Saturday, July 09, 2011

Jeter Hits 3,000 + FIFA Women's Soccer World Cup 2011

Suzy Allman for The New York Times
Only a month ago New York Yankees shortstop, captain and longtime star Derek Jeter was maintaining that 3000 hits were "still too far away." At 37 years of age and in the league since 1995, only a year before the Yankees began their late 1990s string of World Series victories (1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000, before they won another in 2009), in all of which he played a vital role, Jeter has faced criticism over the last few years for his faltering bat, but it has been clear even to any casual observer that though he might be at the end of his storied career, he still was going to reach what would only be a major professional milestone and put him the top rank of legends of one of one of baseball's most legendary teams. And today, at Yankee Stadium, he did it, with a home run, becoming only the 28th player ever to reach 3,000 career hits, the second player ever to do so with a home run (former Yankees Wade Boggs, also mostly a singles hitter, was the other), and the first Yankee (amazingly, at least to me), to reach this mark.

The third-inning homer, off a full-count curveball from Tampa Bay Rays lefthander David Price, one of the better pitchers in the American League, was one of five hits Jeter posted in the game, which the Yankees won 5-4, and his performance in the game exemplified how special and exceptional he has always been, despite playing in the shadow at times of far more heralded teammates like Roger Clemens and Álex Rodríguez, both of whom seemed destined for the Hall of Fame before revelations of steroid use, denied in Clemens and admitted in Rodríguez's, have likely derailed their chances. I tend to cast no blame on these or any other roided players but rather on Major League Baseball itself, since it and its teams made billions off these chemically-enhanced stars and looked away in the process for decades, only to turn on them when the secret got out, but I think it's fair to say that however one judges steroid use, Jeter has never been accused of doing so, and has, from his rookie year on, appeared to make the best use of his skills and talents, not only as a player but as a team leader.

It's difficult to imagine the Yankees' teams, great as many have been over the last 17 years and loaded with stars (from Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera to Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon and C. C. Sabathia) and superb supporting players, without him and his quiet determination and resolve.  The Pequannock, New Jersey native has never been flashy, never been a showboat, never been anything but a cornerstone, to use an old and perhaps inadequate metaphor, around which which the Yankees' success for a decade and a half has risen. His teammates greeting him at home plate recognize this as readily as Yankee and baseball fans across the league have since he started. The 1996 Rookie of the Year has a lifetime .313 batting average, has scored 1727 runs (with more to come) and, despite never being a power hitter, driven in 1159, and has 481 doubles and 4,319 total bases, an .833 OPS, and a .383 on-base percentage, all testimonies to Jeter's excellence.  Now that he's crossed 3,000 hit mark, I hope he realizes that he can exit his playing career at the summit. He proved that yesterday, and has nothing left to answer for; his plaque has already been awaiting him in Cooperstown.

New York Times graphic on Jeter's 3,000 hits, and his 27 predecessors (from Cap Anson to Craig Biggio).

Jeter's 3,000th hit:


The FIFA Women's Soccer World Cup has been underway since June 26, and enters the quarterfinal stage this weekend. 16 teams have played in four groups, with the USA team in Group C, with Sweden, North Korea, and Colombia. The USA women finished their group play with a 2-1-0 record, good enough to make it to the quarterfinal round, and just short of Sweden's 3-0-0 tally. The top teams in the other groups have been Germany 3-0-0 (Group A), England 2-0-1 (Group B), and Brazil 3-0-0 (Group D), and as of this past Wednesday, the quarterfinal matchups will pair England and France (2-1-0 also), Germany and Japan (2-1-0), Australia (2-1-0) and Sweden, and Brazil and the USA.

I would be telling a huge tale if I said I was at all familiar with any of these teams, let alone the USA women, but based on their play it's clear that they're as talented at controlling the field and scoring as some of their World Cup predecessors.  In 3 games they've scored 6 goals so far against 2 allowed, with all six goals coming from different players (Lauren Cheney, Rachel Buehler, Heather O'Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and Abby Wambach), and outstanding goaltending in Hope Solo.  Brazil is one of the tournament favorites--big surprise!--but the US team has surprised more than once in the lead-up to the tournament, so Sunday's matchup should be a great one. If they do get past Brazil, they still will have their feet busy against at least one of the other championship contenders Germany or Sweden.  Can they win?  I don't know.  Will it be a game to watch? Definitely.

Heather O'Reilly of US team, vs. Colombia, World Cup 2011 (FIFA via Getty Images)

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