Just a month and change remains before the thrilling kickoff to spring training 2013.
As the thump and thwack and crunch of cleats scurry through our imaginations, questions remain regarding what the everyday lineup for the New York Yankees will look like this campaign.
One thing fans do know, however, is that Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki and Robinson Cano will be swinging at the top of the Yankees order come April.
For Yankees fans, this fact fosters mixed feelings. These feelings really come to light when fans consider that both Jeter and Ichiro lead an aging Yankees fleet, and also how Cano has not yet signed an extension.
Blend this uncertainty with star outfielder and leadoff specialist Michael Bourn still lingering on the free-agent market, and many Yankees fans have cause for concern.
But through this tunnel of uncertainty lies an exciting silver lining: The Pinstripes have the opportunity to bust team record books wide open this season.
Should Jeter, Ichiro and Cano each earn 200 hits this year, then this trifecta would be the first in Yankees' history to achieve that feat.
Per MLB.com, it would also make this the 12th set of major league teammates since 1900 to do it—the fourth in the post-World War II era.
Now, in an era of cynicism, it is easy to point to Jeter’s and Ichiro’s ages and say there is not a shot in hell this will happen. To those who support this thinking, saying “Maybe if Jeter and Ichiro were younger...”—you certainly pose a solid argument.
But it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Jeter, Ichiro and Cano achieve 200 hits in 2013 when fans ponder the following points.
While Jeter, Ichiro and Cano are not spring chickens, this outfit has shown incredible durability, especially of late. For example, last year these three men missed a total of four regular-season games—combined.
And while Ichiro is 39 and coming off a down year in 2012, he still raked in 178 hits in 162 ball games.
Perhaps a full year in pinstripes, surrounded with much better talent ( more than the Seattle Mariners) will help Ichiro get those 22 big hits required for 200.
Jeter will turn 39 this June. He is fresh from a terrific year in which he batted .316 with a nearly career-high 216 hits (he had 219 hits in 1999). Jeter also had 15 home runs and 58 RBI to his credit.
Jeter is coming off a tough ankle injury that occurred during last postseason, and some wonder if he will fully recover.
However, as per Howie Rumberg of the Associated Press, Jeter will be ready for Opening Day, and he said the following:
I feel good. It was tough first five, six weeks where you sit on your couch with your feet elevated, but now I feel as though I’m moving around pretty good. I think I’m right where I need to be.
This leaves Cano, who is in the final year of his current contract.
Cano, 30, is coming off a solid 2012, in which he batted .313 with 196 hits, 33 homers and 94 RBI in 161 regular-season games.
Barring injury or shocking trade, fans can bet Cano will be extra-motivated to have a monster year so he can get a huge payday (wherever he lands the following season).
Adding beef to this argument is the fact Jeter, Ichiro and Cano have all shared 200-hit campaigns with teammates in the past.
Jeter paired with Bernie Williams to do this in 1999 and again with Cano in 2009. Ichiro paired with Bret Boone in 2001 to do the same (per MLB.com).
The only other teammates in Yankees' history to pair for 200 hits apiece are Earle Combs and Lou Gehrig (1927), Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio (1936/37), and Alfonso Soriano and Bernie Williams (2002).
This is some pretty impressive company.
Even if two of three of the aforesaid got 200 hits each, they would join just 66 other pairs of big league players since 1900 to do this (also per MLB.com).
Now, realistically speaking, will it take a perfect storm for Jeter, Ichiro and Cano to become the first trio in Yankees' history to bust the 200-hit record? Yes. To do this, these men will have to stay healthy, and they will have to slam the accelerator from the get-go and stay on it all season.
This may sound far-fetched to the cynic.
But for three guys who have had unworldly careers already, this would make for one memorable nugget to add to resumes already overloaded with achievements.
Even cooler, I could not imagine a better experience (besides winning the World Series) than to be a fan that gets to watch Jeter and Ichiro approach the ends of their careers in style.
For this thought alone, it is worth watching Yankees baseball in 2013.