Jeter set to quietly make Yankees history
Derek Jeter is about to play more games than any Yankee in history, and no one seems to notice, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
When Jeter was marching toward 3,000 hits earlier this season, there could not have been more fanfare.
Daily press briefings. An HBO documentary. Great consternation when it seemed Jeter would not achieve the milestone in New York. Gifts, statues and testimonials when he finally got the hit.
Sunday — a day later than scheduled after weather postponed Saturday's doubleheader — Jeter will play his 2,402nd game, passing Mickey Mantle to become the longest-tenured Yankee ever.
Jeter knocks down a milestone weekly. In the first inning Thursday, he passed Rickey Henderson for 21st place on the all-time hit list when he tripled. Then, when he scored, he climbed into 20th place on the all-time runs list, surpassing Jimmie Foxx. Most of these benchmarks really do not mean much.
But this one matters. This one means just as much as 3,000 hits did, in so many ways.
It speaks to Jeter's ethos, the things parents tell their children they should respect and emulate in the Yankee shortstop: his desire to stay on the field and play hurt, to do his job every day, to be consistent and relentless, with the belief that good things flow from focusing on process, not result.
If you cannot do your job, they will find someone who will, and there was never a question of that with Jeter. He never had a bad year, or two. Even in his down season last year, he has always been one thing above all else, something that not even the greatest stars are: consistent.
In his categorically consistent, dry fashion, Jeter downplayed the accomplishment, denying that it has that kind of value.
"I don't know. I haven't thought about that one. I don't think you ever sit here and set your sights on a games-played record," Jeter said.
But after some prodding, he relented that, yes, there is something special to it. "I take a lot of pride in coming here and doing my job every day. If it happens, that'd be a good thing, but I don't take anything for granted, I just try to come here and play every day — that's what my job has been for a long time now," Jeter said.
He added, "Our job is to come here and play, try to stay healthy and be on the field. I've done that for a long time, so I guess that's a good thing."
The longest-tenured players in the history of the great franchises are always greats themselves: Carl Yastrzemski with the Red Sox, Mike Schmidt with the Phillies.
And more than anything else, those players are associated with their franchises. Those players embody the qualities their teams represent, their personalities becoming synonymous with the uniform.
On most of the great teams, the longest-tenured player is also the best in the history of the team. On the Yankees, that is Babe Ruth's territory.
Derek Jeter will never be as great a player as Babe Ruth, but could it be that someday, he will be looked back on as even more of a Yankee than the Babe was? Or even more of the consummate pinstriped player than Mantle, and DiMaggio?
Jeter is the ultimate professional, and his Yankees reflect that professionalism. He took a trait that was there under Mattingly, and Munson, and Mantle, and took it further. He has helped to redefine and reinforce the Yankee ideal of class. Over 17 years, and 2,402 games, these have become his Yankees in a way few, if any, of the team's stars could say before.
Read more . . .