Sunday, July 10, 2011

DJ3K

Congrats to Derek Jeter, the 28th player in Major League history to reach 3,000 career hits. This is an incredible accomplishment, and Jeter is certainly deserving both of the achievement as well as the attention and praise he is getting as a result.

It obviously couldn't have happened in a much more special way. Becoming the only player besides Wade Boggs to get 3,000 on a homer, doing it off one of the game's better pitchers, with the entire stadium chanting the familiar "Deh-rek Jee-ter", it being an absolute no doubter to the left field bleachers, as part of a 5-5 day including the game winning hit in the 8th. When you look back at all of the big days he has had as a Yankee and as a baseball player, it seemed fitting. It was a career day in a career filled with career days, so as amazing as it was it wasn't even all that surprising.

when you think about how long this game has been played and that only 27 people before him have reached this milestone, you get a sense for how incredible an accomplishment this is. When you look at the names of those 27 players, you get a sense for how incredible an accomplishment this is. 24 of the 27 are in the Hall of Fame, and the three that aren't either aren't eligible or aren't in because of a controversy. When you look at the history of the Yankees, how long this franchise has been at the top of the sport, and how many of the games all-time great players they've had that have propelled them to the top, and consider that no Yankee before Jeter has ever done it, you really get a sense for how incredible an accomplishment it is.

As Jeter himself said at one point, it's hard to get 200 hits in a season. Only a handful of guys do it every year. You have to average 200 hits for 15 seasons to get to 3,000. That's even harder.

And yet Jeter has made it look relatively easy all along. Up until these last two years, he's been a model of consistency. In the 14 years between his rookie year in 1996 and 2009, he never hit below .291, and hit .300 or better in 11 of those 14 years. His quadruple slash line over that period was .318/.388/.459/.848. He averaged 16 homers and 31 doubles per season.

While all of those numbers are from very good to excellent, especially for a shortstop, the only thing that really jumps out at you is the hits. That's the part of it, at least for me, that makes Jeter so special. He played almost his entire career in the height of the PED age, and he was a throwback. In an era where players were bigger and home runs were bigger, Jeter was almost a throwback. He just kept racking up hits. While balls were flying out of the park at record pace, Jeter was busy getting more hits than any of those guys, as he has had more hits than any active player since his career started for quite some time now.

Getting 3,000 hits, while obviously supreme in its own right, also serves to reinforce what kind of player Derek Jeter has been. And that's awesome.

I was a very young baseball fan when Derek Jeter was a rookie. He's my favorite athlete ever, in any sport. I've had the pleasure of seeing or hearing on the radio a vast majority of his 3,003 hits. For all of these reasons any many more, this carries a little extra significance, as I'm sure it does for many Yankees and Jeter fans.

It's been frustrating at times to see a player who has meant this much have his game decline the last 1.5 years. But yesterday was an awesome reminder of what a spectacular career he has had, filled with a lot of days just like yesterday, where you find yourself almost laughing at how good he is, how he always got it done in the big spots, how he elevated his game when the stage was greatest. It's not so much the case anymore, but I've had many fans of other teams - people that really don't like the Yankees and some that really don't like Jeter - that they never liked facing him late in games with the game on the line, because they always felt like he was going to get a hit. Up until the last little bit, he was always the guy I wanted up in those same spots. That's one of the biggest compliments you can give in my book. And it makes a lot of sense, looking back at it now, to not want to face him as the opposition and to want him up as a Yankees fan, because he was getting hits at a higher frequency than anybody else in the game.

And hey, in 6 games since coming off the DL he has 4 doubles and a homer, which represents almost half of the extra base hits he had in 62 games before going on the DL (12). I said after the 2009 bounceback from his 2008 season that I was never going to count Derek Jeter out until he retired. Even if the evidence is overwhelming that he should be counted out at some point, yesterday was a reminder as to why I won't.

6 comments:

the gm at work said...

PF,

I'm relieved to see that this post exists. Glad to see you paid homage to this player, because I know how important he has been, really, in your life the last fifteen years. You covered pretty much everything. I think paragraph 9, when you talk about how he always came through when it mattered, needs to be rushed to the front of this story, because out of these 3,000 hits, it seems like 1,000 of them were really important ones with the game on the line. The fact that he's consistent is really the backdrop of the Derek Jeter story; the fact that he always came through and probably still will when it matters is the real story.

I hope the mini-bounceback is something that continues, even if it works in the Yankees' favor. It would be a shame to see Cashman continue to be killed for the next few years as he's been killed the last few months.

Ross Kaplan said...

Pat, you hit the nail on the head with your comment about Jeter's 3,000 being special for Yankees fans of our generation. Our grandfathers had Ruth and DiMaggio, our fathers, Mantle and Munson, we had Jeter. The 1995 season was the first I can consciously remembering actively following baseball so like Pat I probably saw or at least followed a good part of his 3,000 hits.

Wilesthing said...

It is fun, and almost required behavior for Sox fans to hate the Yankees as an organization and the players, but I've never had anything bad to say about Jeter. In fact, I really hate the "Jeter Swallows" shirts in New England because it really makes fans look stupid. I'm outing myself as a closet Jeter fan. I would have loved to see him in Boston.

Congrats to him and the way he did it with a huge day as you summarized is the stuff that only the legends of the game pull off.

My only hope is that he walks away before he slips too much. I prefer to remember the greats as they were, not as old men who couldn't walk away without a cane.

the gm at work said...

Ricky Ross,

Can't agree more. Probably just as fun to hate him.

Wilesthing,

I'll admit that as an eighth-grader, I probably had a Jeter Swallows t-shirt. Of course, I probably didn't even know what that meant.

(There is a legendary story of a t-shirt I was given by a friend who went to a WWF event. It talked about a certain kind of pie that The Rock liked to eat - use your imagination. I showed up to middle school with that shirt on the next day, it was about 105 degrees outside and the WMT didn't have air conditioning in its schools, and I was getting rounds of applause by all the bad kids. I had no idea what the shirt meant. When I was told what it meant, I wore a sweatshirt for the rest of the day. Tangent over.)

I think what you said about Jeter walking away is something that we can probably debate for the rest of the week. You may want him to walk away at the end of the contract, and I bet the Yankees feel the same way. But you gotta think the player is thinking about 4,000 hits. He's not THAT old and hasn't really been THAT injury-prone. It would be a shame, however, to see the player in a Seattle Mariners jersey for his golden years, and if he goes for 4,000 hits I'm afraid that's what's going to happen. As Pat said (redundantly - it looked like an editing mistake), Jeter was a throwback in a lot of ways, including in the way that he might be able to pull off a big career with one team. It would be a bummer to see it end otherwise.

Anonymous said...

lot of great stuff here all around.

gm i think the point you highlighted is a very big one, and i knew you'd appreciate it. i also thought the point about the type of player jeter was, especially given the era he played in, would really resonate with you, and it seemed to based on your second comment.

ross, absolutely on point. i feel the same way. i've said it before, we came up as baseball fans at about the same time bernie/rivera/jeter/pettitte/posadawere coming up as players. it's very rare, i think, that a group of fans a certain age get their start rooting for their team with that kind of young talent, and not only does that talent pan out, but they all play virtually their entire careers for that team. in this day and age, very rare.

wilesthing, first, it's been great to have you commenting the last few weeks. great stuff. welcome.

on your first point, you might be surprised how many people feel the exact same way as you. i've heard a number of red sox fans, mets fans, and other fans of other teams say the same thing. they don't like the yankees, they don't like a lot of their players, but they respect if not like derek jeter. i saw this turn in the early part of the 2000s. i think when he first came up and got so much attention, and the yankees won all those world series, it was easier to dislike him. but then he kept doing it year after year, and people couldn't help but respect him. i think the arrival of rodriguez also upped respect levels for jeter among opposing fans, not just because they disliked rodriguez so much more - thus taking attention off jeter - but also because they preferred the way jeter conducted himself to the way rodriguez did.

your second point is one i've actually been thinking a lot about recently. just two years ago, jeter was a career .318 hitter. after only 1.5 non-jeter type years, he's already down to .313. still a very respectable career average, but it didn't take long for five points to get clipped off. thus is the nature of having such lofty career averages, they fall that much more quickly if they aren't maintained. it would be a shame, at least for me, if jeter played the next 3.5 years and that average fell to barely above .300 or even less.

of course this is the last thing jeter is worried about. and quite frankly, i'm not worried about it either when weighed against him maybe being able to help the yankees win another title. i know someone could look at his overall numbers and say he doesn't look likely to do that, but for the time being, the yankees are better off pursuing a title with him than without him. if not for his numbers, for other things he can still bring to the table, which he reminded us of saturday.

still, career numbers taking a hit doesn't help a players legacy. especially in combination with the element i think you were more getting at (as opposed to the numbers), of our lasting images of a player being the last few years of his career being a shell of his former self. not just in terms of numbers, but by the eye test. seeing that happen to jeter would not be great, and we've gotten shaded of it the last 18 months or so.

- pf

Anonymous said...

If Jeter ever tested positive for PEDs it would go down as a top 10 sports moment in my life. I would be so happy it would be unbelievable.

One other thing I would add (addressing Ross's comment) is that I just don't see Jeter being on the same level as Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig who are really the elite of the elite of all time baseball players period. Nor in my opinion would he be at the level of Joe Dimaggio who I would probably rate one tier below Ruth/Gehrig. To me he's one of the best shortstops of his generation and a definite hall of famer but I don't see him as an all time great player.


All that aside, I will be interested to see how he does the second half of this season. Who knows, maybe the time off will reinvigorate him a little bit.

On another note, the Red Sox rotation is in very tough shape and is one more bad break away from totally falling apart. Hopefully Beckett recovers well from the minor injury he had the other night (was it a hip thing- the exact issue escapes me) otherwise the Sox are in serious trouble.