New Yorkers , especially Yankee fans, have become accustomed to a few things. Winning, big spending, and Derek Jeter’s heroics to name a few. As a Yankee fan, I shudder to think of what the infield will look like without the scrawny kid from Kalamazoo. Over the course of his illustrious, Hall of Fame career, Jeter has done more than most even dream about. Last weekend, he added to that list, and in doing so, achieved his milestone as only he would do it.
When Derek stepped into the batter’s box against David Price in the bottom of the first inning, you could literally hear a pin drop on the dirt. It was as if the fans did not want to jinx their day. Don’t worry, this is Jeter, Mr. Cool Under Pressure, himself. After fouling off several pitches, he finally timed Price and cracked the ball right where he wanted it. The ball shot right past Evan Longoria, and into left field. Then, with one big swoop, the crowd erupted. One hit away. Yankee fans have seen it all, but never have they seen someone reach on a hit 3,000 times. They would have their chance just two innings later.
[adinserter block=”2″]Jeter came up again with one out in the bottom of the third. This time, it was different. The crowd was no longer silent. They were willing Jeter, chanting his name at the top of their lungs. The stadium was literally shaking as they clapped, jumped, and yelled out for him. It was as though they were telling the ball, the bat, the wind, and every other factor that they would not allow Jeter to be denied. Again, with a full count, Jeter fouled off fast ball after fast ball. Unfortunately for David Price, the dreaded hanging curveball would not fool Derek Jeter today. In true “Jetearian” fashion, he swung and hit the ball deep to left field. Jeter’s biggest fear of a dribbler or a debatable hit would not be realized. This ball landed past the bull pen, into the second deck of the bleachers in left. There would be no doubt about this one.
Rounding the bases, the infielders tipped their caps to Jeter, a classy move by the Rays, who many felt were classless for not allowing a double header, and another game for Jeter to possibly reach his milestone. When Jeter made it home, the first Yankee to greet him was his best friend, his “brother”, and his “Core Four” comrade, Jorge Posada. After a big hug from him and Mariano Rivera, the rest of the Yankees swarmed their captain. Johnny Damon, a friend of Jeter’s, and team mate during the Yankees 2009 World Series run, now playing for the Rays, wanted to go and congratulate Jeter, but the Rays said no. Damon did his part by walking out of the Rays’ dugout, and stood on the lip of the infield grass, clapping wildly for his friend and former teammate. It was a magical moment that would have gone down in the history books as a standalone great moment.
Jeter wasn’t done. I suppose we shouldn’t expect any less from the guy who catches pop ups and flips backwards into the camera booth, or the guy who makes a diving catch into the third row against the Red Sox. For the past decade, I was convinced there was not going to ever be a greater moment than the famed “flip play” in Oakland, where Jeter ran from shortstop to the first base line, and cut off a throw, shuffling the ball backwards to Jorge Posada, who in turn tagged out Jeremy Giambi. This saved the Yankees’ post season. This marked Jeter’s greatest play until July 9, 2011. Jeter’s greatest play is not a single play at all. It is the fact that the next two times Jeter got up, he once again reached base with a hit. Finally, in the 8th inning, Jeter got up again, and drove in the eventual winning run. Five-for-five, and his 3000th hit was a home run. Only Wade Boggs hit his 3000th on a home run.
Only Craig Biggio went 5-for-5 on the day he hit his. Only Jeter has done the combination of both. This is truly Derek Jeter’s greatest “play” of all time. A hit wasn’t enough for Derek. He put it in the box score with an exclamation point. Did Yankee fans expect anything different? I’m almost shocked that fans didn’t think he would do it the way he did it. After all, he is the guy who has made a career executing plays that you wouldn’t expect him to make. It was most certainly a moment Yankee fans will never forget. In 2010, the Wall Street Journal ranked Jeter 4th on the All-Time Greatest Yankees list behind Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio. With that swing of the bat, Jeter has made a case to move up those rankings.
[adinserter block=”1″]I suppose Jeter has justified many sabermatricians over the years with his limited range, and whatever goofy statistics they come up with to tell us if a player is great or not. They cannot deny that he is one on a short list of players with 3,000 hits. The only one to don the pinstripes and interlocking NY. It is as big a moment for Major League Baseball as it is for Jeter and the Yankees. As of now, he has just over 1200 hits to go before he reaches Pete Rose’s number. He has begun to look like the Jeter of the late 2000’s again. Which is a scary thought for those who have to face Jeter and the Yankees going forward in the second half of 2011.
If anyone can deny the doubters and rise to the occasion, it is Jeter. He’s done it for so long, why would you doubt him again? Jeter may shy away from the spotlight, but his play makes it hard to do such a thing. It seems as if he has a magnet for the dramatics, and a desire to achieve greatness beyond anyone’s dreams. With so many accolades, you would think it would be easy for him to just call it a career. Not Jeter. There is always a next level for him to be great. His next level is 4256. Let the countdown begin.
Erik Espenberg is a native New Yorker who is an avid fan of the Yankees, Rangers, and Jets. When not writing for Camel Clutch, he can be found killing his brain cells playing assorted video games. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.