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As a sports fan, I have been in heated debates concerning almost every subject. Everything from the DH rule to whether or not hockey broadcasts should reinstate something similar to the FoxTrax glow puck. But maybe, the most ridiculous argument happened this past weekend. I’m almost ashamed to type this, but I know a person, a living, breathing human being who doesn’t think that 3,000 hits should be an automatic in to Cooperstown. Now, I like this guy very much and I’m not going to use my time here to slander an innocent person. I’ll just have to create a fake Facebook account and bully him online instead.
This whole issue came about when we were talking about players that are very close to the magic number: Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, Omar Vizquel and Ivan Rodriguez. A-Rod is the only one that’s going to get into Cooperstown with or without 3,000 hits. The other three on the list have very good career stats and have been very good players for years, but are not Hall of Fame worthy in the eyes of many fans.
Essentially, the argument regarding these players was to put it simply, “what else did they do?” Meaning… Do they hold another record? What are their other stats like and/or how did they stand out during their prime? Certainly all valid points when arguing about sports topics. But, It’s so easy to take these names and hold them up the Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn and George Brett. The three latter names did much more than hit 3,000. They did do something else and they were in Cooperstown (metaphorically speaking) long before the milestone was reached. But not all players are like that and for those few who (like Craig Biggio) that weren’t dominate, media darling, game-changing forces during their heyday, they shouldn’t be punished for it.
But, should 3,000 hits be a guarantee to the Hall of Fame? Does Adam Sandler make awful movies? The fact is, every retired/eligible member of the 3,000 hit club entered the Hall of Fame and on their first try. The only players who are not in Cooperstown with 3,000 hits are Rafael Palmero (who is being taught a lesson by the baseball writers), Pete Rose, Craig Biggio (who isn’t eligible until 2013) and Derek Jeter (little known fact: Jeter has been in Cooperstown since the 2001 playoffs). The greatest measure of hitting excellence and physical endurance is to be able to reach the 3,000-hit milestone. To reach that milestone, a player needs to have 200 hits for fifteen years and more importantly, stay healthy enough to do so. Staying healthy is such an important part of any great athletes success. Just look at what two or three injury-free years would have done for Ken Griffey Jr’s numbers. He could have easily reached the 700-HR mark and the 3,000-hit mark. Staying healthy is one of my primary go-to examples when getting into debates like these. It’s an underrated intangible and should always be taken into consideration when assessing a player’s career.
As of right now, Vizquel has 2,812 hits, Ivan Rodriguez has 2,842 and Johnny Damon has 2,683 hits. Damon is also the only one of the three who has over 100 hits this season, with 112 thus far. I think that Vizquel and Rodriguez are in fact Cooperstown bound, even if they don’t reach the 3,000-hit milestone. Based on their long time durability and fielding prowess, they will eventually get in. Cooperstown isn’t biased toward the offensive players only. Roberto Alomar, a recent inductee, has fewer hits (2,724) than both men and was always touted more so for his impeccable defense than his hitting.
Damon, however, may need that 3,000 hits after all. Defensively, he was never great, he has only two All-Star selections and no postseason awards to his resume. But, if he can get as close as humanly possible to 3,000 hits, I think he deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.
This is where the argument got me thinking about a whole other layer buried deep within: should coming incredibly close to 3,000, but ultimately not reaching that number be enough to get players into the Hall of Fame? There are some very good ball players on the current ballots that, because they missed 3,000 hits by only a couple hundred (it’s not that much when you think about it), haven’t made it into the “Hall.” Some notable names include Al Oliver, Rusty Staub, Dave Parker and Tim Raines. These men were all excellent hitters in their day and retired only 300-350 hits short of the magic number. That really isn’t all that much if you put an entire baseball season and baseball career into perspective. The fact is, you basically need to be a Hall of Fame caliber hitter just to fall short of the 3,000-hit mark.