Joe Posnanski, Brian Kenny and I were sitting in a bar ... well, it'd be nice if true, but it was only in my imagination. Posnanski and Kenny did, however, inspire my thinking for a question that baseball fans often debate: who is the King of Baseball?
It wasn't very long ago that Derek Jeter, who collected his 3,000th career hit Saturday, was considered to have a chance at bigger game -- 4,000 hits, or even 4,257, breaking Pete Rose's all-time mark. At the end of the 2009 season, Jeter had 2,747 knocks and had turned 35 midway through the campaign. He was coming off one of his best offensive seasons, batting .334, roping 18 homers, stealing 30 bases and posting a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio. Through the same age at the end of the 1976 season, Rose had 2,762 hits. It would take significant longevity and a lot of luck, but Jeter had positioned himself as the first player to have a reasonable shot at the all-time hits record since Rose set it a quarter-century ago.
I was having an argument with my friend Ian O'Connor a few weeks ago about Derek Jeter. Ian was wondering what I thought the odds were of Jeter breaking Pete Rose's all-time hits record. And I think I placed them at something like 20,000-to-1. That was just for effect, of course -- odds are never that high. I think the real Vegas odds on the Royals winning the World Series this year, even now with them buried in last place, are only something like 1,000-to-1.
Baseball writing cowboy Tracy Ringolsby brought up an interesting point at the winter meetings about why Rickey Henderson should get 100 percent of the Hall of Fame vote. Henderson, of course, will not get 100 percent of the vote because NOBODY gets 100 percent of the vote*. It's one of those bizarre quirks of the baseball writers' voting, bizarre because at some point there were some among the baseball writers who started to take PRIDE in the quirk, started feeling gratified by the fact that Willie Mays and Babe Ruth and Mike Schmidt and Tom Seaver and Stan Musial and Hank Aaron did not get every vote. I guess they thought (think) of themselves as guardians of the gate.
These days I use my old baseball cards as bookmarks. I had collected cards as a kid, and I still have a shoebox of them in my apartment. When I start reading a new book, I blindly reach into the shoebox, root around and pull one out. The cards get bent and frayed -- but at least this way I get to see them.