now listed as .366, but that's still a record.)

* Tristram E. "Tris" Speaker (apparently just an initial), "the Grey Eagle," Hubbard, Texas, 1888-1958, center fielder-manager, Cleveland Indians (previously starred for the Boston Red Sox), off Tom Zachary of the Washington Senators, at League Park in Cleveland, May 17, 1925. Finished with 3,514, although I've also seen 3,515 cited, so maybe there was a discrepancy as with Cobb. Regardless, he's one of only 5 guys with at least 3,500.

* Edward Trowbridge "Eddie" Collins, Tarrytown, New York, 1887-1951, second baseman, Chicago White Sox (previously starred for the Philadelphia Athletics), off Harry "Rip" Collins (no relation) of the Detroit Tigers, at Navin Field (Tiger Stadium) in Detroit, June 3, 1925, just 3 weeks after Speaker. Finished with 3,315.

* Paul Glee "Big Poison" Waner, Harrah, Oklahoma, 1903-1965, right fielder, Boston Braves (played most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates), off former teammate Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates, at Braves Field in Boston, June 19, 1942. Finished with 3,152. (Yes, his middle name really was "Glee." And he and his brother-teammate Lloyd were referred to by a Brooklyn sportswriter as "A big person and a little person," hence Big Poison and Little Poison -- except Lloyd was actually taller.)

* Stanley Frank "Stan the Man" Musial, Donora, Pennsylvania, born 1920, first baseman (also played a lot of left field), St. Louis Cardinals, off Moe Drabowsky of the Chicago Cubs, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, May 13, 1958. Finished with 3,630 -- 1,815 in home games, 1,815 in away games, a stunning balance.

* Henry Louis "Hammerin' Hank" or "Bad Henry" Aaron, Mobile, Alabama, born 1934, right fielder, Atlanta Braves, off Wayne Simpson of the Cincinnati Reds, at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, May 15, 1970. Finished with 3,771. This means that even if you took away all 755 of Hank's home runs, he still had over 3,000 hits (3,016).

* Willie Howard Mays Jr. (not "William"), "the Say Hey Kid," Fairfield, Alabama, center fielder, San Francisco Giants, off Mike Wegener of the Montreal Expos, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, July 18, 1970. Finished with 3,283. (In case you're wondering about the other 2 great New York center fielders of the 1950s, Mickey Mantle had 2,415, and Duke Snider had 2,116.)

* Roberto Clemente Walker (Hispanics put the mother's family name after the father's), "the Great One," Carolina, Puerto Rico, 1934-1972, right fielder, Pittsburgh Pirates, off Jon Matlack of the New York Mets, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, September 30, 1972. Supposedly (I cannot confirm this), he was told, as the 1972 season wound down, that it was no big deal if he didn't get Number 3,000 until the next season, and he said, "I have to get that hit this year. I might die." As it turned out, he was killed in a plane crash in the off-season, and finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits.

* Albert William Kaline, Baltimore, Maryland, born 1934, right fielder, Detroit Tigers, off Dave McNally of the Baltimore Orioles, at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, September 24, 1974. Finished with 3,007.

* Peter Edward Rose Jr., "Charlie Hustle," Cincinnati, Ohio, born 1941, third baseman (also played left field, right field, second base and first base at various times in his career), Cincinnati Reds, off Steve Rogers of the Montreal Expos, at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, May 5, 1978. Finished with 4,256, the all-time record. He and Cobb are the only ones with at least 4,000 hits.

* Louis Clark Brock, Collinston, Louisiana, born 1939, left fielder, St. Louis Cardinals, off Dennis Lamp (literally, a line shot off his hand) of the Chicago Cubs, at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, August 13, 1979. Finished with 3,023.

* Carl Michael Yastrzemski Jr., "Yaz," Southampton, New York, born 1939, left fielder (also played a bit of first base), Boston Red Sox, off Jim Beattie of the New York Yankees, at Fenway Park in Boston, September 12, 1979, a month after Brock did it. Note that, due to missing 5 years in military service, Yaz's predecessor as Red Sox left fielder, Ted Williams, did not reach 3,000 hits. Yaz finished with 3,419.

* Rodney Cline Carew, New York City (though born in Panama), born 1945, first baseman, California Angels (second base and Minnesota Twins for the first part of his career), off Frank Viola of the Minnesota Twins, at Anaheim Stadium, August 4, 1985. This was the same day that Tom Seaver won his 300th game. Finished with 3,053.

* Robin R. Yount (no record of what the initial stands for), Woodland Hills, California, born 1955, shortstop (also played some center field), Milwaukee Brewers, off Jose Mesa of the Cleveland Indians, at Milwaukee County Stadium, September 9, 1992. Finished with 3,142.

* George Howard Brett, El Segundo, California, born 1953, third baseman, Kansas City Royals, off Tim Fortugna of the California Angels, at Anaheim Stadium, September 30, 1992, 3 weeks after Yount did it. Finished with 3,154.

* David Mark "Big Dave" Winfield, St. Paul, Minnesota, born 1951, left fielder (also played the other outfield positions), Minnesota Twins (spent his best years with the San Diego Padres and the New York Yankees), off Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, September 16, 1993. The Eck is the only Hall of Fame pitcher to give up a 3,000th hit, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, unless David Price, who's gotten his career off to a good start, makes it. Winfield finished with 3,110.

* Eddie Clarence Murray (not "Edward"), Los Angeles, California, born 1956, first baseman, Cleveland Indians (had his best years with the Baltimore Orioles), off Mike Trombley of the Minnesota Twins, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, June 30, 1995. Finished with 3,255.

* Paul Leo Molitor, "the Ignitor," St. Paul, Minnesota, born 1956, third baseman, Minnesota Twins (had his best years with the Milwaukee Brewers), off Jose Rosado of the Kansas City Royals, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, September 16, 1996. Finished with 3,319: Not only are he and Yount the all-time leaders in hits by teammates (they got 4,736 while they were together on the Brewers from 1978 to 192), but Molitor has more career hits than any person born after 1941 -- or, if you prefer, he has more career hits than any person under the age of 70.

* Anthony Keith Gwynn Sr., Long Beach, California, born 1960, right fielder, San Diego Padres, off Dan Smith of the Montreal Expos, at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, August 6, 1999. The day before, Mark McGwire hit his 500th home run. Finished with 3,141.

* Wade Anthony Boggs, Tampa, Florida, born 1958, third baseman, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (had his best years with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees), off Chris Haney of the Cleveland Indians, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, August 7, 1999, the day after Gwynn did it. Finished with 3,010.

* Calvin Edward Ripken Jr., "the Iron Man," Havre de Grace, Maryland, born 1960, third baseman (spent most of his career as a shortstop), Baltimore Orioles, off Hector Carrasco of the Minnesota Twins, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, April 15, 2000. Finished with 3,184, and has the most hits of anyone born after 1956.

* Rickey Henley Henderson, born Rickey Nelson Henley (not "Richard," but he was named after the singer whose real name was Eric Hilliard Nelson), Oakland, California, born 1958, left fielder, San Diego Padres (had his best years with the Oakland Athletics), of John Thomson of the Colorado Rockies, at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, October 7, 2001. Finished with 3,055.

* Rafael Palmeiro Corrales, "Raffy," Miami Florida, born 1964, first baseman, Baltimore Orioles, off Joel Piniero of the Seattle Mariners, at Safeco Field in Seattle, July 15, 2005. Had 3,020 hits when he was released by the Orioles following the public release of the fact that he had failed a steroid test -- thus proving that he had lied to Congress when he said he never used them -- and while he hasn't gone to jail for perjury, neither has he ever been employed in professional baseball again.

* Craig Alan Biggio, Kings Park, New York, born 1965, second baseman, Houston Astros, off Dan Cook of the Colorado Rockies, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, June 28, 2007. Finished with 3,060, and has the most hits of anyone born after 1960.

* Derek Sanderson Jeter, lived in North Arlington, New Jersey until he was 4 and then grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, born 1974, shortstop, New York Yankees, off David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays, at the new Yankee Stadium in New York, July 9, 2011. As of the conclusion of today's game, he has 3,003, meaning he has the most hits of anyone born after 1965. It also means he has already passed Clemente. Barring injury, within a couple of weeks, he will pass Kaline and Boggs; by the end of the season, he will probably also pass Palmeiro, Brock, Carew, Henderson, Anson and Biggio, and has an outside shot at passing Winfield, his favorite player while growing up.

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After Jeter, the active player with the most hits is Ivan Rodriguez, now with the Washington Nationals, with 2,842, but he's pretty close to the end, and probably won't make it. The active player other than Jeter most likely to get it? Surprise, it’s Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod has 2,762. (In fact, until his current knee injury he’d been hitting like crazy, although mostly singles rather than homers.) Johnny Damon, at 2,662, has a shot. Vladimir Guerrero has 2,511 and I wouldn’t yet put 3,000 past him. The only other active player that seems to have a decent shot is Albert Pujols, and he’s still a few away from 2,000, let alone 3,000; still, he has more hits than anyone born after 1980.

Of all current members of the 3,000 Hit Club, only 4 are not in the Hall of Fame: Jeter is still active, Biggio becomes eligible in January 2013, Rose is on the ineligible list because of his gambling, and Palmeiro, due to his steroid use, will probably never get voted in.

Aaron, by 2 months, beat Mays to the honor of being the first player with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits -- even though Mays beat Aaron to 500 homers by almost 3 years (then again, Mays arrived in the majors 3 years sooner). Murray joined them, and so did Palmeiro, although the revelation of Palmeiro's steroid use taints both of those milestones.

Boggs and Jeter -- ironically, not among the game's great sluggers -- are the only players whose 3,000th hit was a home run. Molitor is the only one to make it a triple. Wagner, Lajoie, Musial, Clemente, Kaline, Henderson and Palmeiro hit doubles. The rest hit singles, although Biggio was thrown out trying to stretch his 3,000th hit from a single to a double. Aside from the homers of Boggs and Jeter, I can find no record of whether any of these 3,000th hits drove in any runs.

Six, more than any other position, played right field: Waner, Aaron, Clemente, Kaline, Winfield and Gwynn. Five played first base: Anson, Musial, Carew, Murray and Palmeiro. Four were shortstops: Wagner, Yount, Ripken and Jeter -- although Yount played a bit of center field and Ripken a bit of third base, hence a discrepancy between my count and Jayson Stark's. Four played third base more than any other position: Rose, Brett, Molitor and Boggs. Three played second base: Lajoie, Collins and Biggio. Three played left field: Brock, Yastrzemski and Henderson. Three played center field: Cobb, Speaker and Mays. There has never been a catcher with 3,000 career hits; the still-active Ivan Rodriguez has 2,637 at the position. Among catchers who have probably not used steroids, the leader is Ted Simmons with 2,472.

Kaline, Winfield, Molitor and Boggs all got their 3,000th hits in their hometowns (or at least their home metropolitan areas, and you could count Jeter), while Wagner, Winfield, Molitor, Boggs and Ripken (and maybe Jeter) did it while playing for their hometown teams.

Winfield, Boggs, Henderson, and, briefly, Waner all played for the Yankees, but none got his 3,000th hit AS a Yankee, and all (with the possible exception of Winfield) are better known for playing on other teams. Jeter is the first to do it, and the first to do it all, as a Yankee. No player got 3,000 hits for the New York Giants, although Willie Mays got 3,187 of his 3,283 as a Giant, New York and San Francisco combined. He got his last 178 hits as a Met, making him the all-time leader among players who played for the Mets. Mel Ott is the leader among New York-only Giants, with 2,876. Zack Wheat, who played for the Dodgers only in Brooklyn, is the NY-to-LA franchise's all-time leader with 2,804. And the all-time Met leader is Ed Kranepool with 1,418. (Sounds pathetic, doesn't it? But then, that's the Mets.)

Anson, Wagner, Cobb, Musial, Aaron, Mays, Clemente, Kaline, Rose, Yastrzemski, Yount, Brett, Gwynn, Ripken, Biggio and Jeter are the only players with 3,000 hits for one team. And only Wagner, Musial, Clemente, Kaline, Yastrzemski, Yount, Brett, Gwynn, Ripken, Biggio and (so far) Jeter got all their hits for just one team.

Of the 28, 8 grew up (or “trained as players,” if you prefer, a better gauge of “where they were from) than “were born”) in the Middle Atlantic States: Wagner and Musial in Pennsylvania; Collins, Yastrzemski, Carew and Biggio in New York; and Kaline and Ripken in Maryland. Six were from the Southeast: Cobb from Georgia; Aaron and Mays from Alabama; Brock from Louisiana; and Boggs and Palmeiro from Florida. Five were from the Pacific Coast, all from California: Yount, Brett, Murray, Gwynn and Henderson. Four were from the Midwest: Anson from Iowa, Rose from Ohio, Winfield and Molitor from Minnesota, and Jeter from Michigan. Two were from the Southwest, counting both Speaker’s Texas and Waner’s Oklahoma in this region, rather than the Southeast. Lajoie was the only one from New England, and from outside the continental U.S., there is only the Puerto Rico born-and-raised Clemente (not counting the Panama-born but New York-raised Carew, or the Cuba-born but Miami-raised Palmeiro).

Nine of them were black: Aaron, Mays, Clemente, Brock, Carew, Winfield, Murray, Gwynn, Henderson and Jeter (mixed). Three were Hispanic: Clemente, Carew and Palmeiro. Of the non-Hispanic white players, six were descended from England (Anson, Cobb, Speaker, Rose, Brett and Boggs), three were French (Lajoie, Yount and Molitor), three were German (Wagner, Waner and Ripken), two were Polish (Musial and Yastrzemski), two were Irish (Collins and Kaline), and one was Italian (Biggio).

In spite of being lefthanded giving a hitter an advantage, being a step closer to first base, 11 of the members of the 3,000 Hit Club were lefthanded, 14 were righthanded, and 2 were switch-hitters (Rose and Murray).

Of the 28, 15 did it at what was then their current home field, 13 on the road.

Anson, Wagner, Lajoie, Cobb, Speaker and Collins never wore uniform numbers as active players – although as coaches or in old-timers games, Cobb wore 25, Collins 32, Wagner 33 and Speaker 43. The numbers most commonly worn by the others are: Jeter 2, Molitor 4, Brett 5, Musial and Kaline 6, Biggio 7, Yastrzemski and Ripken 8, Waner 11, Rose 14, Yount and Gwynn 19, Brock 20, Clemente 21, Mays and Henderson 24, Palmeiro 25, Boggs 26 (12 as a Yankee), Carew 29, Winfield 31, Murray 33, Aaron 44.

Despite the achievement of 3,000 hits, the following did not finish their careers with a lifetime batting average of at least .300: Kaline, Brock, Palmeiro, Murray, Yastrzemski, Yount, Winfield, Biggio, Henderson and Ripken. In fact, Cal's lifetime batting average was .276, hardly even noteworthy. But 3,000 hits is still 3,000 hits -- as long as you didn't cheat to get it.

Eight players got to 2,900 hits, but not to 3,000: Sam Rice (2,987), Sam Crawford (2,961), Frank Robinson (2,943), Barry Bonds (2,935), Jake Beckley (2,934), Willie Keeler (2,932), Rogers Hornsby (2,930) and Al Simmons (2,927).

The player with the most career hits who's eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but not yet in -- and not tainted by steroids -- is Harold Baines, with 2,866. Baseball-Reference.com has him, on their Hall of Fame Monitor, where 100 is a "Likely HOFer," at 66, well short; on their Hall of Fame Standards, where 50 is the "Average HOFer," he's at 44, much closer. But their 10 Most Similar Batters puts him in a better light: 5 are in the Hall of Fame (Kaline, Tony Perez, Billy Williams, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice), 2 can have legitimate cases made for them (Rusty Staub and Dwight Evans), 2 aren’t that far away (Dave Parker and Chili Davis), and 1 is tainted by steroid suspicion (Luis Gonzalez).

Babe Ruth got 2,873 hits in his career, although if someone had told him that, one day, 3,000 would be considered a big deal, he probably would have gotten there. Lou Gehrig had 2,721 when illness forced him to retire. Reggie Jackson had 2,584. Mickey Mantle had 2,415, a total kept low due to all his injuries. Joe Torre had 2,342. Graig Nettles had 2,225. Joe DiMaggio, who missed 3 prime seasons due to World War II and retired at 37 due to injury, had 2,214 – only 4 more than Willie Randolph, who, while a good player, was hardly a Hall-of-Famer. Yogi Berra had 2,150.

Here’s the career home run totals of the club’s members: Aaron 755, Mays 660, Palmeiro 569, Murray 504, Musial 475, Winfield 465, Yastrzemski 452, Ripken 431, Kaline 399, Brett 317, Henderson 297, Biggio 291, Yount 251, Clemente 240, Jeter 237, Molitor 234, Rose 160, Brock 149, Gwynn 135, Boggs 118, Cobb 117, Speaker 117, Waner 113, Wagner 101, Anson 97, Carew 92, Lajoie 82 and Collins 47. It should be noted that Cobb, Speaker, Wagner, Anson, Lajoie and Collins played all or most of their careers in the pre-1920 Dead Ball Era. Of the others, Henderson, Biggio, Clemente, Rose, Brock, Gwynn and Waner played most of their home games in pitcher-friendly ballparks.

Between them, these men won 32 World Series: Collins 6 (1910, '11, '13, '17, '29 and '30), Rose 3 (1975, '76 and '80), Musial 3 (1942, '44 and '46), Speaker 3 (1912, '15 and '20), Henderson 2 (1989 and '93), Brock 2 (1964 and '67), Clemente 2 (1960 and '71), and 1 each for Wagner (1909), Waner (1925), Mays (1954), Aaron (1957), Kaline (1968), Murray and Ripken (both 1983), Brett (1985), Winfield (1992), Molitor (1993) and Boggs (1996). Anson played before World Series were contested, but won 6 Pennants (1876, '80, '81, '82, '85 and '86). Yaz won 2 Pennants (1967 and '75), and 1 each for Yount (1982) and Biggio (2005). Palmeiro reached the postseason three times without winning a Pennant (1996, '97 and '99), Carew twice (1979 and '82). Lajoie never played on a postseason team.

There are 20 members still alive: Musial, Aaron, Mays, Kaline, Rose, Brock, Yastrzemski, Carew, Yount, Brett, Winfield, Murray, Molitor, Gwynn, Boggs, Ripken, Henderson, Palmeiro, Biggio and Jeter.

A shocking 124 pitchers have given up 3,000 or more hits, the active leader being Livan Hernandez with 3,375. There have been 39 who gave up at least 4,000. Four gave up 5,000, including Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro and an early pro pitcher named Bobby Mathews, whom you might have heard of and might be in the Hall if he'd won just 3 more games: Counting his NA stats, from 1871 to 1887 he went 297-248. Jim "Pud" Galvin gave up more than 6,000 hits, and, as you might guess, the all-time leader, as in so many other categories, is Cy Young with 7,092.

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