In 2004, Carlos Beltran was playing what may have been the best baseball of his life. As a member of the Houston Astros, he nearly single-handedly propelled the team from fifth to first in the NL Central. Beltran dominated the playoffs, batting .435 with eight homeruns, fourteen RBIs, six stolen bases, and a 1.558 OPS in twelve games. His performance during the postseason earned him a five-year, $119 million dollar contract (as well as other bonuses)1 from the New York Mets in the offseason. In 2008, Carlos Beltran made more money than any player in the National League2. If Beltran had not performed as well as he did in the ’04 Playoffs, he would not have been making $119 million dollars in the next five years. The ironic thing is that his stats, the homeruns, the RBIs, the hits, none of it, count toward his career totals.
In baseball, postseason performances end up more abstract than concrete. There are dozens upon dozens of homeruns hit each October in baseball yet none go down into the record books along side the players’ names. The same rings true for any stat you can imagine. If you think about it, the players on the leaderboards have better (or worse with stats like averages) numbers than what meets the eye. ESPN has been highlighting some of the most memorable homeruns in postseason history, none are added into the player’s career total. Luis Gonzalez ended his career with 1,439 RBIs. His walk-off RBI single in game seven of the 2001 World Series, one of the most meaningful RBIs of the decade, is not included in that 1,439 total.
Some of the most meaningful plays in baseball history are not counted into the player’s career stats – which should be composed of the stats composed by a player during games that count towards a team’s win-loss record for a season or during their pursuit for the World Series Championship. Since these stats are not counted, players are cheated out of accomplishments, some meaning more than others.
In this series, I will look at some of the stats that change in baseball if you take into account postseason stats. Some change a player’s career while some shake up the record books. I will start with hits and work my way through the rest.
Only twenty-seven players in baseball history have collected three-thousand hits in their careers. Currently all but three of those twenty-seven are not in the Hall of Fame3. As an obvious benchmark for the Hall of Fame, three-thousand hits are something players dream about collecting. A handful of players in baseball history have fallen just short of their quest to three-thousand as a main result of a diminishing body.
The closest player to three-thousand hits without accomplishing the feat is Sam Rice, an outfielder primarily with the Washington Senators who played from 1915 to 1934. He collected 2,987 hits in his career, retiring at the age of 44 after finding it progressively harder to play an entire season. “The truth of the matter is that I did not know how many hits I had,” said Rice. “A few years after I quit, [Senator's owner] Clark Griffith told me about it, and asked if I’d care to comeback with the Senators and pick up those thirteen hits. But I was out of shape, and didn’t want to go through all that would have been necessary to make the effort.”4
During fifteen playoff games with the Washington Senators, Sam Rice had a .302 batting average, earning him nineteen hits. In meaningful games in his Major League Baseball career, Sam Rice collected 3,006 hits. Sam Rice only earned 0.4% of votes in his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1938. Since he did not receive 5% of the votes, he was removed from the ballot and didn’t reappear until 1948. He appeared on every ballot from then until 1960 (except 1959), failing to receive the proper amount needed to be elected to the Hall of Fame in each attempt. It wasn’t until 1963, over 25 years after he first appeared on the ballot, that he was voted in by the Veteran’s Committee. A player with 3,006 hits and a .322 career average would not have received as few votes as Sam Rice did over the course of 25 years.
As the captain of the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter easily goes down in history as one of the best players in the decade whether as a result of being overrated or not. Currently, Derek is sitting with 2,926 hits, the most all time in a Yankee’s uniform. Jeter also sits with the possibility of 2010 being his final season in Yankee uniform as his contract ends after this year’s playoffs. The chances are slim that the Yankees decide to let Jeter walk in the offseason and it is equally as slim that Jeter decides to leave a franchise that means so much to him. However, the possibility remains that Jeter could have played his last regular season game as a Yankee.
Over fourteen seasons in the playoffs, Jeter has collected 185 hits and counting, the most all time. In meaningful games, Jeter has therefore compiled 3,111 hits and takes a huge leap forward from his current ranking on the all-time hits board. On June 12th of this season in the Bronx, Derek Jeter collected his 3,000th hit in a meaningful game. It would come on a lead-off homerun in the bottom of the first inning, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead over the Astros.
Jeter appeared to hit a wall in 2010 at the age of 36, batting only .2705. If he decided to retire after this year’s playoffs6, he would fall short of the 3,000 hit mark that is well within his grasps; depriving his resume of an impressive credential. As the all-time playoff hit leader, Jeter should already have 3,000 hits in his career and be the only player to ever collect that many as a Yankee.
While Chipper Jones is teetering on retirement, Fred McGriff has been retired since 2004. These two players don’t have much in common besides their bond shared in career hits; both have 2,490 and are tied for 98th all time. Both players have had outstanding careers in baseball but collecting 2,500 hits would have added a cherry on top of the Hall-of-Fame sundae. McGriff collected 57 hits over his postseason career, giving him 2,5477. Chipper Jones has 96 in postseason play, giving him 2,586. McGriff’s 2,500th career hit in a meaningful game would have occurred on May 17th of 2003 as a Dodger in a home game against the Florida Marlins. Chipper’s 2,500th would have come on September 28th of 2009 at Turner, giving him yet another milestone in a Braves’ uniform that he may not be able to accomplish.
With a gun to your head, would you be able to tell me which uniform Pete Rose was wearing when he collected his 4,000th hit? Your guess would probably be Phillies’ or Reds’, right? Bang! You’d be gone. On April 13th, 1984, Rose doubled, putting himself in the very exclusive 4,000 hit club while wearing a Montreal Expos’ uniform. Instead, when counting the postseason hits, Rose knocks his 4,000th hit as a member of the Phillies playing at Montreal.
In the big picture, nothing changes. Pete Rose remains the hits leader but with 4,342 hits and there isn’t any significant jumps on the leaderboard. Let’s face it, all we care about with hits is the hits leader and those who have 3,000 hits as well as the occasional guy who is on a chase for 4,0008.
1 – He got the common no-trade clause along with a hotel suite on all road trips, a fifteen-person luxury suite for all home games, the lease of an ocular enhancer machine (which is a fancy way to describe a machine that shoots out colored tennis balls at 150 miles per hour), and a lifetime supply of hair gel. Surprisingly, I only made up the last thing.
2 –Alex Rodriguez was still making ten-million more. He also had ownership to the devil’s soul and nineteen ocular enhancers.
3 – The all-time hit leader Pete Rose was banned from baseball for life for betting on games during the time he was a player and manager. Craig Biggio is yet to be eligible for the Hall of Fame but will appear on the ballot in 2012. The third not in the Hall is Rafael Palmeiro who is eligible next season but will most likely not make it in due to something called “steroids” (sp?).
4 – Yes, I got my quote from Wikipedia who got the quote from a baseball hall of fame website. Did you know Sam Rice shot Tupac? Also from Wikipedia…
5 – The .270 average was the lowest qualified batting average of Jeter’s fifteen full seasons in the majors and the first year since 2004 that he failed to hit at or above .300. He also saw a low in OBP, SLG, OPS, WaR (Wins above Replacement), and many other various statistics. I hate the Yankees and hate Jeter the most; but it is sad to see a talented player start a fast downward spiral.
6 – It wouldn’t be far fetched to think that if the Yankees take the 2010 World Series that Jeter would call it quits. It would give him six rings for his career, something no one playing in the 70′s or beyond can say they have accomplished.
7 – McGriff received 21.5% of the votes in 2010, falling short of the 75% needed. It is doubtful the 2,500 hits would change anything, but more on McGriff later.
8 – We haven’t seen this since 1984 when Rose collected his. A healthy Alex Rodriguez is the only chance we have to witness it in the foreseeable future. Sady, Rodriguez has endured hip injuries that makes him about as mobile at third as Heather Mills.