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New York Yankees Finally Get a Member of the 3,000 Hit Club

Posted on July 09, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Derek Jeter is only the 28th player in baseball history to reach 3,000 career hits.

Given how much money they have spent to acquire the best players from across baseball over the last century, it is ironic that the first player to reach 3,000 hits as a member of the New York Yankees has spent his entire career in Yankee pinstripes.

It didn’t take Derek Jeter long after coming off the disabled list last Monday to get the last six hits needed to reach the prestigious milestone. With a home run in the third inning Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays (part of a 5-hit day that also included the game-winning RBI), Jeter became the first player to reach 3,000 hits since Craig Biggio in 2007 and joined Wade Boggs as the only players to hit a home run to reach the plateau.

It is likely that the next player to reach 3,000 hits will also be a Yankee as Alex Rodriguez is within reach at 2,762 career hits. Though a pair of future Hall of Famers, Ivan Rodriguez (2,842 hits) and Omar Vizquel (2,831) are currently ahead of A-Rod, both are nearing the end of their careers and seem unlikely to stick around long enough to join the club.

Now that he has become the 28th player in baseball history to reach this milestone, it is interesting to analyze where Jeter stands in the pantheon of Yankee and all-time greats.

Even before he reached 3,000 hits, Jeter was already a sure Hall of Famer and will certainly go down as one of the best shortstops of all-time. He didn’t have quite the power of Cal Ripken, Jr. or A-Rod or the defensive skills of Ozzie Smith, but Jeter is perhaps the most well-rounded shortstop to play the game in the last 50 years.

He joins Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Paul Molitor as the only players in baseball history with 3,000 hits, 1,700 runs scored, 200 home runs, 1,100 RBI, 300 stolen bases and a .300+ career batting average. He also is a five-time Gold Glove winner.

Though he has been great in the regular season throughout his career, Jeter has been even better in the postseason. He is the career leader in hits with 185 in 30 postseason series. He has hit .400 or higher in a series 10 times in his career and has a postseason career average of .309 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI.

While he still needs a couple more rings to match Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto, Jeter is unquestionably the best shortstop in franchise history and will go down as the most important Yankee of his generation. (Check out this article from the Hall of Very Good about Jeter and his great career).

Jeter will one day have a monument among the New York Yankee legends.

Among all-time Yankee greats, it may seem strange to think about it now, but it is likely that in 30 years Jeter will hold the same level of esteem in Yankee history as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and the other all-time greats in franchise history.

What is currently difficult to deal with regarding Jeter is that for the last year and a half he has not played at the same Hall of Fame level. He hit a career-low .270 in 2010 and so far in 2011 has an even lower average (.257) with only three home runs and 24 RBI in 67 games.

It took the threat that he could reach 3,000 hits and end his career somewhere else for the Yankees to give him a three-year, $51 million contract following the 2010 campaign.

But even the new contract hasn’t stopped discussions this season as to whether it is time for the 37-year-old Jeter to ride off into the sunset. With Jose Reyes potentially available as a free agent after the season, some believe the front office should turn the page and bring in the 28-year-old to become the Yankees shortstop for the next decade.

One of the things that has made Jeter so good throughout his career is his pride and determination. There is no question that he is more frustrated with how he has performed over the last season and a half than any Yankee fan.

However, like all superstar athletes, there will come a time when he must put aside his self-pride and realize that he is no longer one of the elite players in baseball. This moment typically leads to one of two outcomes.

Jeter can either step aside gracefully and spend his final years as a part-time player receiving accolades while making his final visits to stadiums across the league (similar to Cal Ripken or George Brett) or he can refuse to believe he is no longer capable of being a full-time starter and force the Yankees into an uncomfortable decision that could damage his reputation and relationship with the team and fans (call it doing a Favre).

When that moment arrives (whether after this season or in the next couple years), hopefully Jeter, manager Joe Girardi and the New York management will work together to keep the ending of Jeter’s career a positive for the player and organization.

After a career of magical moments, anything less would be a huge disappointment.

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