Jeter could top Rose's hits record
Yankees mark inevitable, but is all-time total up next?
NEW YORK -- With Derek Jeter's destiny to become the Yankees' hits leader a near certainty, a bigger question looms on the horizon. Could Jeter surpass Pete Rose for the top spot on baseball's all-time list?
Jeter, who entered Tuesday three hits shy of tying Lou Gehrig's franchise record 2,721, has enjoyed a resurgence this season. He went 0-for-8 in Monday's Labor Day doubleheader against the Rays, but in his previous 25 games, he batted .431 with five homers, 14 RBIs and 15 multi-hit games, and he is considered by many to be in contention for this year's American League Most Valuable Player Award.
Assuming he stays healthy and productive, the 35-year-old Jeter should at least be considered when discussing Rose's 4,256 career hits, a milestone reached in his final season with Cincinnati in 1986.
Consider this: Jeter's 2,718 hits already rank him 54th on the all-time list, second among active players to Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr., who is ranked 47th with 2,751. But while the 39-year-old Griffey returned to the Mariners this season presumably to wind down his career, there's no such talk with Jeter.
"I don't think he's nearing that level yet," said manager Joe Girardi, when asked whether Jeter is near retirement.
"I think [Jeter is] still playing like he always has. You don't hear him talking about going out."
If Jeter is fortunate enough to enjoy a career as long as Rose's 24-year stint in the bigs, he could eclipse the all-time record even with a decrease in production. The Yankees captain, who is completing his 14th full season and 15th overall, has averaged 193 hits a year. Assuming he maintains his current pace for 2009, Jeter would need to average 190 hits over the next eight years to surpass Rose. It's easier said than done, especially considering Rose was an everyday player until he was 45.
Team-by-team hit leaders
|Here is a look at the hit leaders for all 30 Major League clubs, through games of Sept. 11, 2009:|
|Red Sox||Carl Yastrzemski*||3,419|
|Orioles||Cal Ripken Jr.*||3,184|
|White Sox||Luke Appling*||2,749|
|Blue Jays||Tony Fernandez||1,583|
|* Member of the Hall of Fame|
While Jeter likes to joke about his age and the notion that a 35-year-old ballplayer is old, the 10-time All-Star has insisted he will continue to play for the love of the game rather than records.
"I don't [think about Rose's record]," Jeter said. "People mention it. I really don't sit here and think about what's going to happen six or seven years down the road.
"I think everyone sets goals and tries to accomplish those goals, and our goal here is to win. That's the bottom line. I try to do whatever I can on that particular day to help us win. You just try to be consistent."
No one embodied consistency better than Rose, who played in 3,562 career games and averaged 177 hits a season over his 24-year career, playing 160 or more games in a season 10 times.
Can Jeter catch him? Maybe. But the likelihood of it will ultimately come down to the Captain himself, and how long he dons the pinstripes.
Jeter is signed through next season, and assuming he is offered a contract similar in length to that of teammate Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees could keep Jeter as an everyday player into his 40s.
"The thing that's been amazing about Derek in his career is how durable he's been," Girardi said. "It's pretty hard to get him out of the lineup. Physically, he gets nicked up, but he keeps playing. I think he takes it as a challenge to play as many games as he can every year."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.