By Sweeny Murti
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The Daily Derek Jeter Drama—is it beginning to wear on you yet?
Nobody’s temperature can be taken this many times in one 600-at-bat baseball season (Mike Francesa and I discussed that aspect of Jeter’s slow start earlier this week). But that’s what we’re doing because Derek Jeter is almost 37, and coming off his worst year ever, and hitting .250 a month into the first year of a new three-year contract.
Jeter’s run to 3,000 hits is supposed to be a celebration. But it really doesn’t feel like it right now, does it? Jeter isn’t like any other aging player. The Yankees need him to be a key member of a championship team.
Of the last 10 players to collect 3000 hits, only one has played on a team with a winning record when they recorded hit #3000 (Eddie Murray on the 1995 Cleveland Indians. The other 9 players—George Brett, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken, Jr., Rickey Henderson, Rafael Palmeiro, and Craig Biggio—were on teams that averaged fewer than 74 wins per year).
Jeter is on a team that is expected to win the World Series. There have been 19 players reach 3000 hits since divisional play began in 1969, and only Murray’s ’95 Indians and Roberto Clemente’s 1972 Pittsburgh Pirates made the postseason (the Indians lost to the Braves in the World Series in 1995, the Pirates lost to the Reds in the NLCS).
The Yankees need to be better in 2011. And to this point they have been, sitting in first place despite early and length struggles by Jeter, Jorge Posada, Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher…even Alex Rodriguez.
This week in Detroit, Jeter is showing signs of life. He was 3-for-9 over the first two games, some hard outs too. After going 1-for-4 Wednesday night, he came out of the game with some right hip discomfort and is considered day to day. His batting average still sits at a mere mortal-like .250.
After Tuesday night’s game, Jeter opened up just a little bit about his first month’s struggles and his struggle to find comfort with the much-talked-about new hitting style…
These days, with the 100 at-bat benchmark just past, Joe Girardi is being asked a lot of questions about Jeter. While answering hypothetical questions Wednesday about moving Jeter down in the batting order, Girardi stood by the Yankee Captain…
Meanwhile, Girardi knows that measuring the Jeter Meter for fans and media has now become part of his daily routine as manager…
We know that Jeter has been in the New York spotlight since he was 21 years old. But this is taking on a new direction. This is the Truman Show. This show is on all the time and no one is turning it off.
Brian Cashman has said many times the Yankees play 162 one-game seasons, referring to how much importance is placed on each game by the public, each win or loss shifting the balance of how people feel about this team. Well think about Jeter’s year in those terms. He is currently playing 600 one-at-bat seasons.
Unless Jeter goes on a little tear here that lifts his average at least north of .275, this could be a yearlong exercise. To me, that’s the magic number. He can maintain a peaceful existence if he can stay over .275. But if he lives anywhere below the .270 mark he hit last year, the Jeter Show is going to be both hard to watch and impossible to take your eyes off at the same time.
We all know that Jeter can’t be forever young. So does he. But if the Yankees are going to be contending for a World Series championship this year, and the next two years after that, he will need to hold off time just a little longer.
What do you make of the daily Jeter drama? Let Sweeny know in the comments below…