Hate him or love him, hate his team or love his team, Derek Jeter has reached 3,000 hits.
But, it’s not that special.
Since 1996, Jeter has played for only one team ‘” the New York Yankees. It’s not like he grinded out some years in Montreal Expos uniforms to start his career. He played for a team that made it back to the playoffs, reasserted its domination over baseball, and catapulted itself back into the hatred of opposition.
Usually, players want to play for the Yankees, suit up in pinstripes, and cash that big paycheck. It makes the New York media worth it when there is a decent promise of a ring on the other end of the ink.
So, maybe playing a career with the Yankees isn’t as much of an accomplishment as playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates for the past 17 seasons.
Or, maybe it is?
There’s a level of caliber expected of a Yankee, especially during these past decades. Players like Bernie Williams and Don Mattingly retired having played their entire professional careers with the club. They retired when some other teams, mediocre teams, would have paid more than market value for the skill left.
Instead, they retired with respect for a team that wants the best.
Jeter has played his entire career with the Yankees at arguably the most demanding position on the field. He has performed well, too, playing 145+ games in all but two of the seasons ‘” 1995 and 2003. He might not reach that mark this year.
Jeter is so ingrained into the essence of a Yankee that New York street cleaners would be busy if Jeter finished a season anywhere else but in New York.
He has played every inning of his fielding career at shortstop, hit leadoff most of that time, and performed with enough consistency over the years to remain one of the best in the game for most of his career.
How many others can stake claim to that?
Other accomplishments can be thrown in, too. 12 All-Star selections, 5 World Series championships, 5 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Slugger awards, AL Rookie of the Year award in 1996, and MVP of the 2000 All-Star game and World Series.
But never a regular season MVP.
It would seem implausible that the man who so many have loved and hated for so long has never won the MVP award. The man who has been the centerpiece of the Yankees since his rookie year, captained his team since 2003, hit above .330 four of those seasons, and recorded seven seasons with 200+ hits, has never won an MVP award.
Why? Probably because he never was much of a power guy. His best year was 1999 when he hit 24, the same year he had his best RBI total at 101. The Yankees have spent well over $20 million a year for a player who has hit less HRs than Jose Bautista has recorded in 2010 and the first half of 2011.
By the way, Bautista is earning less for the past season and half than what Jeter earned by June of this year.
Still, it’s easy to understand the hatred of the Yankees. Some of the theatrics of his plays, and some of the over dramatization of his heroics and his effort could be questioned.
But, it is also easy to become objectionable, remove bias, and understand everything Jeter has been for the Yankees and for the game of baseball. He has avoided speculation and suspicion of steroid usage, and most likely has never used them.
He has accomplished so much that if it were attributed to almost any other player on any other team everyone would sing praises about the purity that he brought to the game and how baseball needed more players like him.
Hate him or love him, hate his team or love his team, Derek Jeter has reached 3,000 hits and deserves to be recognized ‘” even if it isn’t his greatest accomplishment.