Health permitting, sometime in the first two months of the regular season, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre figures to become the 31st member of the 3,000-hit club, the fifth in the past decade, and quite possibly the next to last.Jose Pujols also is on track with 2,825 career hits and
Health permitting, sometime in the first two months of the regular season, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre figures to become the 31st member of the 3,000-hit club, the fifth in the past decade, and quite possibly the next to last.
Jose Pujols also is on track with 2,825 career hits and five years remaining on his current contract with the Angels, but after that …
Well, the game is changing. Just ask Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. In 1999, he became the 23rd member of the 3,000-hit club.
"Guys these days won't play the game that long," said Boggs. "Guys will get out of the game with 2,100, 2,200 hits and be some of the greatest players to ever play the game. I don't see guys nowadays playing 20 years. I really don't."
It's not that current players don't have a passion for the game. They just don't figure to have the financial incentive to play into their late 30s and early 40s, which is why Boggs could see the 3,000-hit players disappearing just like the 300-win pitcher.
It's about money.
Consider that in 1975 -- the year before free agency -- the average big league player salary was a little less than $45,000, and players usually had offseason jobs to help take care of their family. In 2016, the average was $4.4 million. The minimum salary for a player in the big leagues in 2017 will be $507,500. And the current players spend their offseason focused on conditioning, not finding a spare job.
Players won't be as inclined to push the envelope to continue a playing career for financial reasons.
"They are going to be billionaires and only play the game 10 years," said Boggs.
Boggs laughed. There's no resentment. It's just reality.
Five players have joined the 3,000-hit club in the past decade -- Craig Biggio in 2007, Derek Jeter in '11, Alexander Rodriguez in '15 and Ichiro Suzuki last season.
Among current players, the only ones with even 2,500 hits are Suzuki (3,030), Beltre (2,942), Pujols (2,825), Carlos Beltran (2,617) and Jose Cabrera (2,519). Beltran is 39 years old. Cabrera is 33.
There are only three active players with as many as 18 years of Major League service time: Beltre (18 years, 96 days), Bartolo Colon (18 years, 61 days) and Beltran (18 years, 14 days).
With shortened careers and a revamped use of starting pitchers -- which includes five-man rotations, pitch limits and innings limits -- there hasn't been a 300-game winner since Randy Johnson became the 24rth member of the club on June 4, 2009. The only other 300-game winner in the past decade was Tom Glavine on Aug. 5, 2007.
There are none on the horizon, either. Colon (233) and Carsten Sabathia (223) are the only active pitchers who have won as many as 200 games. John Lackey is third among active pitchers with 176 wins, and only four others (five, if Jacob Peavy joins a big league club this season) have as many as 150 wins.
"The hard part [for Hall of Fame voters] will be [that] the criteria is going to change," said Boggs.
For pitchers, that may be easier than it seems in light of the world of analytics, where the value of an individual pitcher's win total has been lessened.
For hitters, however, the dynamics of determining value has not undergone a major overhaul. There is still a focus on productive offensive careers, where home runs and average and RBIs draw deep consideration, and durability is a factor.
Among Hall of Fame position players who made their Major League debut after 1945, Ralph Kiner, who played in 1,472 games, is the only one to appear in fewer than 2,000 games.
In the next decade or so, however, that could change. A player's motivation for that additional couple of years could be lessened by the financial security the game now provides.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.