This Is What Derek Jeter Did Yesterday
This is what Derek Jeter did yesterday. He woke up with 2,998 hits, an aging superstar in decline. He started a game at Yankee Stadium on a beautiful afternoon, the stadium filled to capacity with fans expecting to see history made — or perhaps better put, expecting to see Jeter make history.
On the mound he faced the Tampa Bay Rays’ David Price, one of the better pitchers in baseball. He hit a single leading off in the first inning, setting the crowd on fire. Two innings later, with no one on base and the Yankees down 1-0, in his first attempt to hit number 3,000, he worked the count full, fouled off two more pitches, and then slammed a home run into the left field stands.
He tied the game. He hit number 3,000 at home, with his first home run at Yankee Stadium since last July. He ran the bases. The crowd was hysterical. Goosebumps. Tears. Unabashed overflowing joy. At home plate, he was greeted first by Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, Jeter’s teammates for 17 consecutive years and five World Series titles.
He had faced a moment of intense pressure, an opportunity for historic heroics, and came through in the most perfect conceivable way. He thanked the crowd. He acknowledged David Price with a respectful gesture. (No pitcher wants to be the answer to this sort of future trivia question.) He pointed to his parents and girlfriend in the stands. He exulted in the moment.
The game went on.
Jeter wasn’t done. He went on to get hits in his next two at-bats, including a double. Then he watched the Yankees 8th inning setup man David Robertson — he with a paper-thin ERA of 1.27 and ice water in his veins — give up a 4-3 lead.
So with the game tied, two outs, and Eduardo Nunez on third base, Jeter came to the plate. The crowd wanted more. Four hits and a home run for 3K was not enough. The Yankees needed to win, and Jeter needed to be the man to win it. So he did. One more single, a hard ground ball up the middle, knocking in the go-ahead run.
He is no longer the best player in baseball. He is not the best player on the team. He’s not even the best shortstop in New York. But yesterday, with the entire nation’s attention upon him, he was all of that and more. He cannot do this every day. But he did it yesterday. There is no use playing the All-Star game next week. Jeter played it single-handedly.
He then tried stealing second and got caught, ending the inning. Which too was perfect, because the sooner the inning ended, the sooner the game could arrive at the inevitable: Mariano Rivera on the mound, shutting down the Rays 1-2-3. The Yankees win.
[Photo: Daniel Lucas/Flickr]