Last night, a typical 102 degree summer night in Arlington, Texas, Michael Young notched his 2,000th career hit against Cleveland Indians' starter Josh Tomlin. Facing an 0-2 count in the bottom of the seventh, Young swung on an 86 mile-an-hour change-up and dribbled the ball down the third base line. Rookie Lonnie Chisenhall charged the slow roller, barehanded it and whipped it across the diamond to Shelly Duncan, but Young beat the throw easily and had himself an infield single, his second hit of the evening. A banner was unfurled beneath the center field scoreboard to commemorate his achievement, the 37,000 fans on hand gave him an extended ovation, and he took a moment to acknowledge the Arlington faithful by waving his helmet. To top it off the Rangers came back the next inning to win the game 5-3 and maintain sole possession of first place in the AL West for another day.
2,000 down, 1,000 to go.
Since Michael Young broke in with the club back in 2000, Texas has trotted out star-studded lineups each and every year. Over the past decade, Ranger managers have penciled in Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano, Sammy Sosa, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Andruw Jones, and Adrian Beltre, among others, to form an impressive roll call of hitting talent from the 2000s. But Young has been the one mainstay, the career Ranger and face of the franchise through its disappointing lows and more recent highs. Through last place finishes and an AL pennant he has managed to stay healthy and provide steady production while playing second, short, third, and DH. A career .303 hitter and Gold Glove winner, Young won a batting title and led the league in hits in 2005, earned seven All-Star nods and helped lead Texas to the World Series last year. He's not just a singles hitter, either, as nearly 600 of his hits have gone for extra bases.
Young's certainly enjoyed a fine career, and if he can continue to produce for a few more seasons he'll make a legitimate Hall of Fame case (better than comp Johnny Damon, also pursuing 3,000). My question is this; can he hang on for 1,000 more hits?
Right now I'd rate his chances as possible at best, and I don't think he'll make it. He's already 34 years old and will turn 35 in October (by comparison Derek Jeter, the rich man's Michael Young, was three years younger when he got to 2,000) so time isn't exactly on his side. He's on pace to finish the season with about 2,065 hits or so, meaning he'd still be more than 900 away. Assuming he plays until he's 40, five more seasons, he would need to average more than 180 hits per season, an extremely difficult task for someone about to enter the decline phase in his career and become even more prone to wearing down during the brutal Texas summers.
On the bright side, he's showed no signs of slowing down by hitting a career high .336 this year and leading the league in games played (no surprise for a man who's averaged 156 games played since 2002 and led the league in 2006). He's very durable and looks like a strong bet to age well. In addition, skipper Ron Washington has cemented him as the full-time DH, a move that should help him stay healthy and slow his decline. If he can hang around until he's age 42 or 43, he'll have a great shot at reaching the magical 3,000 mark, but I find it hard to believe Texas would give many at-bats to an aging DH when there will be many other players clamoring for the slot during a scorching August night.
A night just like the one Michael Young got his 2,000th base knock.