"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

I Don't Know – Third Base!


Here are two excellent reasons not to arrive late to the ballpark when a beloved player is chasing a milestone. First, you may miss his only hit of the game. Second, you may miss the announcement of the defensive alignments and spend the entire game yelling at the opposing thirdbaseman by the wrong name.

But my companion to last night’s game got snarled on the 6:15 NJ Transit train and delayed our departure from Penn Station by 45 minutes. We arrived as Derek Jeter advanced to third on Curtis Granderson’s ground out. The buzz over hit 2998, a deep liner to left-center which Jeter hustled into a double, was still ringing as we watched the Yankees squander a run-scoring, game-tying opportunity .

We were bummed, but saw the replay a dozen times. So we were more grateful that the remainder of the game would be drenched in possibility than bummed we missed the hit. The Yankees threatened to tie the game again in the second with one-out hits by Posada and Martin, but whereas Alex struck out in the first, Gardner fouled out in the second to miss the chance.

Jeter got his second at bat in the second and topped it weakly to the thridbaseman. This is the defining contact of Jeter’s last season and a half. The barely grazed topper to third. And then I am always surprised how not-close the play is at firstbase. Still two at bats in two innings was exactly what the doctor ordered. I said, “As long as the Yankees don’t collapse offensively, Jeter is going to get six at bats and they’re score enough to win.”

Then they collapsed offensively. Jeff Niemann was masterful. The only Yankee looking comfortable at the plate was Robinson Cano. He looked like a varsity player suiting up with the freshman. His swing was sweet and pure last night, lacing the ball four times and accounting for the Yankees only run with a long homer to right.

The Rays were all over Bartolo Colon from the start. In the games I’ve seen Colon pitch, he had very good control. Tonight, his strike to ball ratio was terrible, only 59 of 92 pitches were strikes, and he struggled through almost every inning. Ben Zobrist would have gone 20-20 if they just kept sending him up there – he was locked in on Colon like Luke locked on the exhaust port. His quest for the cycle was disturbed only by two walks. It made for a nice duel of rival secondbasemen.

By the time Jeter batted for the third time in the fifth, the Yankees were down 5-0 and the road back seemed difficult to fathom. But the crowd was clearly more concerned with Jeter than with the game itself, and though their recent skid has cost them first place to the Red Sox again, maybe that’s appropriate. It was the only game I’ve ever attended where there was something else besides the outcome on everybody’s agenda. I’ve been to plenty of games where nobody cares about anything including the outcome, but this something else was an interesting vibe.

Jeter rolled one down the line and right off the bat, it looked like a hit just past the thirdbase bag. But the thridbaseman was well positioned and made a nifty stop and a strong throw and it wasn’t close. It was nice hitting by Jeter, who made something useful out of a jam-shot, pulling his hands in quickly. But when a righty gets jammed, it costs him a step or two coming out of the box and hence Jeter was nowhere near the bag when throw nailed him.

I was impressed by the play and began from that point on, extolling the defensive prowess of Evan Longoria for pretty much the rest of the game. The thirdbaseman made eight plays in total, so I had plenty of chances to talk about him, to debate the selection of the all-star thirdbaseman this season, and to predict the course of his career. Unfortunately, Sean Rodriguez was playing thirdbase last night and the upper deck in Yankee Stadium is far enough away, and my glasses could stand an updated prescription. It could have been Ken Keltner out there for all I know.

I was very embarrassed.

Nobody in the stands corrected me, though surely they heard my mistake as I made it repeatedly. I think I would have preferred to be corrected rather than to discover it on my own. So if you’re in the stands and you here some blathering idiot saying something like that and you’re wondering whether or not to correct them, here is my suggestion. Look at his hands and feet. If you do not see beer in hand, and you do not see empty beer cups at feet, go ahead and point him in the right direction. I still would have blushed, but not as deeply.

Jeter came to bat twice more and tried his best. But he grounded out routinely to shortstop in the seventh and the crowd let out a huge sigh of disappointment. Barring something crazy, there would be no 3000 this night. Kyle Farnsworth pitched the ninth, and the Yankees brought Derek Jeter to the on-deck circle. Farnsworth looked very hard to hit, and he struck out Gardner to seemingly end the game, but the slider got loose and Jeter got to bat.

The remaining fans came to attention. If Jeter got 2999, it would bring Granderson to the plate as the tying run. And for some reason, a game-tying homerun just seemed like a sure thing. And then extra innings! And just like that, 3000 was alive again. Jeter battled Farnsworth and fouled off several tough pitches. He expanded the strike zone as well, for which I guess I can’t blame him. Jeter lost and hit one of those weak-ass toppers to third. At this point thirdbasemen from Rodriguez to Longoria to Keltner have to be salivating over this play.

The crowd jumped up, imagining younger legs on a younger player. In 1999, this was a hit. In 2006, this was a hit. In 2011, it wasn’t that close.

The Rays won 5-1. The Yanks are looking up at the Red Sox and the winning streak which they blew versus the Mets seems like a distant memory.

Categories:  1: Featured  Game Recap  Jon DeRosa  Yankees

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1 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Jul 8, 2011 10:10 am

The team looks flat since Jeter's return to the lineup. Why?

Is it him? His quest for 3000? What is it?

2 a.O   ~  Jul 8, 2011 10:10 am

I just read this morning in SI that Jeter has 185 post-season hits, giving him well over 3,000 in his MLB career. It's dumb not to count post-season hits. So maybe that will offer some solace for those who miss Jeter's 3,000th regular-season hit.

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jul 8, 2011 10:12 am

[1] I think it's probably not playing those crappy NL teams any more.

4 Sliced Bread   ~  Jul 8, 2011 11:05 am

2) yeah, I brought up Jeter's postseason numbers here a few days ago. He's had an entire season's worth of hits, home runs, and RBI over his postseason career. He's put in an entire year of overtime since he came up. To put it another way: as a player, he's a full production year older than he is. I don't have a problem with those 185 hits not counting toward his career total, but they shouldn't be overlooked during this pursuit.

Jeter probably values those 185 hits as much as the 2,998 others, if not more so.

5 Sliced Bread   ~  Jul 8, 2011 11:10 am

1) they've played a couple good teams, they've given up early runs which has forced them to press at the plate, and they've also hit into a little bit of bad luck this week, especially Swisher.Jeter's return to the top of the lineup didn't bring on any of this as I see it.

6 a.O   ~  Jul 8, 2011 11:17 am

[4] So, this is fascinating to me. You're clearly on top of the numbers. As you say, Jeter's post-season play is equivalent to about an entire additional season of baseball. And those are extremely important hits, RBIs, etc -- arguably the most important ones. And then you say you don't have a problem with them not counting on his career total?! Why not?

Those games were all played exclusively by MLB players, they are not exhibition games, and they were at least as competitive as the regular-season games. I cannot find any argument for why they shouldn't count.

The only plausible argument I can think of is that there were fewer post-season games in previous years. But with the original asterisk on the single-season HR record, for example, they still counted both types of seasons (154 vs 162) in the record books.

For me, the real issue is that this is framed by the media as "3,000 career MLB hits," not "3,000 career regular-season MLB hits." It's a little mis-leading.

And it's a little unfair to Jeter. He was a big part of why he got to play in all those post-season games. And that may mean that he had chances to play more games than other guys, but he made the most of them. The games count. So should the hits.

Anyway, I'd be interested to hear other perspectives on this, FWIW.

7 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jul 8, 2011 11:35 am

[6] Both POVs are valid. I am with [4], though, because that's the way it's always been.

We've talked about 300 wins, 3000 hits, 500 homers all our lives and always referred to only the regular season. I don't see the need to change it.

Also, not every player is able to get to the postseason, capping their max games per season at 162. Jeter, because he plays for the yanks, often gets the chance to play in 175 games. If we let everybody play 175 games a year, it would be easier to get these milestones.

Postseason should be separate. But in evaluating a career, I also agree with [4], it should be a huge factor as long as they've had enough at bats to matter.

8 Sliced Bread   ~  Jul 8, 2011 11:36 am

6) You make a great case for why those hits should count, and I don't disagree with you at all. I just accept it as the way things are. But yeah, the hits should count as much as the games. But I guess since postseason games count more, so do the hits, and to accumulate as many as Jeter has is really amazing, and impressive. So maybe it's appropriate that it stands as a separate achievement?

9 Sliced Bread   ~  Jul 8, 2011 11:38 am

7) exactly.

10 a.O   ~  Jul 8, 2011 11:52 am

[7,8] OK, so I guess I wasn't missing any particular argument on the other side here, at least as far as you guys are concerned. So I hold to the view that post-season hits should count toward a player's career hits record. And it also makes sense that they're counted separately for the reasons you give in [8]. I'll be satisfied if we start calling the 3,000 number "regular-season hits" rather than "career hits." I'm not using those quotes literally -- I just wish the distinction would be made more salient for the average fan. I guess I was aware all along that the number did not include the PS, but it just hit me this morning when I remembered that he has so many PS hits.

Just out of curiosity, anyone know how many post-season hits Pete Rose has?

11 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jul 8, 2011 12:12 pm

[7] [8] Agreed. It's just the way things are and in this case, I'm comfortable just going with the flow. :)

12 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jul 8, 2011 12:26 pm

Oh, and Jon, I *love* this write-up, thanks! I love your report of crowd, Jeter's outs and your own, very amusing blunder.

Almost like being there! (Seriously, very well conveyed, thanks!)

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