What will Miguel Cabrera’s final season bring? Ranking finales of 32 3,000-hit club members

Detroit Free Press

After reaching 3,000 hits early in the 2022 season (and 500 homers late in the 2021 season), Detroit Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera says 2023 will be his last season in the majors.

That sets the stage for a farewell campaign sure to be full of wistful goodbyes, standing ovations (check out this salutation from the crowd at a game between Cabrera’s Venezuela squad and the Houston Astros in early March) and plenty of  “this is Miguel Cabrera’s last time …” moments.

But what will the season itself bring? Will he have a rousing return to form — despite an acknowledged downgrade from everyday-player status — or another injury filled season?

IN HIS OWN WORDS:Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera doesn’t want big sendoff in final year; ‘Hopefully, I can hit’

HIS COUNTRYMEN:Venezuelans grew up watching Miguel Cabrera. They want to say thanks to country’s GOAT

We can’t answer that right now, ahead of Thursday’s Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays, but we can look back at the final MLB seasons of the 32 other members of the 3,000-hit club for some clues. Here are those finales, then, ranked from worst to best (including a surprisingly strong finish from a pair of former Tigers):

32. Pete Rose: 1986

In his third season as a player/manager, Rose’s Cincinnati Reds were 86-76 (second in the NL West before the wild-card days). He was not, however, with a .586 OPS, including no home runs in 272 plate appearances as a 45-year-old.

31. Dave Winfield: 1995

After two seasons with his hometown Twins, the 43-year-old contributed oh-so-slightly to Cleveland’s AL pennant run with a .572 OPS — and just two homers and five doubles — in 130 plate appearances. (He did not make the postseason roster.)

30. Eddie Murray: 1997

Cut by the Anaheim Angels at 41 after posting a .591 OPS in 176 plate appearances, he latched on with his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers for nine September games in which he went 2-for-7 with three RBIs, two walks and two strikeouts.

29. Cal Ripken Jr.: 2001

“The Streak” ended in 1998; three seasons later, Ripken still played in 128 games for the Baltimore Orioles, making 516 plate appearances despite a .637 OPS that was the worst of any American Leaguer with at least 500 PAs that season. At least he homered in the All-Star Game in Seattle.

28. Derek Jeter: 2014

After missing most of the previous season with an Achilles tear suffered in the 2012 playoffs against the Tigers, the Kalamazoo product played 145 games, including 130 at shortstop, at age 40, though he slashed just .256/.304/.313 in 634 plate appearances for the New York Yankees.

27. Alex Rodríguez: 2016

After going homerless for 10 straight games in July and August, the 40-year-old retired — while getting the approximately $32 million he was still owed by the Yankees — four homers short of 700. His .598 OPS over 243 plate appearances was a steep fall from the .842 he put up in 2015.

26. Rafael Palmeiro: 2005

With 18 homers and a .786 OPS in 422 plate appearances for the Orioles at age 40, he was having a suspiciously good season — after testifying against PEDs before Congress in December 2004 — only to get suspended 10 games for PED use in August. He played just seven more games after his return.

25. Ichiro Suzuki: 2019

A complicated “last season” determination, thanks to 53 plate appearances with the Seattle Mariners in 2018-19, but he posted a .649 OPS in 215 plate appearances in his final “real season” with the Miami Marlins at 43.

24. Craig Biggio: 2007

Biggio held down second base for the Houston Astros at age 41 as he earned his 3,000th hit in late June (in a 5-for-6 performance), then finished with a .666 OPS (despite 31 doubles).

23. Hank Aaron: 1976

A 42-year-old Aaron still hammered 10 homers for the Milwaukee Brewers, though a mere eight doubles in 308 plate appearances left him with a .229 batting average and .684 OPS — both career lows. It was one of two seasons in which he didn’t make an All-Star team. (The other? His rookie season in 1959.)

22. Tris Speaker: 1928

In his lone season with the A’s, the 40-year-old still had some power — he had 22 doubles in 212 plate appearances — but struggled with getting on base, as his batting average dropped 60 points, to .267, and he walked just 10 times after walking at least 55 times in each of his previous 19 seasons.

21. Honus Wagner: 1917

The longtime Pittsburgh Pirate — for 18 of his 21 seasons — finished with more walks (24) than strikeouts (17) over 264 plate appearances at 43, and a .642 OPS that was just below league average in the final years of the dead ball.

20. Nap Lajoie: 1916

The longtime Cleveland star’s OPS of .584 in 455 plate appearances for the Philadelphia A’s at 41 wasn’t quite as bad as it seems — again, it was the dead-ball era — but it was still just over half what he posted in his previous full season in Philly: 1.106 in 1901, the first season of the American League.

19. Willie Mays: 1973

A trade from San Francisco back to New York revitalized him in his next-to-last season, with an .848 OPS at 41. The follow-up, in which he slashed .211/.303/.344 over 239 plate appearances at 42 wasn’t nearly as pleasant.

18. Rickey Henderson: 2003

Rickey probably doesn’t want to talk about Rickey finishing his career as a Los Angeles Dodger with a .208/.324/.306 slash line in 84 plate appearances at 44. But Rickey could point out he still stole three bases (part of 1,406 career steals) without getting caught.

17. Paul Waner: 1945

The longtime Pirate reached 3,000 career hits with the Boston Braves in 1942, then wound down his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers (.802 OPS in 1943, .736 in 1944) before making token appearances with the Yankees in ’44 and ’45 — including going 0-for-0 with a walk at age 42.

16. Robin Yount: 1993

“The Kid” retired at 37 after putting up a .705 OPS in 514 plate appearances with the Milwaukee Brewers. That was just four seasons removed from winning the AL MVP award in 1989.

15. Wade Boggs: 1999

He cleared 3,000 hits in early August, then played just nine more games for the then-Devil Rays of Tampa Bay, but the career .328 hitter wrapped things up with a .301 average over 334 plate appearances.

14. Paul Molitor: 1998

In his third season with his hometown Minnesota Twins, Molitor delivered 29 doubles and five triples in 559 plate appearances, despite turning 42 in August of his final season. He ended with a .718 OPS, his worst finish since his age-24 season.

13. Rod Carew: 1985

The longtime Twin-turned-longtime Angel missed the All-Star Game in only his final season, after 18 straight nods. That was despite a .717 OPS in 518 plate appearances (including 64 walks and just 47 strikeouts) at 39 that was close to league average.

12. Carl Yastrzemski: 1983

At 43, the AL All-Star hit 24 doubles and 10 homers while walking 54 times for the Boston Red Sox to finish with a .767 OPS that was slightly above league average in 437 plate appearances.

11. Eddie Collins: 1930

Technically, his last season came at 43, when he went 1-for-2 for the A’s; his last season of serious playing time came in either 1927, when he posted an .880 OPS for the A’s at age 40, or the next year with a .772 OPS in just 37 plate appearances over 36 games.

10. Cap Anson: 1897

A Chicago Cub from the formation of the National League in 1876, he wrapped things up at 45 with a .285 average and .379 OBP, thanks to 60 walks in 497 plate appearances. (Though his mere 23 extra-base hits left him with just a .740 OPS.)

9. Al Kaline: 1974

“Mr. Tiger” found some unexpected power at 30, delivering 28 doubles — more than his previous two seasons combined (24) — while posting a .726 OPS that was well above league average in 630 plate appearances.

MR. TIGER:65 years ago, Tigers legend Al Kaline threw a runner out — from his butt

8. George Brett: 1993

His encore season after barely reaching 3,000 career hits at the end of an injury plagued 1992 wasn’t quite up to league average, but it did feature a .746 OPS, 19 homers and 31 doubles in 612 plate appearances for the Kansas City Royals at age 40.

7. Lou Brock: 1979

Reaching 3,000 hits seemed pretty unlikely for the speedster until he picked up 123 at age 40, swiping an NL All-Star nod with a .739 OPS (plus 21 steals in 33 attempts) in 436 plate appearances with the Cardinals.

6. Adrián Beltré: 2018

Thanks to starting his career at 19, he was still just 39 when he finished his career with the Texas Rangers with a .763 OPS in 481 plate appearances — pretty close to league average, thanks to 15 homers and 23 doubles.

5. Tony Gwynn: 2001

He didn’t make the All-Star squad at 41 with the San Diego Padres (though he had a non-playing role) and had just 112 plate appearances due to injuries. Yet his .845 OPS, compared to the NL standard, was his best in several seasons — especially considering his walk and strikeout totals: 10 and nine, respectively.

4. Stan Musial: 1963

The St. Louis Cardinals legend made his 20th consecutive All-Star squad at age 42 on the back of a first half in which he hit .279 with nine homers in 221 plate appearances, with an .815 OPS. But he slumped badly after the Midsummer Classic, posting a .606 OPS en route to a .728 OPS overall, the worst of his career by more than 60 points.

3. Ty Cobb: 1928

The longtime Tiger’s 27 doubles and 114 hits in 393 plate appearances at age 41 gave him a solid .323/.389/.431 slash line for the Philadelphia Athletics, though his .819 OPS — 23rd in the American League — was the third-lowest of his career, and 102 points off his 1927 season.

MORE:90 years ago, Detroit Tigers legend Ty Cobb challenged myths of being maniacal racist

2. Albert Pujols: 2022

An improbable renaissance in which he hit 24 homers for the Cards at age 42 — after hitting 23 in his two prior seasons combined — was one of baseball’s best stories last season. His slash line of .270/.345/.550 in 351 plate appearances was his best in more than a decade, too.

1. Roberto Clemente: 1972

Clemente was still going strong, with an .835 OPS in 413 plate appearances, an All-Star nod, a Gold Glove and NL MVP votes at age 37, before dying in an offseason plane crash while attempting to deliver earthquake relief supplies to Nicaragua.

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