On Sunday, Texas Rangers outfielder Adrian Beltre recorded his 3,000th major league hit. In a century-old league whose record books have recently been skewed to the point of transmogrification, Beltre's hit shed productive light on the changing statistical nature of the sport.
Three hundred career wins was once the gold standard for pitchers; players attaining that level of success were generally assured a spot in the Hall of Fame. Nowadays, advanced metrics, hyper-sensitive pitch counts and expanded bullpens have all but assured that milestone's extinction. The last pitcher to achieve it was Randy Johnson in 2009; the closest active pitcher is the Minnesota Twins' Bartolo Colon (235 wins).
Once upon a time, hitting 500 career home runs was something special. Hitting 600 was elite, and hitting 700 suggested the sacred ground of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Former MLB commissioner Bud Selig's Steroid Era changed all of that. While the record book technically lists Barry Bonds as the career home run leader (762), most baseball fans view this figure as being as bloated as Bonds' hat size during his tenure with the San Francisco Giants.
To be fair, the perceived unattainability of certain records is what makes them special in the first place. Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games streak seems untouchable. But so did Lou Gehrig's mark of 2,031, which stood for 56 years before Ripken broke it in 1995. Similarly, it seems unlikely that any player will record a season-long 0.400 average or hit in 56 consecutive games, as Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio did, respectively, in 1941.
Beltre's 3,000th hit placed him in an exclusive club - one that only 30 other players belong to. In a sport replete with statistical benchmarks that no longer mean what they used to, it's comforting to know that this one still does.
The author is a Chicago-based writer. firstname.lastname@example.org