Well, here we go: Derek Jeter(notes) is getting the start Wednesday night in Cleveland and then he'll move the march to 3,000 back to New York for four weekend games against the Tampa Bay Rays. He's four hits away from the magical number and, if all goes right, he'll arrive at Monday's All-Star media day as the 28th member of baseball's exclusive club.
Hopefully, we can sit back and enjoy the ride.
It's actually incredible to me that I have to ask that in a headline or post, especially since I have great memories of guys like Cal Ripken, Robin Yount and George Brett making their runs. I thought a similar party for Jeter would be a foregone conclusion. But considering everyone has been so eager to paint Jeter as the worst player to ever play baseball, it seems necessary. When the man in the middle — No. 2— claims he can't even enjoy the scene, you know something's wrong. This hasn't been a proud moment for baseball or the fans who follow it.
I get why Jeter's situation is different from, say, Wade Boggs, of course. He's the first Yankee to approach the number and with the pinstripes comes an entire army predisposed to dislike you no matter what. In the world of Twitter and blogs, where snark and cynicism is king, that dissent from the proverbial "haters" has been amplified.
Maybe I'm giving too much credit to a vocal few, but there's also the fact Jeter is performing in front of a hysterical New York media that has a knack for playing a tune befitting of a fifth-place team instead of a division leader. Throw in a just-signed three-year contract for $51 million, plus a delayed bid because of an ill-timed DL visit and it's easy to see why so many people are eager to hammer away at the first chink in the armor that Jeter has ever really revealed to the public.
But c'mon: Even the worst Yankee hater has to admit that Jeter deserves a much better fanfare than the "mehs" he's been getting. ESPN's Jayson Stark put together a fantastic stats-based post, including some of the reasons exactly why we should be in celebration mode. Among them: Jeter will be among the six players to reach 3,000 the fastest, will be only the third shortstop in the club (joining Ripken and Honus Wagner), and his 10 seasons of 190+ hits. Not that we should really need any qualifiers to explain why 3,000 hits is such a great and applause-worthy achievement.
Again, I can't actually believe that we're at a place where I'm asking people to put aside their cynicism toward Derek Jeter to celebrate a career in full this weekend, not a career in decline. Maybe the tone will change as Jeter returns to New York and gets a hit or two away, but if you can't even enjoy a moment like this, I'm not sure why you're still watching baseball.
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