I'm kind of amazed I haven't heard more about this on the YES network, but maybe I just don't watch enough TV.
Derek Jeter is on the verge of becoming the New York Yankees' all-time hits leader, topping Lou Gehrig, a statistic that isn't so much incredible as it is slightly hard to believe.
Jeter's been a great player for a really long time, but he's never been in that otherworldly class of previous Yankee greats, at least for very long. So I almost can't believe it myself. Jeter's not only going to break the record for Yankee hits (he currently stands at 2,694 to Gehrig's 2,721), he's going to destroy it! By the end of his career, he's going to be so far out in front of Gehrig, he may not be caught. Ever.
Bill James' "Favorite Toy" (Google it) predicts Jeter to wind up with 3,502 hits, about 800 more than Lou Gehrig.
If anything, Jeter's soon-to-be record points out one thing: longevity and walks can play tricks on you.
Babe Ruth didn't become a Yankee until he was 25 years old, but his career average as a Yankee was identical to Jeter's best average (.349). However, he averaged only 138 games a season as a Yankee and walked 123 times. So even though both players have been Yankees for 15 years, Jeter's had almost 1,300 more at bats than Ruth.
Lou Gehrig also walked a ton, averaging 113 a season as a Yankee. And, as we all know, his career was cut short by his illness, which ended his career at 36.
Joe DiMaggio wasn't particularly adept at walking, but he missed three full seasons to serve in World War II, and injuries forced him to retire at 36.
Mickey Mantle averaged a mere 135 games played as a Yankee, and his career average of .298 didn't help. But like Gehrig and DiMaggio, he had to retire at 36 due to physical problems from a variety of injuries.
Only two players after those great four ever mounted serious challenges. Bernie Williams, who finished with 2,336 and who had longevity, but no truly great seasons after 33, and Don Mattingly, who was also derailed by injuries and had no great seasons after turning 28.
This isn't to diminish Jeter's upcoming milestone. To get 2,722 hits in the major leagues is not easy.
It's simply to put it into context. Jeter's been relatively injury-free, unlike many other Yankee greats. And he's also not much for patience, taking only 66 walks per year on average.
And while not even the biggest Jeter fan on the planet would ever consider him to be a better hitter than Mantle, DiMaggio, Gehrig or Ruth, it's still important we put this record in the right context.
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