Esposito: Can The Mets Michael Conforto Reach 3000?

This might be very premature, as in maybe two decades too early to predict, but it certainly looks like Michael Conforto has the makings of a consistent hitter, a possible batting champ maybe someday, and with a little luck, and a lot of healthy years, a future that could reach 3000 hits and maybe more.

Yeah, that’s a lot to ponder after just one and half seasons and this quarter of the season in the bigs, and last year was actually a disappointing sophomore campaign. But he seems to have found the stroke again, as evidenced by his twin-home run night against the Padres on Tuesday, cherried by the unique mark of having knocked in three RBIs in the first inning – as a leadoff hitter.

Conforto set the team mark with that crazy first inning bat-around, and only four other players over the last 30 seasons have achieved similar results – leading off a game with a home run and having an RBI hit later in the same first frame. Join the club, Michael, with ex-Met Eric Young, (who did it with Colorado in 1996), Oakland’s Ryan Christenson in 2000, teammate Curtis Granderson in 2006 for Detroit, and Detroit’s Ian Kinsler last year.

Conforto is hitting .500 (12-24) with six homers, 11 RBIs, and 14 runs scored in the first inning this year.

The 24-year-old outfielder also has five homers and 10 runs batted in from his last eight games.

With 205 major league games now on his resume, Conforto has banged out 157 hits, with 34 home runs and 99 RBIs. Again, we’re not commissioning the plaque for Cooperstown just yet, but we’re sure seeing the birth of something here. Something that could make Mets fans very happy for a long time.

And that’s what it takes to reach 3000 hits, a very long time.

The pages of baseball history now claim 30 ballplayers with at least 3000 hits, and just about all of them have done so with an average of some 20 years in the majors.

Pete Rose is at the top of the list with 4256 hits and 24 seasons in the bigs. Ty Cobb is next with 4189 hits and 24 years. Hank Aaron racked up 3771 hits in 23 seasons. Stan Musial reached 3630 hits in 22 years. Tris Speaker has 3514 hits on his ledger after 22 summers.

Derek Jeter has this extra little gold star next to his many accomplishments. He’s sixth on the all-time list with 3465, and did so in just 20 years, the shortest amount of time for any hitter with at least 3200 hits.

The Mets, of course, have never had a hitter with at least 3000 hits. They’re still waiting for someone to reach 2000 hits as a Met. There was a time when Mets fans thought David Wright had a shot, but injuries have stalled his total at 1,777 hits. That’s still good for the all-time Mets lead, with Ed Kranepool a distant second at 1,418 hits, but it seems unlikely Wright will reach 1900 hits, let alone 3,000, and even 1800 might be an unreachable goal.

Kudos to Jose Reyes for recording his 2000th hit this past weekend against the Angels. It almost feels like he did it all for the Mets, but as you know, he spent nearly five years in other uniforms. Reyes had 50 hits for Colorado, 370 hits for Toronto, and 184 hits for Miami.

Going into the May 24 game against San Diego, Reyes is currently tied with ex-Met Shawn Green for 281st place on the all-time hit list with 2003. With a productive season the rest of the way, Reyes has a chance to climb the ladder to the Top 250 all-time, and maybe higher. Wally Joyner is number 250 on the hits leader board with 2060.

And considering that over 18,000 men have played major league baseball over the years, being in the Top 250 of any positive category is actually a pretty good thing.

Reyes is the third player to reach at least 2000 hits after playing his first game as a Met. The other two were Amos Otis, who reached the majors as a Met in 1967, and Ken Singleton, who did so in 1970.

You could say these were two big fish who got away. They both had decent careers after the Mets. But both were traded away. Otis went to Kansas City in a three-player deal that netted Joe Foy. Yes, that Joe Foy. The third baseman played just one season for the Mets in 1970, batted .236, with 76 hits, six homers, and 37 runs batted in. Otis played til 1984 and finished with 2020 hits.

Singleton at least was a valuable chip in the deal that imported Rusty Staub, so Mets fans can’t be too disappointed in that.

Of the 30 men who have joined the 3000 club, only three have ties to the Mets – Willie Mays (3,283 hits; 22 years), Eddie Murray (3,255; 21), and Rickey Henderson (3,055; 25). So at least a handful or two of those base-hits were done so on behalf of the Mets.

Six from the 3000 fraternity played at least a number of games for the Yankees – Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Dave Winfield, Henderson, Ichiro Suzuki, and Wade Boggs.

Interestingly, 17 of those 30 began their careers after the Mets began as a franchise in 1962. Which underscores that generations of Mets scouts and leaders have done a lousy job of drafting hitters capable of reaching this pinnacle.

So does Conforto have a shot at 3000? You’d have to say yes. Then again, you could say the same about Amed Rosario or Dominic Smith, and they haven’t even been called up yet. But in Conforto, you see the early stages of what it takes to get there. He’s young, a good hitter, and if he stays healthy and productive, there’s a chance.

Stay healthy, Michael. The Mets already have a crowded DL.

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