Listen, it's not quite as difficult as it sounds. After all, you've averaged about 206 hits per year in your 17 seasons in the Major Leagues. You reached 3,000 at an age seven days younger than Rose was when he hit that milestone. And while everybody outside the pinstripe partisans these days seems to be of the opinion that Derek Jeter is in decline, even if you crank out "only" 150 hits per year, you could break Pete Rose's all-time record of 4,256 in just ... eight years?
You know what, Jeet? (I can call you Jeet, right?) Never mind. Sorry I even brought it up. Enjoy 3,000, and save the HBO documentary for posterity, because this is likely the last of the major milestones.
But you've got me thinking, Derek. Can anybody
reasonably challenge what Rose accomplished on Sept. 11, 1985, when he passed Ty Cobb with hit No. 4,192*? (*Some historical statistics concerning Cobb's hits and at-bats may vary depending on the source due to inconsistent record-keeping methods in 19th- and early 20th-century baseball)
Will any player ever have that kind of endurance, that kind of durability, that kind of dependability?
Or is Rose's final tally truly one of baseball's unbreakable records?
"What difference does it make anyway if I get 4,256 hits or 4,266?" Rose said shortly after his playing career came to a close, when discussing why he played on after No. 4,192. "No one's going to beat it."
Rose was right. At least, as far as anybody in this era can tell.
3,000 HITS FOR JETER
Consider that there are 17 active players with between 2,000 and 2,900 career hits. Only three of them -- Alex Rodriguez (2,728), Edgar Renteria (2,275) and Carlos Lee (2,020) -- are younger than 36. The 35-year-old Rodriguez would seem to be in the best statistical position to make it happen, but tell that to his hips. He had 127 hits in 124 games played in 2009 and 141 in 137 games in 2'0. He won't be reaching 4,000.
Going further down the list, the guy who might have the best chance -- and we're talking about a miniscule percentage chance here -- is Albert Pujols. He's closing in on 2,000 hits at the age of 31, he's averaged about 196 hits per year in 11 seasons and he has the freakish ability to return from broken wrists four weeks earlier than anticipated.
But even if Pujols were able to maintain his hits-per-season pace (and he is well off it this season), he wouldn't approach Rose for at least another decade and, more likely, beyond. And while somebody this winter will undoubtedly be agreeing to pay
Pujols like one of the game's premier players over the course of the next 10 years, a statistical decline is inevitable.
Rose broke into the bigs at 22. He had his 1,000th hit at age 27. He had his 2,000th at 32, his 2,500th at 34, his 3,000th at 37, his 3,500th at 39, his 4,000th on the eve of his 42nd birthday and No. 4,192 came late in his age 44 season. He retired at 45.
Rose's record has stood for a quarter century for good reason. In addition to being the all-time hits leader, he is the all-time leader in games played, with 3,562, and one of only eight men to play in at least 3,000 games.
Few bodies can endure that kind of grind for that long. From the time he first broke in, Rose went two decades without a significant injury or a demotion to a part-time role. This allowed him to rack up 14,053 at-bats, by far the most in history. Hank Aaron ranks second ... with 12,364. Even Cal Ripken Jr., who emerged at age 20 and played in a record 2,632 consecutive games, fell 2,502 at-bats shy of Rose's record.
So to do what Rose did, you have to be not only an accomplished hitter who avoids injury, you must also remain relevant enough long enough to pad your stats in your later years.
Only one current player could have reasonably challenged Rose, and that's Ichiro Suzuki. But because of free-agency rules in his native Japan, he didn't arrive to the States until the age of 27, so he doesn't stand a chance.
Ichiro is 37 now. He has eclipsed 200 hits in each of his 10 Major League seasons and should collect his 2,500th hit next year. But the 1,278 hits he amassed in Nippon Professional Baseball obviously don't or won't count toward his tally. And even if they did, he'd still have more than 600 to go to reach Rose.
Indeed, the "Hit King" won't have a successor to his throne any time soon, if ever. Like Cy Young's total of 511 wins, Cobb's lifetime .366 batting average, Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games played streak, Rickey Henderson's 130-stolen base season, Nolan Ryan's 5,714 strikeouts and Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, Rose's record is secure.
That's why we'll appreciate 3,000 for what it is, Jeet. It's not Rose, but it's still pretty sweet.