Company for Derek Jeter? Here Are Five Players With a Shot At 3,000 Hits
So, who's next?
When Derek Jeter became just the 28th player in Major League Baseball history to collect 3,000 hits Saturday, he cemented a legacy already encased in stone. For the New York Yankees captain, his resume had already passed inspection by baseball's Hall of Fame.
Now that he's crashed the 3,000-hit party, we can focus our attention on who might one day join this fraternity. It's an achievement within arm's length of several big league bats. The question remains, however -- is time on their side?
Here are five players who have a shot at joining the exclusive 3000-hit club.
IVAN RODRIGUEZ (2,842)
"Pudge" may be the closest to 3,000, but it's turning into a race between the tortoise and the hare. The Washington Nationals' backstop has been nickel-and-diming his way to the milestone in recent years, averaging around 107 hits per season since 2008. Rodriguez, 39, is currently on the 15-day disabled list and has battled injuries throughout most of the 2011 campaign. But while the former MVP's days as an everyday catcher may be over, he's hinted that he intends to play into his 40s. Expect him to join the club by the All-Star Game -- in 2013.
OMAR VIZQUEL (2,831)
The slick-fielding shortstop has never been known for his offensive prowess -- only once has Vizquel collected more than 180 hits in a season (191 in 1999) -- yet, the 11-time All-Star remains just 169 hits shy of the mark. Vizquel has averaged just 58 hits over his last four seasons while appearing in more than 100 games just once since 2007. Since 44-year-old middle infielders are hardly in high demand, it could take a Bernie Mac and 'Mr. 3000' act for the White Sox' shortstop to reach the milestone. It appears Vizquel may run out of gas just short of his destination.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ (2,762)
Jeter's mate to the left in the Yankees infield will be, in all likelihood, the 29th player in baseball to reach 3,000 hits. Rodriguez is the first player on this list who is a forgone conclusion to join the club -- the question is when. With recent news of knee surgery expected to sideline the third baseman for four-to-six weeks, Rodriguez will be hard-pressed to reach 2,800 by the end the season. The Yankees third baseman has collected 200 hits three times in his career, but has failed to do so since 2001. Rodriguez, 35, has also been slowed by injuries, missing at least 24 games in every year since 2007. Still, the three-time MVP and 14-time all-star remains one of the top players in the game when healthy. He's a lock for Cooperstown and we're betting hit number 3,000 will come sometime around the spring of 2013.
JOHNNY DAMON (2,663)
Damon is likely the last of his generation with a shot at reaching 3,000. Although other players such as the Braves' Chipper Jones (2,565) and Baltimore's Vladimir Guerrero (2,514) are less than 500 hits away, it's doubtful either one will play long enough necessary to get there, while Damon continues to personify consistency. Although his stats don't pop off the page like Jeter or A-Rod, he has maintained roughly the same level of play over his last five seasons. The 37-year-old has been a lock for 140+ hits and games in every season since 1998, and has proven his ability to contribute to contending teams while making his home in the American League East for nine of the last 10 years. Getting to 3,000 is no certainty for the Rays outfielder, as he'll likely have to do it as a 40-year-old DH, but it's absolutely within the realm of possibility.
ALBERT PUJOLS (1,984)
Arguably the greatest player of his generation, Pujols sits 272nd on the leaderboard for all-time hits. There are more than a dozen active players closer to 3,000 than the Cardinals slugger, but after A-Rod, he's the most likely to reach it. When healthy, there is no better hitter than Pujols. The three-time MVP has a 162-game average of 196 hits and, although he's never played a full season in the big leagues, durability has never been a real concern for the Cards' first baseman. At 31 years old, one can expect Pujols to produce his customary All-Star numbers for at least five more seasons. Pujols has averaged 190 hits over his 10-year career, putting him on pace -- if healthy -- to reach 3,000 by the end of the 2016 season.