PETE ROSE’S 4,256 HITS
When it comes to enshrinement in Cooperstown, 3,000 hits is considered the magic number for automatic induction. Only 28 batters have ever reached that level, with Yankees star Derek Jeter accomplishing the feat earlier this spring. Jeter, 37, would have to average 170 hits a season and play through his age 44 season to pass Rose.
“Can anyone catch Pete Rose’s hits record? Not unless they play until they’re 50,” laughs Phillips, who has 1,084 hits in 10 seasons. “You’ve gotta get like 250 hits a year to be able to catch that guy. That’s amazing. That’s just dumb.”
Phillips is right. If a player averaged 250 hits over 17 seasons, he would still come up six hits short of Rose. To show how difficult that is, Ichiro is the only player to top 250 hits in the last 81 years, and he only did it once. Tony Gwynn didn’t do it. Wade Boggs didn’t do it. Heck, not even Pete Rose could do it. Rose did it with longevity, averaging 177 hits over his 24 seasons.
Verdict: Can Rose be topped? “(Rose) could flat-out hit,” Phillips says. “Don’t get me wrong, Derek Jeter is a great player, but I really don’t feel like anybody can catch Pete Rose.” We tend to agree.
RICKEY HENDERSON’S 1,406 STOLEN BASES
Shortly after Rickey Henderson broke Lou Brock’s career stolen base record of 938, he brashly called himself “the greatest of all time.” He was only 32, and he was absolutely right.
Henderson would add another 467 steals over the course of his 25-year career, compiling a resume of theft that no player has come close to challenging. In fact, aside from Henderson and Brock, only one other player has stolen more than 900 bases (Billy Hamilton, 914), and the active steals leader is 33-year-old Juan Pierre, who is 852 behind with 554.
Alan Greth / AP
Rickey Henderson broke Lou Brock's career stolen base record in 1991 at age 32. He would add 467 more steals to his total over the next 12 seasons.
To approach Henderson’s record, a player would have to average 70 steals a season for 20 years, a pace that Los Angeles Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos believes is impossible.
“That amount is just ridiculous,” says Bourjos, a second-year player who many consider to be the fastest in the sport. “Nowadays guys don’t even play 20 years, and to maintain your speed over those years? Usually guys will have that (speed) for eight or nine years and then start slowing down.”
Bourjos, who stole 50 bases in Class-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2008, knows about the toll it takes on a player’s body with each dash for the next base, with each dive into the bag, with each collision with an infielder. It not only takes speed to compile a lot of steals, but durability.
“I felt like I was running on every pitch (in 2008),” says Bourjos, “and halfway through the year I was dead-tired.”
In addition to the physical hardships, pitchers are more focused on controlling the running game, scouting reports are better, and catchers are stronger and quicker getting rid of the ball.
If it were going to happen, it would take a special player who not only compiles hits, but also walks a lot (Henderson is second all-time in walks with 2,190). And it would take a physical freak who not only stays healthy throughout a long career, but does not lose his speed.
Verdict: Is it possible? We’re going with Bourjos’ take: “Stealing 1,400 bags? I just don’t see that happening.”
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