Julio Franco & 3000 Hits
This may take a leap of faith, so give me a little leeway here. Julio Franco has been playing forever, we all know that. At the age of 36, Franco hit .319 in the strike shortened year of 1994. With no one knowing the outcome of the 1994 strike at the time, Franco went ahead and signed with Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League. He played the entire 1995 season for Chiba, which by all accounts was pretty good. Julio actually took a hit in his batting average, dropping down to .306. He picked up 145 hits. He returned to the majors in 1996, and put up a .322 batting average for the Cleveland Indians. After a two team MLB stint in 1997, he once again joined up with Chiba in the Japanese League for the 98 season, hitting .327 and picking up 141 hits. In 1999 he played in the Mexican League. Since that league is officially a minor league, we’ll skip his couple of stints (and 300+ hits) in that league. Franco ended up in the Korean League in 2000 with the Samsung Lions, hitting .327 and collecting another 156 hits.
Between these three professional baseball leagues, Franco has 3026 career base hits. Ok, a stretch right? I’ll give you that much.
Food for Thought: Between 1995 “ half of 2001, Franco played four and half seasons outside of the majors (two in Japan, one in Korea, and one & half in Mexico). During his 1994 “ 2001 MLB playing time he collected 420 hits in 1386 AB, for a .303 batting average. Pro-rating a conservative .280 average over four and half seasons worth of MLB at-bats (450 x 4.5 = 2025) Julio would have an additional 567 hits, giving him a major league total of 3151.
Many out there are going to discount this right off the start. A portion of the others that stick with me are going to claim œso what, the dude played forever. As true as that is, he’s still a career .298 hitter. Recent 3000 hit club member Craig Biggio has a .280 average. Ripken (.274) played in the same era as Julio.
Of course, we can’t go back in time and pro-rate hits. Franco may have chosen (and other times been forced) to play outside of the major league system. Whether it’s an official number or not, Julio Franco will always be a member of the 3000 hit club in my eyes.