Many words were used to described Derek Jeter’s performance on Saturday. Most of them were attempting to get across a feeling of amazement.
It was “unbelievable” and “astonishing”. A“fairytale” and then “more than a fairytale”, a “Hollywood script” and then “something even Hollywood wouldn’t dare script”.
Jeter started the day with a single to record his 2,999th career hit in the Majors, then made it to 3,000 on a home run before finishing the day 5-for-5, with his final hit driving in what became the game-winning run. It was an incredible day.
But it wasn’t “unbelievable” to me, or any of the other similar descriptions attached to it. It was exactly the sort of thing you could believe Jeter would do; the sort of thing he’s done time and again throughout his career.
While watching the game live on ESPN America, part-way through his historic at-bat I was thinking to myself: “I bet he hits a home run here”. I wasn’t alone. The YES Network announcers stated later in their broadcast that a member of their team had done the same thing. During the Braves-Phillies game a little later in the afternoon, FOX announcer Kenny Albert said that his colleague Eric Karros had called it too.
A precedent had already been set for doing it. Wade Boggs got his 3,000th hit with a home run, coincidentally in the uniform of the team that Jeter got his 3,000th hit against (the Tampa Bay Rays).
Similarly, having a multi-hit day to mark the occasion wasn’t unusual either. The last person prior to Jeter to reach 3,000 did it too. The Houston Astros’ Craig Biggio went 5-for-6 on 28 June 2007 (his third hit on the day got him to 3,000).
He also matched, in fact probably surpassed, Jeter’s game-winning input that day. The Astros trailed the Colorado Rockies by 5-4 with two outs in the bottom of the eleventh inning when Biggio got a single to keep the game alive. Carlos Lee ended up hitting a walk-off Grand Slam to cap one of the more spectacular regular season games in recent memory.
Putting those achievements alongside Jeter’s, you can take a methodical approach to what happened and find a rational explanation for it all.
There’s a one-in-four chance that a 3,000th hit will be a homer. Additionally, at 2,999 you must just want to get any hit you can and hitters often say that it’s when they’re not pressing to hit a long ball that they come along. As for the multi-hit day, Jeter’s confidence must have been at its height after that second hit went over the wall and for the first time in a while, he could go up to the plate completely relaxed.
But what use are rational explanations when you’re watching history being made? We all get wrapped up in the emotion and marvel at every detail, right down to the fact that the second hit for Jeter (#2 on his back) came at 2 p.m. local time. That’s part of the magic of sport.
You can be rational about it, or you can simply say it was ‘typical Jeter’ and leave it at that.
It was an exciting Saturday evening of baseball on ESPN America. In the Braves-Phillies game, Cliff Lee and Tommy Hanson put on an excellent exhibition of pitching. With the game scoreless, Lee decided to help his own cause even further and hit the first home run of his career, much to the delight of all connected to the Phillies. Lee stated when he re-joined Philadelphia that he liked being able to hit in the National League and said it made him feel like more of a baseball player. Mark it down as another example in the case for scrapping the Designated Hitter rule.
What added to the enjoyment of Lee’s home run was that it was called on FOX by Braves’ pitcher Jair Jurrjens, who was being interviewed at the time. Despite his initial anguish at seeing the ball fly into the air, he was suitably impressed and referred back to his rotation-mate Tim Hudson’s longball earlier this season. Jurrjens stated that there’s a good-natured competition between the Braves’ starters when it comes to hitting. Don’t be surprised if Jurrjens starts putting some more work in at the batting cage to join in with the fun.
Jurrjens was being interviewed as a preview to the All-Star game, in which he may well be the National League’s starting pitcher. It’s a shame that we’ve seen a series of players pull out of the game due to injury concerns over the last few days, including Mr 3,000 Derek Jeter. However, each withdrawal creates an opportunity for someone else and I was particularly pleased to read that Andrew McCutchen has now been added to the NL’s roster. He fully deserved a spot in the first place.
McCutchen and the rest of the Pittsburgh Pirates have been one of the best stories of the first half of this season. It’s been a long time since the Pirates were looking ahead to the trading deadline and considering whether to add a player or two, rather than simply shipping out any established players that they could get a return on. Their victory over the Cubs on Friday night epitomized the spirit and optimism surrounding the team; a stark contrast to the recent years of despair and disillusionment.
Listening to and watching the reaction to Michael McKenry’s home run can’t help but bring a smile to the face of any non-Cubs fans.