There are a few numbers in baseball that might as well be an automatic ticket to Cooperstown. One of those numbers is 3,000, as in 3,000 hits.
Derek Jeter reached the magical number last weekend. His Hall of Fame credentials cannot be questioned. He will have a plaque in Cooperstown very soon.
Yet Johnny Damon, a man who is approaching the 3,000-hit club, isn't quite a sure thing. Sure, as Jonah Keri pointed out earlier this week, "Unless you bet on baseball or get busted for steroids, 3,000 hits earn you automatic induction into the Hall of Fame, and a taste of immortality."
But with someone like Damon, would that be a slam dunk, so to speak?
First of all, Damon still has some work to do if he wants to taste that rarefied air that only 28 others have inhaled. Entering play Friday night, Damon had 2,663 hits to his name. His pace has slowed some, but not much. In fact, Damon has no fewer than 144 hits in a single season since he left Boston.
At that pace, he could certainly do it, but he's probably going to have to do it after he's hit the big 4-0.
And if Damon can't get to 3,000, will his numbers still warrant Hall of Fame discussion? He's only a two-time All-Star, but he has built up some pretty impressive numbers over the course of his career. He has more than 500 doubles. He's surpassed 100 triples. He's eclipsed 200 home runs. And he's over 2,500 hits. The list of major leaguers who have done all of those things is a very short, very exclusive list. George Brett, Lou Gehrig, Goose Goslin, Rogers Hornsby, Willie Mays, Paul Molitor, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, Al Simmons and Robin Yount are the only ones to do that.
All of them are in the Hall of Fame.
And if that's still not enough to at least consider the notion, remember that Damon does have a couple of World Series rings as well.
No doubt Damon's resume for Cooperstown will add an important notch if he can get to 3,000. However, his body of work may just be good enough even without the historical number.