One of the most endearing aspects of Major League Baseball is how ball players cultivate their identities in a sport deeply rooted in history and tradition. As fans are infatuated with young superstars such as Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Shohei Ohtani, and Juan Soto, there is something magical about a ball player who is putting the finishing touches on a historic career that is bound for the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. Four veteran ball players are presently confronting the reality that father time is undefeated but are still achieving greatness through impressive milestones and noteworthy moments.
Detroit Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera recently became the 33rd member of the prestigious 3,000 hit club and is now the seventh ball player in baseball history to have collected at least 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. The 39-year-old prominently appears in conversations regarding the greatest right-handed hitter of all time. Cabrera’s career has been defined by plate discipline and a devout commitment to hitting mechanics which has produced a nearly flawless swing. He is also synonymous with an eight-year, $ 248 million contract that includes two club options worth $ 30 million annually for the 2024-2025 seasons. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the 2024 club option has an $ 8 million buyout, but the options can become guaranteed if Cabrera finishes in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player Award voting in the previous season.
According to Jayson Stark of The Athletic, Cabrera is the only ball player in baseball history to have won a Triple Crown (2012) while amassing 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Cabrera now joins the iconic Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the only three ball players to have at least 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, and a career batting average of at least .300. Presently, Cabrera sits at a career batting average of .310. To put it in perspective, he would have to go hitless over his next 352 at bats and only then would Cabrera’s career batting average drop below .300 based on three decimal points.
Los Angeles Dodgers left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw (2,693) is four strikeouts away from surpassing right-handed pitcher Don Sutton (2,696) for the most strikeouts in franchise history. After entertaining thoughts about retirement or playing closer to home for the Texas Rangers, the 34-year-old re-signed with the Dodgers for one-year, $ 17 million according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Kershaw’s confidence, conviction, and precision have helped him develop into one of the most dominant starting pitchers of the 21st century.
Kershaw recently won his 100th career ball game at Dodger Stadium, but it was his attempt at pitching a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins on April 13th that demonstrated leadership and humility. After 13 strikeouts on 80 pitches over seven innings, Kershaw did not return to the mound in the eighth inning to chase history. Instead of expressing anger or resentment, Kershaw believed pitching a perfect game was a selfish goal and it was more important to secure the victory for the Dodgers. Kershaw is 12 victories away from 200 and needs 307 strikeouts to join the 3,000 strikeout club. Out of the 19 members, only three left-handed pitchers in baseball history have eclipsed 3,000 career strikeouts: Randy Johnson (4,875), Steve Carlton (4,136), and CC Sabathia (3,093).
Albert Pujols should have only worn one uniform in his 22 seasons as a major league ball player. He was the spirit and essence of the St. Louis Cardinals like Derek Jeter was to the New York Yankees and Chipper Jones to the Atlanta Braves. As stated by Cot’s Baseball Contracts, a 10-year, $ 240 million contract with various bonuses and a personal services contract led him to the Los Angeles Angels. Besides the oddity of seeing him in Los Angeles with the Angels and then nearly an entire season wearing # 55 for the Dodgers, Pujols was a completely different ball player during his decade away from St. Louis. His first 11 seasons with the Cardinals were so historic that he was exceling at a level greater than Aaron and Mays over a similar period in their magnificent Hall of Fame careers.
Thanks to the universal designated hitter, the 42-year-old Pujols has returned to the Cardinals on a one-year, $ 2.5 million contract to play his final season with the franchise that had selected him in the 13th round of the 1999 draft out of Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods with a $ 60,000 bonus. Pujols is saying farewell to baseball but pay close attention to his pursuit of 700 home runs as well as surpassing several prominent ball players on career lists such as all-time hits, total bases, and extra base hits. He is 19 home runs away from becoming the fourth member of the 700 home run club.
Justin Verlander had pitched in 2,988 innings over 16 seasons before undergoing surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in the fall of 2020. As the 39-year-old right-handed pitcher makes his return to the mound for the Houston Astros, Verlander does not take anything for granted even though he has already eclipsed 200 victories and 3,000 strikeouts. His current game plan for success is based on replicating a normal season and relying on muscle memory. Even with a one-year, $ 25 million contract as per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Verlander is still a scientific case study given his advanced age for a serious elbow operation and how his body will recover from the daily grind of pitching at an elite level.
Miguel Cabrera’s monumental accomplishment this past weekend should be proudly celebrated as it might not happen again for a long time. The true beauty of baseball reveals itself in historic occasions, but it is also a stark reminder that change is inevitable as well. Fleeting moments of brilliance by four future first ballot Hall of Famers must be recognized not for nostalgia purposes, but what it means to achieve excellence through longevity while creating a blueprint for future generations of Major League Baseball superstars.