02/09/11 12:00 PM EST
Special milestones on the horizon in 2011
Jeter closing in on 3,000 hits; Thome 11 homers shy of 600
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
There were six no-hitters, two of them spun by Roy Halladay, who threw a perfect game in the regular season and a no-no in the Division Series, becoming the only one to do that in the postseason other than Don Larsen, whose perfecto in 1956 stands alone in World Series play.
Dallas Braden pitched a perfect game on Mother's Day in Oakland. Armando Galarraga sort of pitched one for Detroit.
Those were the high-water marks we'll remember the most from 2010, the round-number achievements that help define careers.
But that was last year. This is this year.
More milestones are on the horizon, and more history is sure to be made in 2011. Here are monumental moments to watch for this year:
No. 2 goes for No. 3,000: Derek Jeter's offseason contract issues are a thing of the past and his quest for one of baseball's exalted numbers -- 3,000 hits -- is a thing of the present. Odds are it won't take long. The Captain will begin the campaign with 2,926 knocks, leaving him a mere 74 from the magic number. Not that Jeter needs it to clinch a spot in the Hall of Fame, but it won't hurt.
Mo nearing Trevor Time: It was only a matter of time for the man universally regarded to be the best postseason closer ever -- Mariano Rivera of the Yankees -- to become the most proficient regular-season closer, too. The first step to that title is the 600 mark, which only all-time saves leader Hoffman has reached. Rivera needs 41 -- the exact number he earned last year -- to clinch that. After that, he'll only need two more to move ahead of Hoffman, who retired recently.
Thome set for 600: Thome hit 25 homers for the Twins last year, enough to put him at 589 for his career, eighth all-time. That means all he needs is 11 for the magical 600 number that's only been achieved by Barry Bonds (762), Henry Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Rodriguez (613) and Sammy Sosa (609). And if Thome plays as many games as he did last year (108), he'll reach the 2,500 mark in that department, which should help take some question marks away from his name when Cooperstown comes into the equation five years after he retires.
A-Rod climbing the charts: Rodriguez might have had a slight dropoff in home runs in 2010, but even an off-year would likely vault him a few notches on the historical homer scale. Eighteen more homers will give him 631, enough to move him past Griffey into fifth place all-time. And if he has a vintage A-Rod year and blasts at least 48, he'll pass Mays' fourth-place total of 660. Rodriguez also can break the tie he shares with Bonds for most consecutive seasons with 30 or more homers (13), and he can tie Aaron for most overall seasons with 30 or more (15).
The Ichi-roll continues: Ichiro has already set a Major League record for reaching the 200-hit mark in 10 consecutive seasons. He can break the record he shares with Pete Rose of 10 200-hit seasons in a career. If he leads the Majors in hits, it'll be the eighth time he's accomplished that feat, which would set another record, breaking a three-way tie with Rose and Ty Cobb.
Welcome to the Machine: As we follow the amazing career of Cardinals slugger Pujols, it's easy to lose track of the milestones he has reached because he seems to check off a few big boxes every season. This year, barring injury, Pujols will reach 2,000 hits, maybe by the All-Star break. He figures to crack 1,000 walks (he'll start the season at 914). And if he repeats his 42-homer season of last year, he'll reach the 450 big-fly mark -- all at the age of 31.
Feeling Chipper: If Braves third baseman Chipper Jones is ready to rake come Opening Day -- and recent reports of him being in good shape following major knee surgery last August indicate he very well might be -- he'll be in line to reach a number of personal milestones. Jones needs 14 homers to reach the 450 mark, nine RBIs for 1,500, 10 hits for 2,500, seven doubles for 500 and 96 walks for 1,500.
Teammates shoot for 400: White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko and his new South Side neighbor, Adam Dunn, could both reach 400 career home runs. The safer bet is on Konerko, since he needs 35 and hit 39 last year. But don't leave out Dunn, who needs 46 long balls -- the number he hit in 2004.
Big year for Big Tex: Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira can pull off a nice triple in 2011. He needs 25 homers for 300, 94 RBIs for 1,000, and 179 hits for 1,500 -- and he turns 31 on April 11.
Two Franciscos go for 300: Reds closer Francisco Cordero needs 10 saves to reach 300 and Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez needs 32. Rodriguez already owns the single-season saves record with 62, accomplished with the Angels in 2008, and he has a shot at becoming the youngest closer to get to three bills.
Leaving 200 in his Wake: Boston right-hander Tim Wakefield needed 11 wins last year to crack the 200 mark, which only four other modern-day knuckleballers (Phil and Joe Niekro, Charlie Hough and Ed Cicotte) have accomplished. But an off year, coupled with the breakout season enjoyed by young Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, conspired to limit Wakefield to four wins in 19 starts in 2010, so he's seven short of his goal.
Climbing the Stairs: Matt Stairs is probably going to put his name in the record books in 2011 ... again. Stairs signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals, and if he makes the club, he will play for his 13th different team (he will have played for both the Expos and Nationals), which will set a Major League record, snapping his tie with Mike Morgan, who pitched from 1978-2002. Stairs already holds the all-time mark (23) for pinch-hit homers. And if he hits one out in a Nats uniform -- which he never did for Montreal -- he'll have gone deep at least once for 12 different franchises, another big league record.
Pudge power: The first game Ivan Rodriguez plays in 2011 will be his 2,500th, which would push him past Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk for the most games by a player that played primarily as a catcher in baseball history. He needs 32 at-bats for 9,500 in his illustrious career, and while he's unlikely to reach 3,000 hits this year (he needs 183), 2,900 is looking pretty good.
Juan way to the top: White Sox outfielder Juan Pierre stole 68 bases last year, so it isn't out of the realm of possibility that he could swipe 73 in 2011. If he does, he'll have 600 in his career. He also needs 158 hits for the nice round lifetime number of 2,000.
Manny being uncanny? The colorful right-handed masher named Manny Ramirez needs 45 home runs to reach the 600 mark. It seems like a longshot, but stranger things have happened -- especially with Ramirez.
Bobby Baseball: Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu could reach 400 career steals (he needs 28), 1,300 RBIs (he needs 35), 300 homers (he needs 24) and 2,300 hits (he needs 43). That would add to a sneaky-good resume that might lure some Hall of Fame votes five years after he retires.
Skippers score: Keep an eye out for managerial milestones in 2011, with Detroit's Jim Leyland needing seven wins to reach 1,500 for his career and 78 to pass Hall of Famer Dick Williams and move into 18th place on the all-time wins list. Reds skipper Dusty Baker has a shot at 1,500, too, but he'll have to guide Cincinnati to 95 wins in 2011 to get there. Elsewhere, two and possibly three managers are poised to reach the 1,000 mark -- Angels skipper Mike Scioscia needs 20, Boston's Terry Francona needs 61 and Baltimore's Buck Showalter can reach that mark with 84 victories.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.