At 29, Machado joins MLB royalty with 1,500 hits, 250 HRs

June 16th, 2022

CHICAGO -- The list of players to reach 1,500 hits and 250 home runs before turning 30 reads like a roster of inner-circle Hall of Famers. You know, the types of hitters you grew up hearing stories about. The types of players who defined entire generations of baseball.

As of Wednesday night, you can add Manny Machado to that list.

The Padres throttled the Cubs again, this time a 19-5 victory in which every player in their lineup recorded at least one hit, one run and one RBI. Suddenly, the entire San Diego offense is red-hot. But Machado? Well, he's been scorching since the season began. (Since he first put on cleats, if we’re being honest.)

On Wednesday, Machado reached yet another significant career milestone. His RBI single in the top of the first inning marked his 1,500th career hit.

“The milestones will come with winning baseball games,” Machado said after the Padres had done exactly that. “You go out there every single day and try to be the best that you can be.”

Machado would reach base four more times, including a two-run home run in the fifth inning, the 262nd of his remarkable career. He is now more than halfway to two of the sport’s signature achievements -- 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. He's also only 29 years old, not set to turn 30 until July 6.

“That guy’s on his way to the Hall of Fame,” said Padres slugger Luke Voit. “I hope he gets 1,500 more.”

Voit is onto something. Only 17 players in AL/NL history have reached 250 homers and 1,500 hits before turning 30. Twelve of those players are Hall of Famers. Two are still on the ballot (Alex Rodriguez and Andruw Jones). Two will be first-ballot no-doubters once they’re eligible (Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols). And Machado.

“Keep pushing to be better,” Machado said. “These guys are guys that have done a lot of great things for this game, and they worked their butts off to reach that. It just makes you think how much harder you need to work to get there and accomplish the things that they have.”

Clearly, Machado is on a path toward Cooperstown. Entering Wednesday, he had already accrued 48.5 wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference. He’s reached five All-Star Games, won two Gold Glove Awards (a number the Padres insist should be higher) and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting four times. He’s also missed more than 10 games only once in his 10 full seasons.

“It's pretty impressive,” said Voit. “I've obviously played with some great guys in St. Louis and New York. But I think he's definitely the best player I've played with. Him and Aaron Judge, two of the best players in the game.”

At 29, Machado is working on his finest masterpiece of a season – and just when the Padres need it, too. He’s slashing .322/.396/.536, while playing his usual Gold Glove-caliber defense. Entering play Wednesday, he led the Majors in WAR.

And he’s done it all while Fernando Tatis Jr. is sidelined due to a left wrist fracture. The Padres needed Machado to steady their ship, and he’s done exactly that. When the offense struggled early, Machado carried it.

Now, the rest of the offense -- sub-par for most of the first two months -- has come to life. Jake Cronenworth has recorded three consecutive three-hit games. Voit, Jorge Alfaro and Jurickson Profar joined him in doing so on Wednesday.

Profar and Cronenworth have combined to form a formidable 1-2 punch, setting the table for Machado. Voit and Alfaro, who both homered Wednesday, have begun to deliver some serious thump behind Machado. The Padres’ 19 runs were their most since they scored 24 last July 16 in Washington and tied for the fourth-most in franchise history.

“You have points in the season where you have a couple guys that carry the team,” Cronenworth said. “And then you have points in the season where the whole team’s rolling. The first two months we had two guys, Hoz and Manny, who carried the team. Now I think everybody is kind of coming around, and we’re playing as a group -- which is pretty dangerous.”

Machado remains at the center of it all. When Miguel Cabrera recorded his 3,000th hit earlier this season, there was talk of who might be next to accomplish that feat. Machado is an obvious candidate -- perhaps the most obvious candidate. To everyone but himself, that is.

“I haven’t even thought about that yet,” Machado said. “I just go out there and play baseball. Obviously that’s a goal. That's everyone's goal. But I just go out there and perform. I think if I'm healthy, anything is possible.”