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Who's next on the horizon to get 3,000?

Who's next on the horizon to get 3,000?

Craig Biggio needed 20 years and 10,645 at-bats to become the 27th member of the 3,000-hit club, an incredible milestone that, in the words of Houston manager Phil Garner, is "the result of a great player working hard and staying healthy for 20 years."

To reach 3,000 hits a player needs all of that, as well as a little good fortune to stay off the disabled list. That fewer than 30 players have accomplished the feat in the entire history of the game is indicative of just how difficult the milestone remains to be and why it is so revered and so rare.

Biggio, in fact, is the first new member of the 3,000 hit club since Rafael Palmeiro in 2005, and unless San Francisco's Barry Bonds hangs around long enough to reach 3,000, Biggio could be the last new member of the 3,000-hit club until the next decade.

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Since the start of the 1992 season, 11 players have recorded their 3,000th hit. Robin Yount and George Brett joined the 3,000 hit club in 1992. Dave Winfield got his 3,000th hit during the 1993 season. Eddie Murray (1995), Paul Molitor (1996), Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs (1999), Cal Ripken (2000), Rickey Henderson (2001), Palmeiro and now Biggio have all reached that plateau.

Bonds, with 2,896 career hits, is up next and could reach 3,000 next season. But after Bonds, you have to strain your eyes to see another potential new member on the horizon. If Bonds doesn't reach 3,000, Biggio could be the last new member the 3,000 hit club will see before 2010.

Beyond Bonds, New York Mets ageless wonder Julio Franco is the closest to 3,000 hits. But Franco has 2,575 and is a part-time player. He's also at least 48 years old. As amazing as he's been since turning 40, the odds are stacked against Franco hanging around long enough to get to 3,000.

Time, age and circumstance are also working against others who might make a push for 3,000.

Steve Finley, 42 years old, has 2,548 career hits and is a part-time player at this point in his career. San Francisco's Omar Vizquel is still starting, but the Gold Glove shortstop has 2,532 hits for his career, is 40 years old, and his .236 batting average this season would be his lowest since 1991. If Vizquel maintains the pace he's been on during the last three years he could get to 3,000, but it wouldn't happen until early in the 2010 season.

The two players up next on the all-time hits leader board might have the best chance of any candidates outside of Bonds of cracking 3,000.

Ken Griffey Jr. needs 513 hits to reach the magical milestone and Gary Sheffield is within 530. Griffey is 37 years old and Sheffield is 38, but both are still starters and remain productive, but both would likely need three seasons of regular playing time beyond the current season to reach 3,000.


News:

::: Craig Biggio's career milestone hits :::
 1:Orel HershiserDodgersJune 29, 1988
 100:Mike LaCossGiantsJuly 30, 1989
 500:Terry MulhollandPhilliesMay 20, 1992
 1,000:Mark DyerPiratesJuly 1, 1995
 1,500:Rick DehartExposApril 24, 1998
 2,000:Javier VazquezExposMay 4, 2001
 2,500:Horacio RamirezBravesMay 8, 2004
 3,000:Aaron CookRockiesJune 28, 2007

While that is certainly possible, both have battled injuries in recent years and players typically approaching 40 begin to slow down. Should they stay healthy, however, the 3,000 club might welcome one or both during the 2010 or 2011 season.

Thirty-nine-year-old Luis Gonzalez, with 2,450 hits and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, 35, with 2,428, have outside shots at 3,000, but even if they maintain their current paces it would be at least three and likely four seasons before they'd be in position to reach 3,000.

The best bet after Bonds to reach 3,000 hits might be New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

Jeter, only 33, has 2,253 career hits. He's averaged 201 hits per season over the last three years and is on a pace to top 200 hits again this year. If he keeps it up, Jeter would collect his 3,000th career hit sometime during the 2011 season.

Jeter's teammate, 31-year-old Alex Rodriguez, has 2,160 hits and if he maintains the career pace he's set since becoming a starter, the third baseman would reach 3,000 hits sometime late in the 2012 season, when he'd be 37 years old.

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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