Derek Jeter has joined an elite group, earning his 3,000th hit on Saturday against Tampa Bay pitcher David Price. Jeter becomes the first Yankee to reach the exclusive group, reaching this milestone on a home run in the third inning.
Prior to the Steroid Era, 3,000 hits was a certainty for Hall of Fame status. It was a no-brainer. Of the 28 players who have reached that milestone, only one eligible player, Rafael Palmeiro, has not been enshrined. It is a milestone of monumental proportions, and has been since the 1800s. It is a mark of both skill and longevity, two attributes that Hall of Fame enshrinement holds dear.
And now we welcome Derek Jeter as the 28th member to the club.
Jeter made his major league debut on May 29, 1995 hitting ninth against the Seattle Mariners. He went 0-5 in a 12-inning Yankees’ loss. The next night after striking out looking, he singled off the mariners’ Tim Belcher through the hole between short and third for the first hit of his career.
The 12-time All-Star shortstop and captain of the Yankees has been much maligned in recent years. His production is declining. His defense is declining. And yet, he has stubbornly held onto the notion that he is the Yankees’ shortstop and appears unwilling to entertain the idea of changing positions, even it would be in the best interest of the team.
Believe what you want about Jeter and whether his blessing of having a career in New York has been more responsible for his legacy than actual production, but from my perspective, Jeter has proven to be a Hall of Fame caliber baseball player. Sure, the Yankees’ roster has been oozing with talent during his tenure in New York, but the 17-year shortstop has been at the center of some of the greatest teams of the last 20 years.
Some players would suggest that playing in New York is more of a curse than a blessing. The pressure to perform at high levels again and again has broken many a talented baseball player. Yet, Jeter has embraced the challenge and instilled a confidence in teammates, management and fans that the has kept the Yankees among baseball’s elite since his Rookie of the Year season of 1996.
With his 3,000th hit today, Jeter become just the 10th player to amass 3,000 hits while playing for just one franchise his entire career.
He is the only Yankee to achieve this milestone, and the Yanks have been known to have some pretty fair hitters. No player before Jeter has gotten their 3,000th hit in Yankee pinstripes.
The 37-year-old shortstop may not be deserving of All-Star status in 2011, but he deserves a lifetime achievement award simply known as the 3,000-Hit Club.