Saturday, July 9, 2011

Which Is More Impressive; 600 Home Runs or 3000 Hits?

The New York Yankees Derek Jeter secured his 3,000th hit today, putting a topper on an already Hall of Fame career. With his solo home run in the third inning Jeter became the 28th member of the 3000 hits club, only the second to do so by home run (Wade Boggs). With all of the media attention on Jeter and his hunt for 3000 another attempt at a stellar accomplishment has gone all but unnoticed, Jim Thome's assault on the 600 home run club.

Much of this can be attributed to the star power of Jeter and the allure of the New York Yankees, but one has to ask; is 3000 hits more important than 600 home runs?

The 3000 Hit Club is studded with legendary names; Ty Cobb, Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron and has long been considered the "greatest measure of superior bat handling," and a virtual lock to make the Hall of Fame. Only two members of this club are not in the Hall of Fame, Jeter excluded, Rafael Palmeiro and Pete Rose.

The numbers of a 3000 hit career are simply astounding; even if a player averaged 200 hits a season he would have to continue that for 15 years in order to make the club. Most players careers don't last anywhere close to 15 seasons, let alone average 200 hits a year during it. Which makes being a member of this club awe inspiring.

However impressive reaching the 3000 hit mark is, it may not make for as much as a Hall of Fame lock as some say it is. The next member of this club to become eligible to make the Hall of Fame is Craig Biggio, while he has passed the 3000 hit plateau it may be a stretch to say that he is a lock to go to Cooperstown. Biggio has 3060 career hits, good for 20th all-time, and a .281 BA but he may not be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Jeter, without question, will make the Hall of Fame on his first ballot, he would have done so even if he hadn't had reached the 3000 hit plateau. So does having 3000 hits really mean as much as it's made out to be? The players who are in the club were all fantastic players who would have probably made it to the Hall even if they hadn't have reached the 3000 hit milestone.

There is another player in baseball who is chasing a milestone and he has been overshadowed by Jeter's shot at 3000; Jim Thome. Thome, who is battling through injuries, is making a run at 600 home runs, rarefied air for MLB sluggers. 

The 600 Home Run Club, is much more exclusive than the 3000 Hit Club; with only seven current members. The members of this club are; Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Alex Rodriguez (626) and Sammy Sosa (609).

Currently, Thome sits at 595 homers and is playing through a sprained big toe. Despite him nearing a much more exclusive mark than Jeter, no one seems to be talking about it. Perhaps it is because he has been oft-injured this season and is only batting .228 with 6 home runs, but one would think his attempt would be garnering some kind of fanfare.

While both milestones are steeped in baseball lore, it may be more about where you set the mark rather than which mark you set. Jeter has played his entire career in front of the New York market and has been exposed to the national audience time and time again whereas Thome has amassed his homers in cities like Cleveland and Minneapolis. How much more attention would Thome be getting if he was wearing pin-stripes as opposed to a "Twin Cities" hat? 

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