With an opposite field single in the first inning of Saturday’s game against the Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers’ slugger Miguel Cabrera, 39, became the 33rd player in MLB history to record 3,000 hits and the first Venezuelan-born player to accomplish the feat.
Right off the bat, Cabrera knew what he’d done. As he headed toward first, Cabrera raised his arm in triumph to the sound of uproaring applause. The game, the first of a day-night doubleheader, came to a halt after Cabrera reached first. Even a few Rockies, specifically shortstop José Iglesias, who was a teammate of Cabrera’s on the Tigers from 2013 to 2018, came over to congratulate Miggy on his milestone.
There was a lot of buildup to Miggy’s 3,000th hit and a little bit of controversy as well. See, during Thursday’s game against the Yankees, Cabrera was sitting at 2,999 hits. Heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Tigers were leading 1-0. Miggy came to the plate with two outs and runners at second and third. This was the perfect opportunity for Cabrera to get his 3,000th hit. Just picture it. Two outs, two men in scoring position with a chance to seal the game for his team against the Yankees. It’s a storybook tale. It’s what kids dream of in their backyards, but Cabrera never got that opportunity. He was intentionally walked to load the bases, a decision that would wind up devastating the Yankees’ chances as Austin Meadows would wind up doubling to left and driving in two, but still, Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone should’ve given Miggy a chance to record his 3,000th hit.
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Obviously, we here at Deadspin aren’t enormous fans of baseball’s unwritten rules, but this is one of those rare exceptions. Nobody is calling for Boone’s head, as is usually the case when an unwritten rule is broken, but Boone’s decision still made the entire baseball world collectively roll their eyes and sigh in disappointment. Dick move, Boone. Thankfully, Cabrera didn’t have to wait long for his next hit.
This milestone makes Cabrera one of just two active players to reach 3,000 career hits (Albert Pujols) and one of only seven players all-time to record both 3,000 career hits and 500 career home runs (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Álex Rodríguez, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, and Pujols). The next closest active player to 3,000 hits is New York Mets’ second baseman Robinson Canó, who is also 39 years old, and is currently 370 hits away. After Canó, the active hits leader is St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina at 2,116. He’s not getting there. The most likely next hitter to reach 3,000 hits is hard to determine. Jose Altuve and Freddie Freeman are 31 and 32 respectively, but they’re each more than 1,250 hits away. Mike Trout is 30, but he’s more than 1,500 away, and he’s always hurt. In fact, there are only two players among the top-35 active hits leaders who are younger than 30 (Bryce Harper and Xander Bogaerts). Maybe they can do it, but it’s still too early to tell. That COVID-shortened 2020 season certainly didn’t do them any favors.
The lack of active players on pace to join Miggy in the 3,000-hit club is a testament to Cabrera’s durability and staying power in a day and age where older players are often tossed to the side. There’s no doubt that he’ll be enshrined in Cooperstown on the first ballot he’s eligible for. He’s a two-time MVP, 11-time All-Star, triple crown winner, and World Series champ. If that’s not enough to be the second (or third because of Pujols’ likely retirement at the end of this season) ever unanimous Hall of Famer, then I don’t know what is.