Houston Astros fans can remember back to 2007 when Craig Biggio was closing in on his 3,000th career basehit. There were reams and reams of copy speculating when this elite milestone would be attained and whether Astros fans would be able to see history being made at Minute Maid Park—or would it happen on the road.

This same scenario is about to happen within the next couple of weeks, but in the Big Apple as New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter is within six hits of that magic 3,000 number.

However, Jeter currently is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained calf injury and is preventing the over-anxious fans in New York from witnessing the very first player from that city to achieve the 3,000-hit milestone.

And like Biggio with the Astros, Jeter has spent his entire 17-year career wearing those pinstripes of the New York Yankees.

This week’s issue of ESPN The Magazine had an article about Jeter. “Anyone who is not a Yankee fan can grow annoyed with Jeter’s relentless parade of endorsements, the quantity and quality of supermodels he’s dated or his princely status in New York, where radio voice John Sterling calls him El Capitan,” the article points out.

But despite the win-at-all-costs mentality of the most successful franchise in sports and the demanding fickle owner, the late George Steinbrenner, plus the consistent scrutiny from the tabloids in baseball’s biggest media market, Jeter continues his consistent hitting.
He has batted .306 with an .845 OPS (On-base Plus Slugging) with runners in scoring position and two outs throughout his career and .324/.785 with the bases loaded. He is .309/.850 in the post-season, .313/.833 overall and .315/.845 with the bases empty and .328/.845 in July.

Derek Jeter’s statistics don’t show any evidence that he steps up in particular situations, they just show that he is consistent. With more than 200 hits per 162 games, Jeter doesn’t need to be clutch to be great—he just needs to be himself.

In 60 combined Yankee seasons batting primarily first or second, Wade Boggs, Chuck Knoblauch, Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek and Phil Rizzuto scored 118 or more runs in a season twice. In his career, Jeter has averaged 118 runs per 162 games.

Since his rookie season in 1996, Jeter has reached base more often than any other player. As a result, he has scored 1,719 runs, thanks to the Yankees’ power-laden lineups. Still, to score so many runs, a player has to hit for an average, draw walks have some power and possess good speed.

Jeter is one of the rare hitters with all four of those skills, which is why only one player—Hank Aaron—has more 100-run seasons than Jeter’s 13.

His resume includes five World Series championships, seven American League pennants and a spot in the post-season every year but one. Jeter was the MVP of the Subway Series against the Mets in 2000. During his 17 seasons, he has earned more than $200 million in salary from the Yankees.

“He’s certainly as dignified a figure as any Yankee since Lou Gehrig, and the way he’s carried himself on and off the field has separated him from the pack,” said Ian O’Connor, author of “The Captain,” a recent best-selling biography on Jeter.

“I think being a scandal-free, steroid-free superstar at a time when we’ve seen so many dramatic falls from grace in sports—Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, A-Rod, maybe Lance Armstrong—has meant a ton to Jeter’s image and to the Yankee brand. In a lot of ways, Derek is the last man standing,” O’Connor continued when interviewed recently by CNN.com.

However, this year Jeter is having a difficult season, batting .260, a far cry from his .312 career average, leading a chorus of calls on sports talk radio for Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi to drop him from his leadoff spot in the lineup. He will turn 37 on Sunday and the talented rookie with the boyish looks who broke into the major leagues in 1996 might be finally showing his age.

Only three players reached their 3,0000th hit before their 37th birthday (Robin Yount, Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron). Far more often, for players such as Biggio, Al Kaline and Wade Boggs, the moment comes at the end of a career.

Another member of the 3,000-hit club, Paul Molitor, believes Jeter “will play long enough to be in the top five on that list all-time.” This top five includes Pete Rose (4,256), Ty Cobb (4,189), Hank Aaron (3,771), Stan Musial (3,630) and Tris Speaker (3,514).
But before he can think about that territory, that sore calf has to heal so Jeter can get the final six hits he needs for a milestone that still remains one of the most difficult in sports to reach. Jeter will become the 28th player—and the ONLY active player– to attain 3,000 career hits.

KWICKIES…The Houston Astros began their current road trip on the right foot by beating the LA Dodgers 7-3 and 7-0 before losing Sunday’s finale 1-0 on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Saturday’s 7-0 win was the first time the Dodgers were shut out with 10 or more hits since 1971, again by the Astros. The ‘Stroes continued their road trip with an Interleague series against the Texas Rangers in Arlington that began Monday night.

Vidor pitcher Bubba Maxwell looked so good playing in the Texas Association of Sports Officials All-Star game last week that Lamar head coach Jim Gilligan offered him a scholarship to play with the Cardinals. Maxwell originally had committed to play at LSU-Eunice, a two-year Louisiana school.

The Texas Longhorns were eliminated from the College World Series Monday afternoon by the North Carolina Tar Heels 3-0. The ‘Horns were able to manage only four hits, one by Orangefield’s Jacob Felts. Texas finishes the season with a 48-19 record while the Tar Heels (51-15) move on in the loser’s bracket. Texas A&M (47-21) met California (37-22) Tuesday afternoon in another elimination game.

It looks like Lance Berkman will be playing first base for the next 4-6 weeks for the St. Louis Cardinals as slugger Albert Pujols recovers from his broken left forearm suffered in Sunday’s costly 5-4 win over Kansas City.

The West Orange-Stark Mustangs 2011 football team is ranked No. 7 in Class 3A by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine that went on sale last week. The Mustangs are rumored to be changing from the spread offense to the Multiple-I formation. But it’s still the Chain-Gang Defense that keeps the ‘Stangs near the top of the heap each season in Class 3A.

JUST BETWEEN US…After outclassing the field in the U.S. Open so handily last weekend, can young Rory McIlroy be the next superstar golfer who will make us forget Tiger Woods? After assuring the media that his big choke in the final round of the Masters was a thing of the past, McIlroy’s eight-stroke victory in the Open verified that he is for real. At 22 years old, he became the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones won in 1923 and the second-youngest major champion in the past 80 years, behind Woods, who was 21 when he won the Masters in 1997. He posted the lowest total score ever (268) and most strokes under par for 72 holes surpassing Woods (16). He also netted a nifty $1.44 million paycheck.