With a third inning home run to left field, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter became the 28th member of baseball's exclusive 3,000 career hit club on July 9. While this season has been one of Jeter's worst at the plate he's hitting about 50 points below his lifetime batting average he was still one of the quickest to join the club in terms of career at-bats.
While Jeter is fawned over by media and fans alike, do the other 27 members get the kind of respect they deserve? After all, chicks dig the long ball, and the 25 members of the rival 500 home run club seem to get more love from the crowd. Driving one out of the park gets everyone on their feet, fireworks go off, mascots go crazy and teammates give high fives. Knocking a ground ball up the middle for a single just doesn't generate the same level of excitement.
So, which stat should get the most respect, 3,000 hits or 500 home runs? Which is career highlight is tougher to achieve?
Jeter is the only active player with 3,000 hits, but two active players have more than 500 home runs. Now that Jeter has passed 3,000, there are only three active players within even 300 hits (10 percent) of reaching 3,000; by the same measure, there are no current players within 50 home runs of eclipsing 500.
At one time, 500 homers seemed the tougher benchmark: Six players already had 3,000 hits before the Babe Ruth became the first player with 500 home runs in 1929. But as the long ball became a bigger part of the game, the scales tipped. It took the home run club members an average of 7,782 at-bats to reach their milestone. Getting to 3,000 hits, however, is a longer journey, requiring an average of 9,937 at-bats. (Jeter did it in 9,604 at-bats.)
The score is even clearer if you look at recent history. In the last 30 years, 12 players have joined the 3000 hit club (44 percent of the total), while 13 sluggers have made it to 500 home runs (52 percent). Baseball's battle with steroids certainly played a part in this recent surge of long ball hitters, and many fans now slightly devalue the 500 home run achievement due to the drug use.
So, the debate goes on as to the most impressive baseball stat, hits versus home runs. Unless you're a pitcher. A hurler might argue that either the 19 members of the 300 win club or the 16 players with at least 3,000 strikeouts are the sport's real heroes.
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