Baseball is undoubtedly a team sport. A winning team is built upon a group of 25 men with good chemistry and sportsmanship. Double plays, solid relief, and sacrifice hits are examples of how teammates rely on each other day in and day out.
However, there are some individual aspects of the game that have significance as well. Records, streaks, and milestones illustrate how the game has meaning to the individual player.
So, here is a list of nine records, streaks, and milestones that most likely will never be reached or broken—at least, not in our lifetime.
Between 1925 and 1939, Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games. But as impressive as this streak was, it was reached in an era when travel was a lot lighter. Teams didn't travel west of the Mississippi back then, and only played one-game series.
Flash forward to 1982. A thin, young shortstop, playing in his first full season with the Baltimore Orioles, began his quest towards history. That man was Cal Ripken, Jr.
On September 6, 1995, he broke Gehrig's record by playing in his 2,131st consecutive ballgame.
Gehrig's streak lasted 56 years (coincidentally the same number of consecutive games with a hit for fellow Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio). Ripken ended his streak prior to the Orioles' last home game of the 1998 season, finishing with 2,632 consecutive games, 502 more than Gehrig.
Fellow shortstop-turned-third baseman Miguel Tejada has come the closest to reaching Ripken's remarkable streak. Tejada reached 1,152 consecutive games, good for fifth all time.
In June of 2007, he was forced onto the disabled list with a broken wrist, putting his quest for Ripken to rest. In an era where players rarely play as much as they used to, it doesn't appear that Ripken's streak will be in any kind of jeopardy for a very long time, if ever.
Nolan Ryan—one of the best pitchers ever to play the game of baseball.
He's the all-time leader in strikeouts with 5,714. He had 324 wins. He won a World Series as a member of the 1969 New York Mets.
Amazingly, he has never won a Cy Young award, but perhaps even more amazing were his seven career no-hitters.
This feat is truly remarkable when you consider only 26 pitchers have thrown at least two no-hitters, and only five have thrown more than two in the history of the game.
This man tossed seven!
He threw four no-hitters as a member of the California Angels, two as a Texas Ranger, and one as a Houston Astro.
In an era where starting pitchers rarely pitch seven innings, and bullpens have become a much more integral part of the game, it seems highly unlikely that anyone will throw seven no-hitters.
We might even be hard pressed to find someone to get five, which Sandy Koufax did, good for second all-time. Mark Buehrle is the only active pitcher with more than one no-hitter (one being a perfect game).
On June 4, 2009, at the ripe age of 45, the great Randy Johnson won his 300th career game, which granted him membership to a very exclusive club.
Currently, there are 24 members of the 300-win club, and it doesn't appear that a new member will be inducted anytime soon.
With five-man rotations, specialized bullpens, and an increase in injuries, the feat of winning 300 games in a career is becoming more and more challenging.
Currently, 47-year old Jamie Moyer is the closest with 260 wins (including two from 2010). Behind him is the 38-year old Andy Pettitte. It is doubtful that either of these lefties have enough left in the tank to reach the 300 plateau.
Perhaps down the line, guys like Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Stephen Strasburg might be staring the 300-win club in the face. But even if that time does come, it won't be for a number of years.
Currently, Barry Bonds is the all-time leader in career home runs, with 762. This is common knowledge.
But many people around the game wonder if/when that record will be broken. It is likely that if anyone does break Bonds' record, then they would most likely hit close to, if not 800 career bombs.
For a long time, it appeared that Alex Rodriguez would be the most likely candidate to reach that territory. Coming into play on Monday, he had 585 career home runs, good for 8th all-time, one behind Frank Robinson.
But Bonds was 42 years old when he hit his 762nd long ball. A-Rod is 34 right now. So even if he plays for six more seasons and hits 30 each season, he will end up with 765, which would make him the new all-time king, but still a hop, skip, and a jump away from 800.
Ken Griffey Jr., also a one-time candidate, has succumbed to injuries over his career, and with 630 at age 40, seems like a long shot for 700 homers.
The most recent candidate is none other than Albert Pujols. At age 30, he currently has 373 home runs, which is more than Bonds had on his 30th birthday. If Pujols can manage to hit over 35 home runs each of the next 12 seasons, he will make it to 800.
At first glance, it seems unlikely. But then again, it IS Pujols...
On April 22, 2008, John Smoltz became the 16th and most recent member of the 3,000-strikeout club.
It took him 3,473 innings to reach that marvelous plateau. But will anyone follow him into this prestigious club?
Probably not anytime soon.
Jamie Moyer is currently the active leader in strikeouts with 2,353. But at 47 years of age, it doesn't seem too likely that he'll be able to strike out another 700 hitters. Not to mention, Moyer has already pitched about 500 innings more than Smoltz did.
Perhaps Johan Santana is the most likely candidate to be the next member of the 3,000-strikeout club. At age 31, he currently has 1,755 Ks. He would need to strikeout about 130 batters over the next 10 seasons to qualify.
Behind him, C.C. Sabatha has 1,613 strikeouts at age 29, and 33-year old Roy Halladay has 1,523. But after them, it may be quite some time before we see another pitcher record his 3,000th career strikeout.
Two men in the history of Major League Baseball have at least 4,000 career hits. Pete Rose, the all-time leader, has 4,256, and Ty Cobb finished with 4,189.
Currently, there are no active players with at least 3,000 career hits—a mark that is almost a guaranteed ticket to Cooperstown.
And, considering that Rose collected his final hit some 24 years ago, the chances of seeing someone reach the 4,000 hit mark seems improbable.
Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter each sit about 30 hits shy of 3,000, and neither is getting any younger.
Many people have chosen Ichiro Suzuki to be the greatest threat to the mark. He currently has 2,053 hits. If he can continue his incredible streak of 200 hits a season (which he has done every year of his career) for about five more seasons, he will reach 3,000.
And if he could double that production over 10 years, he'd reach 4,000 hits. Despite the fact he's only played Major League Baseball for 10 seasons, he is now 36 years old, and that type of production normally doesn't last until a hitter's mid-40's.
But who says Ichiro is a normal player?
As a 20-year old rookie in 1998, Kerry Wood did the unthinkable. On May 6, he struck out 20 Houston Astros in a complete game, one-hit shutout.
On May 8, 2001, Randy Johnson struck out 20 Cincinnati Reds in nine innings of a 13-inning tilt.
Since then, no one has struck out 20 or more batters in a single outing. Tom Cheney of the Washington Senators once struck out 21 batters in a 16-inning game back in 1962 (he had struck out 13 through nine innings).
To date, Roger Clemens (twice), Wood, Johnson and Cheney are the only pitchers to ever strikeout 20 or more batters in one game. And it may very well stay that way.
After witnessing what happened to Wood's arm after his remarkable rookie season, managers are very hesitant to let their starters throw the many pitches it would likely take to strikeout 20 batters.
Though Wood won the National League Rookie of the Year in 1998, his season came to an end in August due to an elbow injury which caused him to have ligament replacement surgery the next spring.
His career continued in May of 2000, but has never been the same since that fateful season.
In all honesty, that single performance was not the culprit for Wood's elbow troubles. The fact is that he threw 120+ pitches in each of eight different games in 1998, including 133 in his final start of that season.
However, most administrative personnel around baseball look at that 20-strikeout game as the start that ended it all.
He only threw 122 pitches in that game, which by today's standards is considered a lot, but not an outrageous amount (Ubaldo Jimenez recently threw 128 in his no-hitter against the Braves.)
However, the likelihood of someone being able to throw that many pitches and be so dominant as to strike out 20 or more hitters seems to be decreasing.
It may indeed happen again, but to date, it's been almost a decade since the last time someone accomplished this feat.
To this day, there have been just 15 Major League Baseball Players to smack four home runs in a single game. The last to do it was slugger Carlos Delgado as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, during a 10-8 victory of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, nearly seven years ago.
Many have come close. Since Delgado's quadra-homer day, there have been three home runs hit by one player in a game 48 times! But out of all of those players, none were able to seal the deal with that final fourth.
Can it be done? Sure! With guys like Mark Reynolds, Adam Dunn, and Albert Pujols smacking long balls with ease, it seems more likely than not. But the fact that it's only been done 15 times—none in the last seven years—makes the odds a little less favorable.
Over the past several seasons, it seems that no matter how close players get, no one is able to eclipse Hack Wilson's single-season runs batted in record of 191.
In 1999, Manny Ramirez knocked in 165 runs. Sammy Sosa drove in 160 in 2001. And Alex Rodriguez had 157 in 2007.
But Wilson's record, which has stood for 70 years now, remains untouched.
The RBI stat is a very difficult one to predict. One would imagine that a player on a contending team would have the best opportunity, such as A-Rod in 2007.
But Sosa was on the Cubs in 2001, and they finished 3rd in the NL Central, five games behind the Astros.
In 1999, Ramirez was playing for the Cleveland Indians, and they scored over 1,000 runs that year, better than any team in the league. And the year that Wilson set his record as a member of the Cubs, they finished with the second most runs scored in the league.
So even though an RBI is mainly a team-associated statistic, the individual is also crucial.
Will anyone break Wilson's longtime record? Recent history suggests no. And I believe it.