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Jeteronomy the Milestone: Six More Hits, Please

The countdown to 3,000 hits resumed Monday night in Cleveland, and Derek Jeter went 0-for-4. What’s being branded as “DJ3K” is occurring now in greater earnest than it did before Jeter pulled up lame with a strained calf and landed on the disabled list on June 13. He’ll be the first Yankee to reach the milestone, and of all the great moments in his career, this may be the singular event that speaks to his consistency and longevity. He certainly didn’t “hang on” in an attempt to achieve this personal benchmark.

And he has handled the march to inevitability in a way that has stayed true to his professional mantra: as vanilla as possible.

The interesting thing about Jeter’s career is that as integral as he has been to the team’s success, in games when he’s reached personal milestones, the team lost. And in games where “Jeter was being Jeter,” giving maximum effort and playing his customary brand of instinctive baseball, and getting hurt in the process, they won.

I covered the game on May 26, 2006, against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium when he got his 2,000th hit. He reached first base on an infield nubber that was misplayed. According to multiple newspaper reports, even Jeter’s mother thought it was an error. The decision can’t be called into question now. The Yankees lost the game. Afterward, he gave his typical “It’s a nice accomplishment, we lost, I don’t care about stats” speech. Ho-hum.

The Yankees also lost the game against the Baltimore Orioles when he broke Lou Gehrig’s team record for hits. At least No. 2,722 was a no-doubter. Same speech. Yawn.

The two moments I immediately think of when I’m asked about Derek Jeter occurred in games the Yankees won.

1) Opening Day 2003, in Toronto. The Ken Huckaby collision. It wasn’t a dirty play, it was incidental contact. With one out and the Blue Jays employing an extreme shift with Jason Giambi at the plate, Jeter, always a great base runner, tried to catch the Jays napping. The description of the play, from eNotes:

Giambi hit a soft grounder to the pitcher, Roy Halladay, who threw to first baseman Carlos Delgado for an out. Jeter, seeing Toronto out of position, rounded second and ran to third. Huckaby ran up the line to cover third and fielded Delgado’s throw. Jeter dived headfirst into the bag, while Huckaby attempted to catch the baseball and block Jeter from reaching third. In do so, Huckaby fell onto Jeter; his shin guard driving into his shoulder.

The Yankees won the game and proceeded to start 20-5. In all, they went 26-11 without him, and went 3-11 in their first 14 games upon his return.

2) July 1, 2004, at Yankee Stadium, against the Red Sox. Depending on your perspective, it’s the “game where Jeter broke his face” after going head over heels into the stands to catch a Trot Nixon pop-up in the top of the 12th inning. The Yankees won that game also. The image of Jeter walking off the field, clutching his lip and his face swollen, is one that endures. I covered that game, too. It’s the greatest regular season game I’ve ever seen. We’re not allowed to root in the press box, and in particular, the YES booth, where I was situated. Those of us in the booth may not have been rooting, but we did not suppress our emotions and baseball fandom in that moment.

So where does that leave us now? The Yankees went 14-4 without him and won seven of eight prior to Jeter’s return. They’ve built a lead over the Red Sox and are in the hunt for the best record in baseball with the Phillies. They’ve adjusted to life without Jeter and the distraction of the four-digit elephant in the dugout. Is the current leg of the pursuit and his place in the lineup more of a distraction than an asset? If so, it’ll be consistent with the way these moments have gone throughout Derek Jeter’s career.

[Photo Credit: N.Y. Daily News]


1 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 5, 2011 1:27 pm

What I remember about that Toronto incident was that Jeter gave the kid the cold shoulder after, didn't forgive him. He was pissed off, man.

2 monkeypants   ~  Jul 5, 2011 1:28 pm

[0] It wasn’t a dirty play, it was incidental contact.

It may not have been a dirty play, but it was reckless and dangerous. I felt that way then, and still think the same way. As per the account: while Huckaby attempted to catch the baseball and block Jeter from reaching third. A fielder simply should not be allowed to impede the baserunner (i.e., block him from the bag or plate) if he does not already have the ball. And it's especially dangerous when the fielder is a catcher wearing his full armor. It's the flip side of the crash into the catcher play, and both should be explicitly outlawed, IMO.

3 monkeypants   ~  Jul 5, 2011 1:29 pm

[1] He should have been pissed. Plus, that he was called out after basically getting jumped on and pushed off the bag only added insult to the moment!

4 bp1   ~  Jul 5, 2011 1:57 pm

It’s the greatest regular season game I’ve ever seen. Word to that, Will. Remember how when Jeter came back the next game that a bunch of fans had the same bandages on their face as he did? That was freakin' funny.

3K is a huge distraction and I hope they get it over with as quickly as possible. I'll probably choke up a little bit when it happens - hey I'm a dad we're allowed - but I hope this is over by the All Star Break. I'm sure he feels the same way. The constant scrutiny and questioning is sucking the life out of it.

5 The Hawk   ~  Jul 5, 2011 2:05 pm

Depending on your perspective, it’s the “game where Jeter broke his face”

... or?

6 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 5, 2011 3:19 pm

I once thought that the Jeter dive was potentially reckless on his part, epsecially in a regular season game. But I quickly changed my thinking on that. When an athlete makes a play, he goes on instinct. But more to the point, I remember walking on the field at Yankee Stadium a few years later and noticed that on that part of the field, the grass sloped downhill toward the stands. So if you are running full speed, you were also running downhill. No way he could have stopped.

7 Hank Waddles   ~  Jul 5, 2011 3:41 pm

[6] I agree with you. I was talking to Derek the other day, and he told me that he wasn't being reckless, he was just trying to make the play.

PS -- I wasn't really talking to Derek, just doing my best to one-up Alex's casual "I was walking on the field..." comment. Aren't I clever?

8 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 5, 2011 4:06 pm

7) LOL. Seriously, that really struck me, how much of a dip the field took. And I was like, "Forgive me Derek for doubting you."

9 monkeypants   ~  Jul 5, 2011 4:20 pm

[8] I guess the old stadium, like a lot of older fields, had a pretty noticeable incline for drainage.

10 William J.   ~  Jul 5, 2011 4:36 pm

[2] Agree 100%. Nothing to add but ditto.

11 RagingTartabull   ~  Jul 5, 2011 4:57 pm

For the life of me I can't believe that Toronto game was 8 1/2 years ago already, damn.

I agree that while not a "dirty" play per se, it was a reckless and irresponsible one. But hey at least we got the Erick Almonte Era out of it, amirite? I have a weird soft spot for the 2003 team.

12 Will Weiss   ~  Jul 6, 2011 1:29 pm

[11] Word to the Erick Almonte era. ... [2] and [10] Looking at the play again, Huckaby was sliding toward third at the moment he caught the throw to make the play. Either way, Jeter was going to be injured. The damage may have been worse had he slid feet first. It was a bang-bang play, and I don't believe there was any intent to injure on Huckaby's part. It's one of those things that happens on an "old country hardball" type of play.

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