Derek Jeter: Achieving Yankees Immortality

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Derek Jeter: Achieving Yankees Immortality
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Derek Jeter, the skinny shortstop from Kalamazoo, made his New York Yankees debut in Seattle on May 29, 1994.

In that game at the Kingdome, Jeter went 0-for-5 and celebrated his major league debut at a local McDonald's afterwards.

2,721 hits and 14 seasons later, Derek Jeter has tied the Yankees franchise hit record held by a previous captain, Lou Gehrig. It has been a long journey for Derek Jeter to get where he is at right now and he should be applauded for the great career that he has had in the majors.

The Yankees shortstop got his first hit in his seventh career at-bat when he was able to get the ball through the hole between the Seattle shortstop and third baseman.

The hit came off of the Mariners' Tim Belcher. The ball was removed from the game and Jeter has kept it for memories ever since.

Jeter made a great impression on Yankees fans when he was called up after an injury to the Yankees shortstop, Tony Fernandez. Jeter had to compete with Robert Eenhoorn for the shortstop job for the Yankees as they both were called up to make up for Fernandez's absence.

The Yankees named Jeter their official shortstop in 1996 when Joe Torre became the Yankees manager. Since then he has not let his job go and has compiled statistics that could have him voted into the Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible.

 

The Early Years (1996-2000)

In 1996, Derek Jeter began his playoff legacy with the Yankees in the ALCS. He will always be remembered for hitting his first playoff home run with the help of a 12-year-old.

In the eighth inning of the first game of the ALCS the Yankees were trailing the Orioles by one run. Jeter hit a long fly ball to the right field stands where it looked as if right-fielder Tony Tarasco would make the catch for the out.

That is until, Jeffrey Maier reached his glove over the wall and robbed the ball from Tarasco, and it was ruled a home run even after the play was protested.

1997 and 1998 were both great years for Jeter at the plate. He was a backbone of the early Yankees dynasty and helped New York win the World Series in '96, '98, and '99. This was the beginning of Jeter's postseason dominance.

After re-signing with the Yankees in the 1999-2000 off-season to a one-year deal, Jeter returned to business and hit 15 home runs, drove in 73 runs, and stole 22 bases.

He was voted into the 2000 All-Star Game, where he won MVP honors.

He carried the Yankees down the stretch, and in the playoffs led them to the first Subway Series since 1956. In the series against the Mets he batted .409, with two homers, two doubles, and a triple.

The First Signs of a Leader (2001-2007)

Before the 2001 season the New York Yankees decided that they wanted to keep Jeter in pinstripes and signed him to a 10-year deal worth $189 million.

With that deal he became the second highest paid player in baseball, after future Yankee Alex Rodriguez.

During the regular season, Jeter posted good numbers and helped the Yankees reach the playoffs. This was the year of the 2001 terrorist attacks and the Yankee shortstop helped represent and show how strong New York stood.

Off of the field he helped comfort families with those that had loved ones missing. Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, and other players met with several of the firefighters and policemen that helped during 9/11.

Their main goal was to try to help these brave men and women take a moment off from their hectic jobs and relax for a few moments. Jeter also helped his team in light of the tragic events that were happening around them.

One of the biggest moments of the 2001 playoffs for the Yankees was Game Three of the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics. Late in that game, Jeremy Giambi was on first base and Terrence Long was at the plate.

Long hit a pitch from Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina into the right field corner and it looked like Giambi would be safe at home. The throw from the right fielder missed the cutoff man. So Derek Jeter left his spot at short to retrieve the ball and flip it to catcher Jorge Posada just in time to get Giambi out.

The Yankees went on to win that game and make it to the World Series.

The stage was set for the Yankees in the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Yankees over the course of the playoffs had become America's team to root for. They were from New York and showed a lot of strength and courage every time they stepped on the field after 9/11.

Jeter created another moment that will always be remembered by fans around the world. Game four of the World Series was played on October 31, 2001 and carried on through November 1. 

Jeter was at the plate when the scoreboard read "Attention Fans, Welcome to NOVEMBER BASEBALL." Moments later Derek Jeter nailed the pitch from Arizona pitcher B.H. Kim. He had become Mr. November.

The Yankees lost the 2001 World Series in seven games. Many baseball critics have called the night when the Yankees lost game seven as the last night of the Yankees dynasty.

2002 was another good year from Jeter. The Yankees won the American League East and made the playoffs, but they did not make it to the World Series.

In 2003 the Bronx Bombers went back to work focusing on reaching the World Series after a one year absence. In the middle of that season the Yankees named Jeter the 11th captain in the franchise's history.

He was the first captain since Don Mattingly retired in 1995.

The newly appointed captain helped the Yankees win yet another American League East Division title and led them to the World Series against the Marlins. The Yankees entered that World Series with their heads held high after Aaron Boone lifted them over the Red Sox in a seven game series in a grand walk-off fashion.

The Yankees' luck ran out and they could not beat the young Florida Marlins.

The beginning of the 2004 season was a very rough one for Jeter. Some of his slack was picked up by the newest Yankee that season, Alex Rodriguez.

After the All-Star break the Yankees captain was able to straighten out his early problems and finish the season on a good note.

The 2004 playoffs, specifically the 2004 ALCS, is one that Yankee fans will try to forget. Even though the Yankees lost that series to the hated Red Sox, Jeter did have one great play against them that season.

On July 1, 2004, the Red Sox had a runner on second and third with two outs. It had been a long game and in the 12th inning Red Sox hitter Trot Nixon hit a pop fly near the third base seats.

And who was there to get the ball for the out? No one better than "Captain Clutch," Derek Jeter himself.

He sprinted out of his position and dove into the third-base seats and made the incredible play. The play became famously known as "The Dive." It was voted as the Play of the Year in 2004 for mlb.com.

It was important because it would motivate the Yankees, who eventually won the game in the bottom of the 13th inning.  

The next year would be another great year defensively as Jeter would win his second consecutive Gold Glove, after winning it in 2004 also.

At the end of Jeter's career he could look back and see that 2006 might have been his strongest season. The Yankees shortstop was the favorite to win the MVP award in '06, but at the last minute baseball writers voted Justin Morneau the Most Valuable Player in the A.L.

Fans of the Bronx Bombers might say that was the season their captain was robbed.

The highlight of the 2007 season for Jeter was tying Lou Gegrig in having six consecutive seasons with 200 hits or more. For the first time in his career, critics started to point out the decline of Jeter's defensive talent.

Derek Jeter started to add his name to the record books in 2008. It was definitely a season to remember.

 

The Year to Remember—2008

The year 2008 was probably one of the most awaited seasons in the history of the New York Yankees franchise.

There were many things to look forward to in the season: The 2008 All-Star Game, The Final Season at Yankee Stadium, The Chase for Most Hits at Yankee Stadium, and possibly the closing of the doors with a World Series win.

Jeter participated in most of these events. He was voted into his ninth All-Star Game. He addressed the fans after the last game at the Original House That Ruth Built with a very great speech thanking them for their support.

Unfortunately there would be no baseball in the fall for the Yankees for the first time in 13 years. 

Towards the beginning of the season Derek Jeter had been injured and there were questions surrounding whether he would be able to recover from the injury with enough time to compile enough hits to break the Stadium record.

The Captain admitted that he was more concerned about winning as a team. He said it would be nice to break it but if it didn't happen he was alright with that.

On September 18, 2008, Jeter tied Lou Gehrig's record with a home run off of Tampa Bay Rays rookie sensation, David Price.

Two days later, he shattered Lou Gehrig's record with a single past the third base man. Another record to Derek Jeter's resume.

 

The Inaugural Season (2009)

After playing most of his career at the old Yankee Stadium, Jeter and the entire Yankees roster had to adjust to a new Yankee Stadium. Manager Joe Girardi made a swap in the line-up and had Jeter leading off and Johnny Damon batting second.

Jeter was very familiar with leading off. So the change was not something that he had to adjust to.

The Yankees got off to a slow start in 2009, but after the all-star break they picked up their slack. As of September 9, 2009 the Yankees are the best team in baseball with a 90-50 record.

They have a nine game lead over the Boston Red Sox and their magic number is at 15.

Jeter added his name to another record by breaking the all-time hits record by a shortstop on August 16, 2009. It was his 2,675th hit as a shortstop.

 

What's next after 2009?

Derek Jeter is eligible for free agency after the 2010 season, but it's hard to imagine him playing in another team's uniform. Chances are that Jeter will sign his final contract, possibly four to five years.

After playing baseball, Jeter could be back in the Bronx as a coach. That could always be a possibility. One thing is for sure, five years after retiring Derek Jeter will make the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Congratulations Derek Jeter on breaking the Yankees franchise hit record! Congratulations on a great career, and lets finish it off on a great note in the next few years to come!

 

 

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