Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees moved into a tie with Eddie Murray for 12th place on the all-time hits list on Monday night with 3,255. Barring injury, Jeter will move past both Murray and Willie Mays (3,283 hits) and sit in 11th place when the 2012 season ends.
So, the question has to be asked. Can Jeter, 38, challenge the all-time hit record of 4,256 hits held by Pete Rose? Jeter's next hit will not only push him past Murray into 12th place alone, it will put him exactly 1,000 hits behind Rose.
Jeter continues to do things no one thought he could do.
At an age where he should be slowing down, Jeter is having an amazing season. Back in 2009 he hit .334 with 18 home runs and an .871 OPS and probably should have been American League MVP. You had to figure that would be the last great offensive season of his illustrious career.
In 2012, however, he shown that is not the case. He has a .326 batting average, which is 12 points above his career average, and his on-base percentage (.367), slugging percentage (.442) and OPS (.809) are his best since that 2009 season. His 167 hits leads all of baseball, and he is threatening to reach the 200-hit plateau for the eighth time in his career.
Back to the question, though. Can he surpass Rose and become baseball's all-time hits leader? Considering Rose's sullied reputation, and Jeter's squeaky clean one, Commissioner Bud Selig and a lot of other people around the sport would love for that to happen.
Personally, though, I doubt Jeter can get there.
Rose played 24 seasons, his last at the age of 45. Jeter has averaged 181 hits per season throughout his 18-year career. At that pace, he would have to play six more seasons to reach Rose's record.
While Jeter keeps doing unexpected things, you have to believe that as he gets to age 40 and beyond his production has to wane. It just is not reasonable to expect him to continue playing enough, and playing well enough, to churn out 180 or more hits into his 40s. Rose had 121 hits age 42 and never matched that total again.
Jeter has a contract with the Yankees for two more seasons, the second of which is a player option you have to think he is almost certain to exercise. The Yankees will pay Jeter $17 million next season and $8 million more in 2014 if he exercises the option.
How much longer beyond that are the Yankees going to be willing to pay superstar money to a player whose production has to be drop off? As he enters his 40s, how much will he play? will he remain healthy? Where will the Yankees play him? He can't play shortstop forever (some people still think he never could). He can't DH because he is a singles hitter. He can't play the corner infield positions or second base because those are taken. The outfield? Tough to learn the outfield in your 40s when you don't have the legs, or the arm, that you once had.
My advice to Yankees fans? Enjoy this terrific season by Jeter while it lasts. And enjoy it for what it is -- which is maybe the last time in his Hall of Fame career that you will see Jeter perform at a superstar level on a consistent basis.
Where will Jeter ultimately end up on the all-time hits list? If he remains healthy there would seem to be a good chance to he reach No. 4, where Stan Musial currently resides with 3,630 hits. That is only 375 hits away, and Jeter might even have a shot at getting there before his current contract expires. He might even reach Hank Aaron, third on the all-time list at 3,771.
Rose, though? That would seem out of reach.
Then again, the Yankee Captain keeps surprising us in extraordinary ways. So, you can't say it's imposssible.
All-Time Hits Leaders
1. Pete Rose 4,256
2. Ty Cobb 4,189
3. Hank Aaron 3,771
4. Stan Musial 3,630
5. Tris Speaker 3,514
6. Cap Anson 3,435
7. Honus Wagner 3,420
8. Carl Yastrsemski 3,419
9. Paul Molitor 3,319
10. Eddie Collins 3,315
11. Willie Mays 3,283
12 Eddie Murray/Derek Jeter 3,255