When Machado could get his 3,000th hit

June 14th, 2022

This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell’s Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Manny Machado is halfway there...

The Padres' superstar third baseman is on the cusp of reaching a significant milestone, one hit away from 1,500 after his go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning on Monday night. Machado won't turn 30 until July, and during Spring Training he spoke of his desire to play for another 10 years at least, citing his admiration for his close friend and former Orioles teammate Nelson Cruz.

So, yeah, 3,000 hits seems well within Machado’s reach.

Earlier this season, Tigers great Miguel Cabrera reached the milestone to much fanfare. A portion of that fanfare seemed to stem directly from the fact that, well, there’s no telling when we might see it happen again.

Here’s my prediction: Machado, sometime around 2031.

“One hundred percent he could do it,” said Ryan Flaherty, Machado’s teammate since his debut in Baltimore and currently the Padres’ acting manager with Bob Melvin (and bench coach Ryan Christenson) in COVID-19 protocols. “One, it’s about the amount of games he can play per year. And two, his hitting ability. If that keeps trending like it has, why not? It’s definitely on his radar.”

Machado would become just the 13th player since 2000 to reach the 1,500-hit milestone before his age-30 season. Five of those players -- Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols and Adrián Beltré -- went on to reach 3,000. Another is Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who just might be the only active player capable of getting there before Machado. Here’s the list of active hits leaders among players 35 and under, entering play Tuesday:

1. Elvis Andrus, 33 -- 1,909
2. Andrew McCutchen, 35 -- 1,871
3. Jose Altuve, 32 -- 1,828
4. Freddie Freeman, 32 -- 1,772
5. Justin Upton, 34 -- 1,748
6. Eric Hosmer, 32 -- 1,689
7. Paul Goldschmidt, 34 -- 1,647
8. Michael Brantley, 35 -- 1,629
9. Charlie Blackmon, 35 -- 1,505
10. DJ LeMahieu, 34 -- 1,504
11. Manny Machado, 29 -- 1,499

Here’s what Machado had to say earlier this year when asked about turning 30 during the 2022 season:

“I mean, just being out on the field every single day, it's a blessing. It’s what I love to do. That’s what I love to do, and I would love to continue to do it ’til I'm 40. Hopefully, another 10 years, maybe even more."

Let’s use 40 as our estimate. That would leave Machado needing to average approximately 127 hits per season over the next decade, which -- you know what? -- doesn’t seem unreasonable. Especially considering the way Machado takes care of his body.

It has been eight years since Machado missed more than 10 games in a season. In 2014, he underwent a pair of knee surgeries, then overhauled his training regimen. Machado is one of the team’s peak performers in the weight room. But he’s also put increased emphasis on flexibility and mobility.

Plus, Machado’s ease of operations might bode well for him as he ages into his 30s and faces an inevitable decline. His game has never been predicated on overexertion. Flaherty offered quite a comparison on that front:

“Look at guys like Tom Brady. He doesn’t necessarily have the fastest twitch, like Manny. And he has the ability to survive long into his 30s, because he’s never had to rely on the quick twitch, the leg speed. Those players tend to perform better later into their 30s, into their 40s, because it doesn’t affect them as much when they’re losing a step.”

To be clear: No, I don’t expect Machado to be an MVP favorite entering his age-45 season, the way Brady is in the NFL. But I certainly wouldn’t put it past Machado to get the absolute most out of the second half of his big league career, considering just how diligent he is in taking care of himself.