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Mr. 3,000?

Hitters with the best shot at joining the exclusive club

Posted: Tuesday May 29, 2007 12:28PM; Updated: Tuesday May 29, 2007 1:30PM
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Johnny Damon's lackluster play in the field and at the plate this season may be a sign that his skills are in decline.
Johnny Damon's lackluster play in the field and at the plate this season may be a sign that his skills are in decline.
Jim Rogash/WireImage.com
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On the cusp of 2,000 hits this week at age 33, and having cranked out at least 165 hits for nine consecutive seasons, Johnny Damon would seem to have 3,000 hits in his long-term sights. Indeed, the Bill James Handbook projects Damon to a career total of 2,922. (Only one player in the stat-savvy modern era ever exceeded 2,900 hits and didn't continue to 3,000: Frank Robinson at 2,943.)

But when I asked the Yankees center fielder if the occasion of his 2,000th hit brought to mind the possibility of 3,000, Damon gave me an answer that might surprise you -- or not if you've watched him struggle somberly through this season.

"I don't know," he said. "I'll enjoy this, and then we'll see what happens. You're talking about six more productive years, maybe five if I finish this year strong. Five [more] very productive years with 180 hits or so.

"It's not out of the question, but right now I don't know if this is what I want to be doing when I'm 37, 38, 39 -- playing baseball. I don't know about that."

Who could have predicted that Damon, the chief Idiot of the frenetic Red Sox teams and the rabble rouser last season of the otherwise placid Yankees clubhouse, would lose his mojo suddenly at 33? James' own calculations for active players include a boldface disclaimer: "These projections assume that the player will be healthy." Damon is proof that a physical decline can blow up those calculations.

Using James' numbers as a guide, 10 active players will join the 26 players already in the 3,000-Hit Club: Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Vlad Guerrero, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Edgar Renteria, Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada. In addition to Damon, Ken Griffey Jr., Todd Helton, Jimmy Rollins and Gary Sheffield will come within 100 hits of the magic number. According to James' projections, the career top 10 hits leaders will look like this by the time these active players are retired:

Projected All-time Hits Leaders

1. Pete Rose, 4,256
2. Ty Cobb, 4,189
3. Hank Aaron, 3,771
4. Pujols, 3,752
5. Stan Musial, 3,630
6. Jeter, 3,604
7. Tris Speaker, 3,514
8. Guerrero, 3,468
9. Alex Rodriguez, 3,429
10. Carl Yastrzemski, 3,419

Biggio is nearing 3,000 hits this season. Bonds is likely to do so next season, given his stated intentions to stick around long enough to do exactly that. After that? You might have to wait until 2011, when Jeter gets there, to see another Mr. 3,000.

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