Yankees

Sweeny: Hits Record? Derek Jeter’s Slim Chance To Catch Pete Rose Is Gone

Derek Jeter (credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images), Pete Rose (credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Derek Jeter (credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images), Pete Rose (credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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By Sweeny Murti
» More Columns

In the days since we learned Derek Jeter will miss at least half this season, one thing has become clear: any slim chance that Jeter had to catch Pete Rose on the all-time hits list is gone.

It was a long shot to begin with.  Jeter has never wanted to touch the subject of any hit beyond his next one, but would admit on occasion that he’d have to get to 4,000 before entertaining a thought of reaching Rose’s career mark of 4,256.  Jeter doesn’t seem the type who would be willing to play part-time into his mid-40s just to catch a personal record, lacking that singular focus Rose had to catch Ty Cobb.

Anyway, Jeter ended last season with 3,304 hits.  And there he will sit until at least the All-Star break.   Only five players in history have ever reached 3,500, and he is still 196 hits away from that.  Jeter is 326 hits away from Stan Musial (3,630) and 467 from Hank Aaron (3,771).  That, by the way, is three seasons of work, which—if he got there—would leave him 42 years old and another 485 hits (or three more full seasons) from Rose.  Altogether, Jeter is currently 952 away from The Hit King.

We all would like to see Jeter fully recovered and healthy enough to make his own decision on when it’s time to stop playing.  But his body has a lot to say about that, and even with the expectation that he will play this year, we no longer know what kind of performance to expect from him.

It was nice to think about, but it’s a safe bet that Pete Rose will remain the all-time hits leader.  Now you know what Rose meant when he said the first 3,000 were the easy ones.

A few other thoughts:

–The Yankees really miss Jeter against left-handed pitching.  Although the Yanks have managed to win three of the five games that lefties have started against them, it’s not because they are piling up offensive numbers.  As a team they are batting just .210 vs. lefties.

As this season goes on, I believe the Yankees are more vulnerable to lefty pitching than in years past.  That’s mostly because of their lack of switch-hitters.  Over the past 20 years they’ve had any combination of Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira.  Throw in guys like Chili Davis, Melky Cabrera and Ruben Sierra, and the Yankees did not lack for double-sided punch in their lineup.

Now with Teixeira down, the Yankees are lacking that ability to tackle the tough lefties as well as they used to.  He is due back relatively soon, but will still be the sole switch-hitter in a lineup that used to be chock full of them.  And being without Jeter doesn’t help either.

Over his career Jeter is a .338 hitter against left-handed pitching.  He batted .364 against southpaws last year, .349 in 2011, .321 in 2010, and a ridiculous .395 in 2009.  Just another area where Jeter has been vital to the success of the Yankees.

– A few days ago, Mariano Rivera spoke of Jeter’s leadership qualities.  That burden has fallen on some guys who are certainly veteran players, and no doubt respected players.  But can guys who’ve worn the Yankee uniform for less than a month really be considered leaders?  They are certainly acting like it, and among them are Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis.

This is what Wells told me about accepting a leadership role here so early in his pinstriped tenure:

This season will certainly hit a few bumps in the road, and maybe again very soon.  When it does, the leadership will be tested.  While core guys like Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera (and an established natural leader like CC Sabathia) can have a big impact, I believe there is still a need for an everyday player to take on that role the way Jeter has.

It would be nice to see Robinson Cano take on that responsibility, but he has never seemed to have the right personality for that role.  If Wells and Youkilis continue to play well, they can have a big impact on and off the field in 2013.

Follow Sweeny Murti on Twitter @YankeesWFAN.

Do you still hold out hope that No. 2 could eventually top Rose’s record? Be heard in the comments…