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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

There are a number of numbers that mean something to MLB players

Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia walks through the

Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia walks through the dugout after throwing his 3,000th career strikeout during the second inning against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday in Phoenix. Credit: AP/Matt York

 When CC Sabathia picked up his 3,000th career strikeout on April 30 at Chase Field in Phoenix, it was quite a moment. Sabathia hugged his teammates, embraced his family and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“Since the end of last year and coming up short 14 strikeouts, it’s been the only thing I have been thinking about for the last six months,” Sabathia said after fanning former teammate John Ryan Murphy to become the 17th pitcher with 3,000 strikeouts.

In his next outing, Sabathia picked up his 248th career win. If he gets to 250, Sabathia will retire after this season as only the 14th pitcher in the history of the game with at least 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts.

So 250 wins must be a pretty big deal to Sabathia, too, right?


“Nah,” Sabathia said, adding for emphasis that it means “nothing” to him because it’s not one of baseball’s magic numbers.

“If I end with 248 or 250, it’s still kind of impressive, but it’s not 300,” Sabathia explained a few days later. “Three hundred’s the number. I guess any number below that doesn’t matter. I don’t think it matters as much as 3,000 strikeouts. I was never a numbers guy. I think the coolest thing for me is being the third lefty [to get 3,000 strikeouts], the third African-American, but other than that, I didn’t get into the game for numbers. I got into the game to try to win games and win championships.''

Three thousand strikeouts is a magic number for pitchers, but it’s not even the most famous 3,000. That’s hits. 

The 2004 Bernie Mac movie “Mr. 3,000” is about a player’s 3,000th hit, not his 3,000th strikeout.

So when Mets second baseman Robinson Cano picked up his 2,500th hit with a double on Tuesday, that was no big deal, right?


“It means a lot,” Cano said after becoming the 101st player to get to within 500 of 3,000. “You look back and it’s something that you dream about as a kid, to be able to play in the big leagues and be successful. To be able to accomplish that, it’s good.”

Cano still has four years left on his contract, so 3,000 hits is a possibility if he stays healthy. But he said, “I don’t have my head on 3,000.”

After No. 2,500, Cano got a congratulatory FaceTime call from former teammate Brett Gardner. The Yankees outfielder reached an unlikely milestone himself on April 17 with his 100th home run – a go-ahead grand slam against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

“The 100 homers was cool,” Gardner said. “Just because especially the first several years of my career, I hit three, four, five homers, so I don’t think anybody expected me to get to 100. As far as any other numbers, nah, not really. I just like playing.”

What other numbers matter to players? There’s the one on their paychecks (can’t blame 'em). Some players care a lot about their uniform numbers. Some don’t care at all.

Adam Ottavino made sure the Yankees were OK with him becoming the first player in franchise history with "0’' on his back. They were. But is that even a number? It seems more like a thinly veiled letter.

Aroldis Chapman has said he doesn’t care that he might not be able to top 100 mph on the radar gun as often anymore. But Chapman cared a lot when he hit 105.1 with the Reds in 2010 and got that number tattooed on his left wrist along with a flaming baseball, right?


Actually, Chapman later revealed, “I had something else there, another tattoo. I wanted to cover it.”

At least we can say all players agree on their favorite number: One.

As in first hit, first homer, first win, etc.

Just this past week, Yankees reliever Joseph Harvey picked up his first career win. You may have missed it. It happened Tuesday, when the Yankees beat the Mariners with three runs in the bottom of the ninth.

Harvey happened to be the pitcher of record after throwing a scoreless top of the ninth. For a pitcher who almost quit baseball two years ago because of injuries and didn’t reach the majors until this year at age 27, it was a big moment, right?


“It was pretty cool,” Harvey said. “I didn’t even know what was going on. Someone was like, ‘Congrats on your first win.’ I was like, ‘Oh, [shoot]. That’s my first win. That’s pretty cool.’ ”

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