by Rob Joyce
History was made Sunday in Arlington, as Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre became the 31st member of the 3000-hit club with a double. The 38-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down, as he begins the week with a .307 average in 51 games since missing the first two months of the season. A four-time All-Star, Beltre has gone from “very good player” to “making a Hall of Fame case” to “going to Cooperstown” over the course of the last decade, thanks to a late-career surge that’s seen him show no decline in play.
His 3000th hit got us thinking of some other major baseball milestones that could come by the end of 2018 as some of the game’s most dominant players over the last decade-plus start to face the twilight of their respective careers. Come October of next season, expect these five milestones to be either surpassed, or within striking distance:
Adrian Beltre – 500 home runs:
Beginning the week with 454 career dingers, Beltre likely won’t get to 500 before early 2019 – but he should get fairly close. With nine home runs in 51 games so far this year (through Sunday), another 10 over the final 57 games isn’t unreasonable. That would leave Beltre 36 homers short of 500. Considering he hit 32 in 2016, but just 37 combined the prior two years, asking for 36 in one season could be a bit much. However, by the end of 2018 he could be around 490, making exclusive company awfully close – the only members of the 3000-hit/500-home run club are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Eddie Murray and Rafael Palmeiro.
Miguel Cabrera – 500 home runs:
Considering he’s signed through 2023, Cabrera (2,605 hits) has an even better shot at the 3000/500 club than Beltre, but he’s still over two full seasons away (at least) from reaching the 3000-hit mark. Five hundred home runs, though, could come next season. Entering the week at 459, a healthy Miggy could reach the 470 mark by the end of the season. Though his power is on a career-low pace (he has just a .425 slugging percentage), he’s a year removed from a 38-homer season. Asking for a resurgence at age 35 by hitting 30-plus homers, in an exclusively-DH role, isn’t unreasonable (especially for $30 million a season).
Albert Pujols – 3000 hits:
Forget the 3000/500 club – the 3000/600 club will have a sixth member by (barring injury) Memorial Day 2018. Pujols hit his 600th career long ball earlier this year, and at 2,914 hits, is potentially less than 100 games away from 3000. At 37 his bat is declining (a career-worst .233 average, just 16 home runs in 96 games through Sunday), but he’s still a staple in the Angels’ lineup, and even if he hits at that .230 clip, he’ll reach it sooner rather than later.
CC Sabathia – 3000 strikeouts, 250 wins:
Sabathia has found his second-wind at age 36, as the Yankees’ southpaw is on pace for his lowest earned run average (3.66) and WHIP since his last All-Star season in 2012. He’s no longer a power pitcher, but two milestones are within reach. First is the 250-win mark. No one is reaching 300 wins again – bullpen usage is too high now, and wins are a fickle stat to begin with. Sabathia might be one of the few to even reach 250. He’s currently 18 away through Sunday. If he can tack on another three or four, that would put him around 235 or 236. Again, he hasn’t won that many games since 2013, but another repeat season, with a good bullpen and that exciting young lineup, the end of 2018 is possible for 250 wins.
As for 3,000 strikeouts, he is exactly 200 away. He has not had a 200-strikeout season since 2011, but if he can add another 40 over the final eight or nine starts this year, that puts him within 160 K’s of the 3,000 mark, something only 16 others have achieved in baseball history. Similar to his win milestone, it’s unlikely that he reaches it by 2018, but possible.
Robinson Cano – 300 home runs:
In the grand history of baseball, 300 home runs isn’t overly notable (144 men have reached the milestone) but in Cano’s case it’s furthering his Cooperstown case. Playing second base, he’s just three home runs away from becoming the third person at his position to reach the mark, joining Rogers Hornsby (Hall of Famer) and Jeff Kent. By the end of next year he’ll pass Kent in hits, and has an outside shot at 3,000. If he can finish his career in the 400 home run, 3,000 hit range, he’ll find himself in the discussion among the greatest offensive second basemen ever.