Thoughts On Derek Jeter Eclipsing Lou Gehrig

Jeffrey BrownAnalyst ISeptember 12, 2009

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 12:  Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees hits a single in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles on September 12, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Jeter grounded a single through the right side of a rainy Yankee Stadium infield last night to pass The Iron Horse as the career hit leader for baseball’s most storied franchise; but, frankly, it’s only because it’s the Yankees that the accomplishment was remotely noteworthy.

Think about it. No Yankees player has EVER reached the 3,000 hit mark… thus, reaching 2,722 hits constitutes the franchise record. In consideration of the history of the franchise, that fact is mind-boggling.

To put it in perspective, last night's base hit leaves Jeter twenty-seven hits shy of Luke Appling's franchise record for the American League entry from Chicago (the White Sox). Question: would the ChiSox record falling amount to anything more than a footnote at the end of the AP game story?  Answer: Not bloody likely!

Yet, because it is New York City (and because it is the Yankees) the primarily NY-based national media has trumpeted the mark as some sort of extraordinary accomplishment. Respectfully, it’s not.

Only because Gehrig became ill and Joe DiMaggio lost time to the war does Jeter even have a record to celebrate.

NOTE: Carl Yastrzemski holds the Red Sox record for career hits. It is arguable that he holds the record, in part, because Ted Williams lost five years of his career to fighting for his country. Regardless, Captain Carl was a great player whose achievements were deservedly rewarded with enshrinement in Cooperstown. 

Yet, Red Sox fans remember how the New York media dissed Yaz' accomplishments after his HOF election (as being achieved only because of longevity and the fact Teddy Ballgame had lost time to war).

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Here are the records for most hits for each of the current major league franchises (they include the entire lineage of a franchise… ie, the Chicago franchise in the NL was originally known as the White Stockings and Colts before it was called the Cubs.

Cap Anson played for the franchise, but he never actually suited up for the “Cubs”, he played for both the “White Stockings” and “Colts”).  The records are presented in order from most hits to fewest hits:

Franchise / Player / No. of hits

Detroit: Ty Cobb – 3,902
St. Louis: Stan Musial – 3,630
Atlanta: Hank Aaron – 3,600
Boston: Carl Yastrzemksi – 3,419
Cincinnati: Pete Rose – 3,358
San Francisco: Willie Mays – 3,187
Baltimore: Cal Ripken, Jr. – 3,184
Kansas City: George Brett – 3,154
Milwaukee: Robin Yount – 3,142
San Diego: Tony Gwynn – 3,141
Houston: Craig Biggio – 3,060
Pittsburgh: Roberto Clemente – 3,000
Chicago (NL): Cap Anson - 2,995
Minnesota: Sam Rice – 2,889
Los Angeles (NL): Zack Wheat – 2,804
Chicago (AL): Luke Appling – 2,749
New York (AL): Derek Jeter – 2,722
Los Angeles (AL): Garrett Anderson – 2,368
Seattle: Edgar Martinez – 2,247
Philadelphia: Mike Schmidt – 2,234
Colorado: Todd Helton – 2,113
Cleveland: Nap Lajoie – 2,046
Oakland: Bert Campaneris – 1,882
Texas: Ivan Rodriguez – 1,734
Washington: Tim Wallach – 1,694
Toronto: Tony Fernandez – 1,583
New York (NL): Ed Kranepool – 1,418
Arizona: Luis Gonzalez – 1,337
Tampa Bay: Carl Crawford – 1,274
Florida: Luis Castillo – 1,273

There are SIXTEEN franchises whose career hit leader has more hits than the NY Yankees.

And in spite of the fact that Jeter will almost certainly pass the majority of them sometime before his career ends, it is astonishing to me that after 100 years and 26 world championships, no Yankees player has ever accumulated more than 3,000 career hits while expansion teams Kansas City, San Diego and Houston all can lay claim to players who have done so.

So, no disrespect intended to Jeter—who I respect tremendously as a player despite his defensive deficiencies—but with regard to last night’s mark: whoop-dee-doo!

Setting the Yankees’ franchise record isn’t as impressive as setting the Minnesota Twins’ franchise record…and I’ll bet a week’s pay that no one in NYC will pay much attention when that happens.

So, talk to me in 2011 when Jeter passes Roberto Clemente (which he undoubtedly will do, absent injury). THAT is when he will do something that really matters outside of NYC.

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