Derek Jeter reaches new milestone, now seventh all-time in hits
The hits literally keep coming for Derek Jeter in his final season. On Monday night in Texas, the Yankees' captain picked up three hits in four at-bats, giving him 3,420 in his 20-year career. That moved him past Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski and into seventh place on the all-time career hits list, 10 shy of Hall of Famer Honus Wagner for sixth.
Jeter reached base four times thanks to two singles, a ground-rule double and a walk. More impressively, all of that came in four at-bats against Rangers ace Yu Darvish. Jeter's first out of the game was the final of the night, as he grounded out to shortstop in the top of the ninth to end a 4-2 loss to Texas. But the three hits were enough to push him past Yastrzemski (who also saw David Ortiz pass him on the career home run list last week) and put him behind Wagner, who is at 3,430.
But should Jeter pass Wagner — and with two months left in the regular season, that's extremely likely — he'll find the top-five almost impossible to crack. As of now, Jeter trails No. 5, Tris Speaker, by 95 hits (Speaker is at 3,515). To have any hope of catching Speaker, Jeter would need to hit roughly .354 over the final 67 games of the Yankees' season. Though Jeter's shown some last bit of pop in his bat at age 40 — Monday's effort raised his season average to .278 — that's still asking a lot of him at this point in time, to put it nicely.
Regardless of whether he catches Speaker, however, Jeter's accomplishments are a testament to his downright robotic durability. Once Jeter breaks his tie with Wagner, he'll become the all-time leader in hits by a shortstop. And while Speaker is out of reach, 3,500 career hits is more in the realm of possibility (albeit also unlikely). If Jeter can get there, that would make him the first player since Pete Rose to break the 3,500-hit mark; Rose did so back in August of 1980 en route to his major-league leading total of 4,256. But if he can't do it, don't expect anyone else to challenge the 3,500-hit mark again any time soon. The only two active players within shouting distance of 3,000 are Alex Rodriguez (2,939) and Ichiro Suzuki (2,805). A-Rod's continued legal issues and suspension have dealt a major blow to his quest to get significantly past 3,000, and at 40 years old, it's worth wondering if Ichiro has enough to get to 3,000, much less any further.
Beyond Rodriguez and Ichiro, the list thins noticeably. The next currently active player on the all-time hits list is Adrian Beltre, at 2,540, but at 35 years old, 3,500 will be a huge test. The same is true of Albert Pujols, who sits at 2,459 and is 34. Beltre, Pujols and Miguel Cabrera (2,115) are the only active players between 31 and 35 years of age who have passed the 2,000-hit barrier, and of the trio, only Cabrera seems like a real threat to 3,500. After that, it gets even bleaker: The active leader in hits under the age of 30 is Ryan Zimmerman, currently at 1,321 at 29 years old.
All of Jeter's longevity has helped him amass some impressive counting stats in his time. Aside from hits, Jeter is likely to finish his career just outside the top-25 in games played, in the top-seven in career at-bats and top-10 in career plate appearances, and top-10 in runs scored (though a return by A-Rod could bump Jeter back out of that group). He's already top-five in singles and will finish his career with more total bases than Wagner and Ted Williams. One record that will remain just beyond his reach: Most games played at shortstop. Even if Jeter starts every game from here on out at short, he would still end up nine games shy of Omar Vizquel's mark of 2,709.
Records aside, the number that should matter to Jeter more than any other right now is two. That's the deficit the Yankees face in the race for the second wild card spot in the American League, a gap that increased after New York's loss to Texas and Toronto's rout of Boston. Now 4 1/2 games out in the AL East, the Yankees' playoff chances are down around the 25-percent mark, according to Baseball Prospectus. What's more, it's a sizable group behind the Yankees challenging for that second wild card spot, including Seattle (also two games out), Kansas City (2 1/2), Cleveland (four) and the suddenly surging Tampa Bay Rays (4 1/2).
Despite reaching base four times in Monday's loss, Jeter didn't score once, as the Yankees' three-through-nine hitters (including pinch hitters) combined to go 5-for-28 with eight strikeouts. As has been the case all season long, New York's offense remained stuck in neutral, and unless the team's well-paid veterans can start producing, September will simply be a long parade of Jeter reaching more milestones but falling short of the postseason.