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Who could supplant Joe D? Players weigh in

July 13, 2016

It was Joe DiMaggio's signature achievement (that is, other than marrying Marilyn Monroe) and it is baseball's enduring one. The 56-game hitting streak, which wrapped 75 years ago Sunday, is a monumental stretch of success in a sport with a foundation of failure.You're simply not supposed to avoid the occasional

It was Joe DiMaggio's signature achievement (that is, other than marrying Marilyn Monroe) and it is baseball's enduring one. The 56-game hitting streak, which wrapped 75 years ago Sunday, is a monumental stretch of success in a sport with a foundation of failure.
You're simply not supposed to avoid the occasional 0-for-4 for such a prolonged period, and, proving the point, we've now got three-quarters of a century separating DiMaggio's ridiculous run from the present day.
• Joe DiMaggio's run to 56: Rewriting the record
In the present day, there are added hurdles that even Joe D. never faced -- specialized bullpens, widespread shifting, an amplified media presence when hitting streaks reach even the 20s. All of these things make a modern-day 56 both unfathomable and, yes, fun to fathom. (One piece of context that helps explain the glaring difference between today and the Major Leagues in 1941: DiMaggio faced 54 pitchers during his famous streak, while Jackie Bradley Jr. faced 65 hurlers during his 29-game hitting streak earlier this year.)
With all of this in mind, we asked a wide variety of current players, managers and coaches -- 74 votes in all -- to look around the Major League landscape and pick the one guy they think is actually capable of doing what DiMaggio did in 1941. And our informal survey uncovered a single, clear-cut, vertically challenged but statistically sound victor:
José Altuve, you have been entrusted with a sacred duty, friend. Good luck.
• Play Beat the Streak, win $5.6 million
If you read our mathematical breakdown of which players have the best chance to unseat Joe D., you'll notice that there was a consensus on Altuve among the math and the men, but a big divergence of opinion after that.
Here's a rundown of how the votes went, with some comments for context:
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Altuve, 36 votes
From Joe D. to Jose A.? Many of those surveyed seemed to think this is the Majors' best bet. Altuve has hit over .300 in each of the past three seasons, with a Major League-best .341 mark in 2014, and he's got the speed to beat out infield singles.
Twins manager Paul Molitor (who had a 39-game streak in 1987): "He's top of the order, more at-bats, a free swinger, hits righties and lefties, can bunt."
Red Sox outfielder Bradley Jr.: "He's got the combination of speed and the knack for getting hits. That combination is tough to stop."
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw: "It has to be somebody who swings at a lot of pitches, doesn't take a lot of walks and puts a lot of balls in play. I guess Altuve fits."

Nobody, 7 votes
OK, the goal here was to pick somebody, anybody who could catch DiMaggio. But seven people couldn't even bring themselves to entertain the thought. And frankly, it's hard to blame them, given the circumstances.
A's coach Ron Washington: "You have to have some serious luck. And I think you have to have some serious skill. I don't see anyone out there with the skill that a Joe DiMaggio or even a Pete Rose had. Some of the best in the game have challenged it and can't do it. I don't see where the generation that's coming through right now, with the way they incorporate platoons and more specialized things going on, I just don't see any player out there hitting in 56 straight games. That's one record I just don't see broken."
Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson: "The game's a lot different than it was from then to now. There are so many variables that have to take place. I don't ever see anybody getting close to it."
Cubs assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske: "It'll never be broken. No chance. That record will stand the test of time. Bullpens and the media will never let it be broken, ever. There's no chance."
Mike Trout, 6 votes
This is no nobody. This is the signature player of his place and time. That said, because his increased power came at the expense of his average the past two seasons, only a handful of people named him here.
Mets second baseman Neil Walker: "The first person that came into my head was Mike Trout. If there was a person to do it, it's going to be a person who has speed more than anything. Speed and contact."

Bradley Jr., 5 votes
Definitely some sort of recency bias here, given that Bradley had recently wrapped a long streak when we began surveying the scene. But there's no denying his big league production has come a long way in a short time.
Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong: "That's magical to have that kind of stretch. You look at what Jackie Bradley did -- that was impressive, and what was it, basically half? It's going to be tough to see anyone do it. It has to be someone who can put the bat on the ball and who is quick enough to beat outs on balls. Maybe it's Jackie Bradley."
Miguel Cabrera, 5 votes
Four batting titles in the past five completed seasons, and at age 33, he's still got it.
Red Sox coach Brian Butterfield: "Normally, you'd probably think it's a guy that can run, so if he needs a hit, he can get an infield hit somewhere or maybe bunt. But I'd have to say Miguel Cabrera, because he is one of the better pure hitters in our league. Whenever people start talking about hitting, I always think about Miggy because he's such a difficult guy to deal with defensively. He can go from line to line. I have such great respect for him, and so does our team. He can take a ball in close to his body and shoot it the other way. Then he can take a ball away from him and pull it. He's so difficult to defend. When we are aligning our defense with him, we put everybody straight up. He can do anything with the ball. He's just such a great hitter and he can drive it to any part of the field, with power."
Francisco Lindor, 4 votes
The second-year shortstop has made an instant impact on the Indians. He had 122 hits in 99 games last year and hasn't missed a beat as a sophomore.
Royals coach Mike Jirschele: "He's got speed, goes to all fields and is obviously talented. But he is also a switch-hitter. I think that helps a lot."
Manny Machado, 4 votes
After enduring various knee issues and surgeries early in his career, the outstanding Oriole has solidified himself as one of the premier players in the sport.
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper (who also picked Victor Martinez): "Low-strikeout guys, put the ball in play a lot, put a lot of pressure on defenses, hit to both sides really well."
Robinson Canó, 4 votes
He's finished with an average above .300 in eight of his 11 completed seasons.
Giants starter Jeff Samardzija: "I've seen him trying to hit singles. That's a lost art."

Xander Bogaerts, 3 votes
More recency bias here, as Bogaerts had a 26-game streak that ended in early June. But this is one of the premier young shortstops in the game.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch: "He can hit the ball the other way and hits the ball low and finds a way to hit the ball to the outfield a lot."
Others receiving votes:Ben Zobrist, Carlos Correa, Dee Gordon, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Starling Marte, Adam Eaton, Christian Yelich, Devon Travis, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis, Jean Segura, Joe Mauer, Josh Harrison, Matt Carpenter, Martinez and Zack Cozart.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.