We are the 3,000-hit wind tunnel right now. On Aug. 4, 1986, Rod Carew got his hit. On Aug. 6, 1999, Tony Gwynn got his 3,000th; the next day, Wade Boggs got his. Ichiro Suzuki knocked out No. 3,000 on Aug. 7, 2016. If you want to get 3,000 hits,
We are the 3,000-hit wind tunnel right now. On Aug. 4, 1986, Rod Carew got his hit. On Aug. 6, 1999, Tony Gwynn got his 3,000th; the next day, Wade Boggs got his. Ichiro Suzuki knocked out No. 3,000 on Aug. 7, 2016. If you want to get 3,000 hits, this is the week to do it.
We love the idea of 3,000 hits. Why? What is it about that number that makes it so special? We've lost interest in 500 home runs, really. Even 600 doesn't thrill us much. Three hundred wins remains special and rare, but let's be honest: Nobody's going to do that for a long, long time unless CC Sabathia can somehow squeeze out four or five more productive years. Three thousand strikeouts doesn't spark thrills. And nobody counts RBIs or runs or doubles.
But 3,000 hits -- that's still a working key to the Hall of Fame (assuming you didn't get caught using PEDs or didn't get banned from the game for gambling). Three thousand is often called a magic number, and for various players like Craig Biggio and Adrián Beltré, it is exactly that. They were underrated their entire careers and when they got 3,000 hits, boom, their Hall of Fame tickets were stamped.
It's a near certainty: If you get 3,000 hits, you go to Cooperstown.
Eligible players in the Hall of Fame:
3,000-plus hits: 25 of 27, 92.6 percent (only Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro out)
2,700-2,999 hits: 25 of 35, 71.4 percent
2,400-2,699 hits: 28 of 50, 56 percent
You want to get to 3,000. There has even been a movie about "Mr. 3,000." If you want to go back, the romance of 3,000 hits begins with baseball's first superstar: Cap Anson. He was the first. Sort of. No, he was definitely the first. Kind of.
There's quite a bit of controversy about Anson's hit total. He was originally credited with 3,478 hits, which would, even now, be ranked sixth all-time, just ahead of Derek Jeter. And if you count up the hits Anson got, absolutely, that's the number.
Trouble comes when people began to look closer. They found that 423 of Anson's hits were from 1871-75. There wasn't even a National League in those years. That wasn't baseball, not the game we know. There were people still arguing about how many balls it took for a walk -- more than that, people were arguing whether there should even be walks in baseball. Let's just be blunt: Those don't count.
After taking those out, Anson had 3,055, which seems safely above the threshold. But another problem: Anson played in 1887. The rule was changed for that one year so that a walk counted as a hit. Anson had 60 walk-hits.
And after taking those away, he was down to 2,995.
It all worked out for Anson in the end. These days, after much figuring, he is generally credited with 3,011 hits. Nobody really cares about Anson's hit total anyway. He's mostly remembered as the guy who refused to play in the same game as Moses Fleetwood Walker, the last African-American in the Major Leagues until Jackie Robinson more than 50 years later.
Honus Wagner was the first player to get 3,000 hits in real time -- that is to say, there was a countdown while he was chasing the number. He felt the pressure. Wagner went into a four-game series in Philadelphia needing just two hits to reach 3,000, but he only managed one in the first three games. And then, in the ninth inning in the fourth game, he finally hit the double that clinched the achievement. There were hundreds of people at the Lyceum Theater in Pittsburgh at that moment, and they watched an electric scoreboard. When Wagner got the hit, they all went crazy.
And it has been that way ever since -- Nap Lajoie was next, then Ty Cobb, then Tris Speaker. These were the giants of the game. But the story of 3,000 hits is also told by those who fell short. Sam Rice was a fine player for 20 years and he finished 13 hits shy of 3,000 (it took him almost 30 years to get elected to the Hall of Fame). Wahoo Sam Crawford felt 39 hits short (he also had a long Hall of Fame wait). And some of the greatest history in the game's history -- Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Frank Robinson -- did not get to 3,000 hits for one reason or another.
Point is: The number has always told a story.
So now comes the fun question: Who among today's players can/will get to 3,000 hits?
Here we go:
Total: 2,676 hits
Chances: 85 percent
Cabrera seemed like a sure thing coming into the season, but we all know it has been a rough 2018 for him. He has only played in 38 games. Cabrera hit well in those games, but a ruptured biceps ended his season and made his future cloudy. The Tigers owe him $162 million after this season, and Cabrera clearly wants to offer value to the team. He will get there, I think.
Total: 2,417 hits
Chances: 45 percent
If Cano had not been suspended this season, he would have put himself into the likely category with Cabrera, but he lost a lot of ground this season. Cano now finds himself in no-man's land. You look at the list of hitters around his age and total; If he doesn't age well, he could find himself in the Buddy Bell, Johnny Damon, Willie Davis category: They all fell short. If Cano can keep hitting for a few more years, he could follow the path of 3,000-hit club members Carl Yastrzemski, George Brett and Tony Gwynn.
Chances: 38 percent
The possibility is becoming more real every game -- I wrote about this earlier this season -- but Markakis has knocked out 100 hits since then and doesn't seem to be slowing down. He leads the National League in hits and made his first All-Star team this season. Assuming he finishes out the year with another 50 hits and then has another year like this next year, Markakis puts himself right in the 3,000-hit zone.
Total hits: 1,384
Chances: 37 percent
It's not fair to start talking 3,000 hits for a 28-year-old player, but Altuve has led the American League in hits the past four years, and he's third in the AL now. If he could average 200 hits a year for even the next three years, Altuve would put himself up there in pretty special category with a lot of guys like Al Kaline, Albert Pujols and Roberto Clemente, who all got 3,000 hits. All of this is just talk now, but Altuve's greatness over the past few seasons demands taking him seriously.
Total hits: 1,772
Chances: 17 percent
Not a lot to say here: Jones has been piling up the numbers because he has been consistent and persistent. If he can stay healthy, stay in the lineup, and age well, he's got a chance.
Total hits: 1,573
Chance: 8 percent
When going after milestones like 3,000 hits, it helps to get to the big leagues at 19. For Upton, it has been a slow but steady climb up the hit chart, and there's no telling how he will age. But he has quietly put himself in position to threaten some pretty impressive numbers. Three thousand hits might not happen, but if Upton can keep on hitting, he's got a pretty good shot at 500 home runs.
Chances: Less than 5 percent
Sigh. Mauer was, for five or six years, a fantastic hitter, one of the best hitting catchers in baseball history. He won three batting titles. Mauer won an AL Most Valuable Player Award and, in my view, should have won another one. Injuries -- including concussions -- altered his career. He won't get to 3,000 hits unless something fairly miraculous happens. But us Mauer fans can dream.
Chances: Roughly 0 percent
I put Reyes on here not because he has any shot at 3,000; he really doesn't. It's to say: Would you have guessed that he has 2,000 hits in the big leagues? I had no idea. This is a guy who, through age 25, was closing in on a 1,000 hits and was setting himself up for a run at 3,000. Reyes also had let the league in triples three times and he had 290 stolen bases. At 28, he led the league in hitting (and triples again). Reyes has had significant problems on and off the field since then, but there was a time for him.
Too soon to talk about it
Total hits: 1,155
If it's ridiculous to talk about 3,000 hits with Altuve (and it is), it's really ridiculous to talk about it with Trout. But it's out there for him. Everything is out there for him. Trout walks so much that he's not going to pile up the hit totals like Altuve. But he can pretty much do anything he wants in this game.
Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.