This was not how it was supposed to be.I understand that these are not the things Jeter wanted to be talking about as he became the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits. There is no denying the significance of what he is about to do. When it's something that no Yankee--not Ruth, not Gehrig, not Mantle, not DiMaggio--has ever done, it's a big deal.
It was not long ago that Derek Jeter and 4,000 hits were spoken in the same sentence without sarcasm; a recent time when there were legitimate projections on Jeter targeting all-time hits leader Pete Rose.
So 3,000 was going to be a breeze, with the latter parts of the chase affording the baseball world — particularly the Yankees universe portion — a chance for sustained congratulations toward the player who has pretty much been the face of the game these past 15 years.
That is why this is so awkward now. This is not the expected victory lap. Instead, what has percolated around Jeter is stuff he hates. Namely negativity and attention on his inadequacies.
Jeter is a specialist at incubating himself from outside noise. But he is human. He knows his spot atop the order, his regular role as a shortstop and his skills at age 37 are now being publicly debated. Thus, for a man who likes to control his image and avoid public messiness, this pursuit has become a millstone on the way to a milestone.
“I really haven’t been talking about [3,000] a lot,” Jeter said. “I have been talking about other things. . . . It is hard to enjoy when there is a lot of negativity out there.”
“You’d like to enjoy [the milestone],” Jeter said. “It has been difficult with all the questions. I am going to try to enjoy it from now on and keep things as positive as I can.”
But does Jeter really have anyone to blame but himself for all of these questions? It's not Joel Sherman's fault that Jeter has hit a combined .266/.334/.356 over the last season and a half. He's been here for 17 seasons, he should know how the media in this town works by now. They're not going to back off of you now just because you're approaching history, even if they probably should.
If all this talk is bothering him so much, he should do what he he did last night and end the conversation by shutting up the critics (myself included). But until that happens Jeter has to expect all the negativity to continue because it's not going to go away until he makes it.