2011-07-13 / Editorials

‘Captain 3,000’ Sets Standard For All

Last Saturday, July 9, 2011, Derek Sanderson Jeter, the 37-year-old shortstop and team captain of the New York Yankees, became the first Yankee player to make his 3,000th hit. (Of the 27 other players to hit 3,000 before Jeter became number 28, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Paul Waner and Dave Winfield each reached the goal either before or after leaving the Yankee dugout for other teams.) Hit number 3,000 put Jeter in a tie with Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame right fielder Roberto Clemente for 27th on the alltime hits list, followed by Al Kaline at number 26. Worth noting, but sadly, unlikely to make its way into the history books is the Tampa Bay team’s reaction to his feat: some of the Devil Rays came out of the dugout to cheer Jeter and most of the team applauded him. Jeter, meanwhile acknowledged Tampa Bay lefthander David Price for pitching a breaking ball somewhere around the height of the 6-foot, three-inch Jeter’s knees that Jeter sent flying into the left field seats for hit number 3,000. Jeter earlier grounded a single off Price through the left side of the infield to lead off the game in the first inning with hit number 2,999.

“Captain Clutch” did not rest on his laurels after tying the score at one in the third inning with hit number 3,000. In the fifth inning on his third at-bat, Jeter sent the first pitch from Price into the gap in leftcenter for a double and for hit number 3,001, and came home to tie the score again, 3-3, on an RBI single by Curtis Granderson. An inning later, a two-out single to right had him making it 4-for-4 against Price. Hit number 3,003, a goahead single through the middle in the eighth inning, scored Eduardo Nuñez from third and helped put the game away for the Yankees’ 5-4 win over Tampa Bay.

Jeter has never aspired to anything but Yankee pinstripes since he was drafted by the team in the first round (sixth pick) of the 1992 amateur draft and signed on June 27, 1992. After almost three years in the Yankee farm club system, he made his Major League debut on May 29, 1995 and is signed with the Yankees through 2013. Whether or not he will opt for free agency in 2014 remains to be seen, but at this moment we would strongly tend to doubt it. We feel confident in saying that his $51 million contract is not his sole or strongest tie to The Bronx Bombers. The Yankees are the only team Jeter has ever wanted to play for, and his loyalty to the team is without question.

The Yankee captain is an exception to much of professional sports and, indeed, many other areas of endeavor. Players sign with a team, amass whatever statistics will make them look good and, more important, attract the highest bids from other teams, and as soon as their contracts are up, head out the door. The same is sadly true for many other occupations. So-called “Young Turks”, some with their MBAs proudly tucked under their arms, join a company, bring down the chandeliers and as soon as they decently can (sometimes sooner), allow themselves to be wooed away. Loyalty to the organization that first gave them a chance to show what they could do is nonexistent.

It is a sad commentary on human nature that the likes of Derek Jeter are apparently the exception, rather than the rule, and not only in professional sports. We would hope that even in this present economy, the idea that those who gave us a helping hand on the ladder of success deserve more than a desultory wave goodbye as we head for greener pastures. Derek Jeter is more than simply an outstanding ballplayer. Other sports figures and, indeed, the rest of us who take an interest in his career for whatever reason, could do far worse than follow his example.

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