Professional baseball is a sport that dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. Unlike any other sport in America its records are sacred living breathing entities not to be tampered with. Barry Bonds found out the hard way how the baseball world treats a player who desecrates one of its most treasured numbers.
Let’s take a look at 7 players who are on the verge of recording some significant statistical milestones.
Alex Rodriguez could join the 3,000 hit club (needs 61), and be only the fourth player to amass 2,000 RBI (needs 31). He doesn’t need to have a very good year or play very much to reach these two milestones. If he is able to accomplish both of those he would join Hank Aaron and Cap Anson as the only three players in history to have 3,000 hits and 2,000 RBI. We should be reflecting on an amazing career but instead we’re left wondering if any of his amazing number were not chemically enhanced. Scandal after scandal. Denial after denial. An admission only when there was nowhere else to turn. If Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens are any indication A-Rod will not be missed nor remembered fondly.
Ichiro Suzuki needs only 156 hits to reach 3,000. Ichiro’s signing with the Marlins is interesting in that he loses his ability to DH so he’ll need to play a lot of right field. But the Marlins seem to have one of the top outfields without Ichiro. If he is able to get in the batter’s box on a regular basis he would be the 41-year-old capable of getting 156 hits. Getting his 500th career stolen base, he needs 13, maybe in reach even if he doesn’t play everyday. It’s a long shot but if Florida is his fountain of youth he would join a group of 6 Hall of Famers who have all collected 3,000 hits and 500 stolen bases; Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Paul Molitor, Eddie Collins, Rickey Henderson, and Lou Brock.
Adrian Beltre made his Major League debut in 1998 as a 19-year-old. 16 years later he is still producing at a high level. He needs only 5 home runs to reach the 400 home run club. Unfortunately, the PED era has skewed our idea of home runs and what constitutes an impressive career total. Beltre hopes to join Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Chipper Jones, and Darrell Evans as the 5th third baseman in history to hit 400 homers.
Miguel Cabrera burst onto the national stage during the Florida Marlins 2003 World Series run. History has all but forgotten about his three homers during the NLCS against the Cubs thanks to a man named Steve Bartman. He was only 20 during the Marlins run now the soon to be 32-year-old needs only ten homers to reach 400. If he eclipses the 400 homer mark he would join a club of 5 Hall of Famers whose career numbers speak not only to the their power but also to their ability to hit for a high average. Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Stan Musial are the only men to have 400 career homers and a .320 or higher batting average. Miguel could join them by before the All-Star break.
Mark Buehrle is one win shy of reaching 200 career wins. With the evolution of the 5-man rotation and the way managers are handling both starters and relievers 200 very well may be the new 300. In his 15 years in the bigs, 14 as a full-time starter, he has started at least 30 games every year while also exceeding 200 innings pitched in each season. For his career he has averaged 6 2/3 innings per start and has earned a decision in 76% of his starts with a .567 winning percentage. He’ll turn 36 in late March and one has to believe that despite his consistency he’s nearing the end of an amazingly stable career.
CC Sabathia has been a workhorse since he joined the Cleveland Indians in 2001. He needs 63 strikeouts this year to reach 2500 for his career. At 6’7″ and weighting in north of 260 he is an intimidating pitcher. He can reach back when he needs to but for his career he averages only 7.77 strikeouts per 9 innings. He accumulates punchouts by pitching a lot of innings year in and year out. Last year his hulking body finally gave and he spent a majority of the year on the DL, only starting 8 games, throwing a mere 46 innnnnnn ings. CC will turn 35 in July and given his play the last few years I don’t think he’s got enough let in the tank to get to 3,000. 2,500 is not something to overlook, he would be only the 10th lefty to amass 2,500 strikeouts.
Joe Nathan became the closer for the Minnesota Twins in 2004 as a 29-year-old. 11 years later he is 24 saves away from saving his 400th game. That would make Nathan only the 6th player in history to save 400 games. During a six-year run between 2004-2009 Nathan saved an average of 41 games a season, while striking out 518 batters in 418 2/3 innings, with an ERA of 1.87.
Milestones are the result of a player playing at a high level for a long period of time. Baseball has a long and rich tradition. If a player wants to crack the records books he has to perform at a consistently high level for over a decade. Each of these guys has earned his keep. Sit back and relax as you prepare to take in all this season has to offer and don’t overlook any of these milestones.