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3,000 hits and beyond

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Jeter becomes just 28th player to reach milestone

One of the lasting appeals of baseball is its reverence for the numbers. So much of the game's history is wrapped up in numbers like 500 (home runs) and 300 (wins). Those milestones and others like them have always been one of the primary ways that we define the true greats of the game.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter finally concluded his quest to reach one of those milestone numbers on Saturday when he launched a home run into the Yankee stadium bleachers off Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price for the 3,000th hit of his career, becoming only the 28th player in major league history to reach that plateau.

It's a big deal. Guys like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Frank Robinson - they never made it to 3,000. It's a rarity for a reason; players have to put together a career that is productive, consistent and very, very long. Jeter is 37 and he's still one of the youngest to ever reach the milestone. It's a highlight in a career full of them.

Jeter made his big league debut in May of 1995, logging 15 games that year. In 1996, he was back to stay. He wound up winning the Rookie of the Year award, the first of many accolades. He has four Silver Slugger Awards to his credit, as well as five Gold Gloves (although there are those who would say the defensive awards are unearned). He's been in the top 15 in MVP voting nine times; he's never won, but he's got a second- and a third-place finish to his credit and probably should have won at least one. And then of course you have the ultimate hardware - five World Series rings.

Jeter certainly didn't need this milestone to lock down his spot in the Hall of Fame - he's a clear first-ballot guy with or without 3,000 hits. But it's a wonderful representation of who he is as a player. Three thousand hits might be the least glamorous of baseball's hallowed round numbers. It's a feat defined by players who show up and do their job, day in and day out, year after year.

That was Derek Jeter. He just kept showing up. He kept showing up and doing whatever it took to help his team win - and his team won a lot. Largely because of what Jeter brought to the table. Would the Yankees have those five championships without him? No. No they wouldn't.

Which leaves me having to deal with this basic truth. Derek Jeter is a great baseball player, one of the best to ever play. If he were on any other team in the league, I would like him. If he were on the Red Sox, I would love him. But he's a Yankee. So I hate him. I know it's just laundry. I don't care. I hate him.

And yet ... despite the howls of betrayal from my inner Red Sox homer, I begrudgingly tip my cap.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 December 2011 14:36

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