A few months ago I was in Las Vegas where I caught up with all-time hit king Pete Rose. Oh yes, I bragged all about this meeting in the past in a bunch of posts on this site, so just add this one to the mix.
Nevertheless, during the course of our conversation, I asked Pete if he thought anyone could ever get 4,256 hits and break his record. The answer, as one could guess, was a resounding no.
And this isn’t to say Pete was putting his ego on display or professing the greatness of his all-time hit record. Far from it. Instead, the conversation was more like a couple of baseball fans having a conversation in a bar or some place like that. In this case it was Pete, me and the workers at a memorabilia shop in Caesar’s Palace where the all-time hit king was signing autographs and posing for pictures.
So to add to the notion of a couple of guys hanging out and talking ball, Pete and I started going through the names of players that might have a shot.
Alex Rodriguez? Nope. Even though A-Rod averages 190 hits per 162 games, his tendency to hit homers and standing in the Yankees’ offense might make it difficult for him to get beyond 3,800 hits.
Ichiro? He would have the best chance if he hadn’t spent the first half of his career playing in Japan. Ichiro is 35 and has approximately 3,500 hits between both Japan and the U.S., but it’s a case of what could have been if he played his entire career in the Majors.
We went down the list contemplating some names and quickly dismissing others. We did this until I tossed out a name that surprised me at how quickly Pete shot it down.
“Derek Jeter,” I said.
“No,” said Pete.
“Really? Why not? He gets 200-hits a season and hits at the top of a lineup that needs his to get hits. Ten years worth of 200 hits or close to it is nearly 2,000 hits. That adds up.”
“Yeah, but he’s 35,” Pete said.
Apparently Derek Jeter is old… who knew?
But there is some faulty logic at work here on a bunch of fronts. First, of course, is that Pete Rose didn’t get his 3,000th hit until in 1978 when he was 37 and in his 16th Major League season. With 2,723 hits even at 35 and in his 15th big-league season, there’s no reason to think that Jeter couldn’t threaten to become the third player ever to get 4,000 hits.
He might even have a chance to go a little deeper than that.
Say Jeter plays seven more season and continues to average 208 hits per 162 games… that puts his career hit total at 4,179 and that’s not even including the number of hits he’ll get over the final three weeks of this season.
Sure, that’s some rudimentary and basic math and it’s probably not likely that Jeter will be pounding out 200 hits when he is 40, especially considering his contract ends next season and he plays a demanding position. However, maybe Jeter will move to first base or DH a few games a week instead of playing shortstop? Besides, when Pete Rose was 40 he led the National League in hits, and the first four seasons he played first base when he joined the Phillies, Rose got 705 hits.
That’s 705 hits in 594 games from the ages 38 to 41. That comes to an average of 193 hits per 162 games.
Not bad for an old guy.
So could Jeter get close to Rose’s record?
Yeah, if he wants to. That’s the big part of it, of course. Jeter’s deal ends at the end of next season and currently there is no indication that the Yankees won’t re-sign him. After all, Jeter is still the face of the franchise and after passing Lou Gehrig’s all-time club record for hits, it’s doubtful even the Steinbrenners would send Jeter packing the way they did Joe Torre.
Maybe in the year 2017 or so Jeter will be closing in on the Hit King… and who knows, maybe Rose will be able to go to the ballpark by then again, too.
Speaking of all-time franchise leaders in hits, the gang was shooting the bull the other day in the dugout during BP and someone (I think it was Lauber) dropped this nugget:
There are six active players who are the all-time leader in hits for a franchise. Name them.
And don’t cheat by looking up the answer.