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April 3, 2009

Milestone Preview: National League West

Remember a couple of years back when, trying to mesh with his teammates, Barry Bonds donned a wig, dressed in drag and took part in an American Idol spoof?

Well, here we are, three years and one Taylor Hicks later and outside of the Manny Ramirez sideshow in Los Angeles, I don’t know that I heard much about baseball west of the Rocky Mountains. That being said…we will be.

Ladies and gentleman…your NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST.

Arizona made more news this off season when FORMER Diamondback Curt Schilling called it quits then they did with their own players. Outside of Tom Gordon climbing up the all-time games list (he enters 2009 with 887, but could have easily been up over 1000 had he never toed the rubber as a starter), there isn’t much to watch out for on the milestone front.

The Colorado milestone discussion begins and ends at first base. Outside of a colossal collapse, Todd Helton is a shoe-in to be inducted to the Hall once he retires. The Knoxville native is closing in on 2000 hits (he’s currently at 1957) and, more impressive given he’s only played 10 COMPLETE seasons, he’s within 29 doubles of 500 for his career.

By comparison, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Manny Ramirez are sitting at 503 and 507 respectively. Quietly one of the league’s best since 1998, Helton always brings the fans in Denver something to watch for.

Last year, Ramirez came into the season needing 10 home runs to get to 500. This season, Manny comes in with 527 and looks to pass up Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt and Reggie Jackson on the all-time list.

Factor in his 2392 hits and, by season’s end, you’ll be looking at just the sixth player to have more than 2500 hits, 500 doubles, 550 home runs and 1800 RBI! The others: Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Robinson and Babe Ruth.

Off the field (or more specifically, in the dugout), manager Joe Torre is 44 wins away from leapfrogging Sparky Anderson (2194) and Bucky Harris (2157) and moving into fifth place on the all-time list.

Brian Giles entering the season with 1854 hits is about the only thing worth mentioning until All-World pitcher Jack Peavy starts getting more years under his belt.

And yes, I realize that when Giles gets hit number 2000, he’ll have more base knocks than a slew of Hall of Famers (including recent inductee Joe Gordon), but he’ll also have fewer than Ray Durham and Edgar Renteria.

‘nuff said.

Not since Bonds was knocking on the door of every home run milestone have the Giants had a milestone (or two) to watch for. Randy Johnson brought with him to the Bay a number of things worth noting.

First and foremost, “The Big Unit” is five victories away from 300 wins. Only 24 pitchers have accomplished the feat, and after Johnson…Jamie Moyer (246), Kenny Rogers (219) and Andy Pettite (215) are the closest on the active list.

And while he hasn’t hit 200 or more strikeouts since 2005, it’s worth mentioning that Johnson is 211 Ks away from becoming the second player to strike out 5000 batters. He won’t touch Nolan Ryan’s 5714, but burying his closest active competition Pedro Martinez (3117) and John Smoltz (3011) has to be a little gratifying.

Also within reach for “Unit”…he is 15 hit batsmen away from surpassing all-time leader Walter Johnson. He probably won’t get there (he has only 10 in the last two seasons), but passing up Eddie Plank (196) is a possibility. Something tells me that, deep down, Johnson wishes that hit by pitch magnet and former teammate Craig Biggio (who, ironically, “Unit” NEVER hit in 16 plate appearances) was still out there swinging a bat.

So there you have it…all six divisions and a preview of their upcoming milestones.

Check them out here:
American League East
American League Central
American League West
National League East
National League Central

BallHype: hype it up!

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