I recently had a discussion with my "Baseball Today" podcast co-host Eric Karabell and a couple of my colleagues over what I would do, as a Mets fan, if I was in the building when Derek Jeter reached the 3,000 hit mark. I got to find out on Saturday when I was an intruder, or at least a neutral observer in Yankee Stadium, one of a very few who wouldn’t be rooting for Jeter, at least not before the fact.
In the end, I settled on compromise: When the Yankees fan standing next to me on the lower level, just off to the side of home plate, extended his hand in a high-five gesture, I reached mine out to meet his. I did nothing more than that so to maintain my neutrality, at least in spirit.
This was different for me than the two times I was at Shea Stadium when Mark McGwire hit his 50th home run, and I watched ambivalent and annoyed as others stood and cheered. And why not? As his former teammate, Johnny Damon said: “Derek stands for the good stuff in baseball.”
“One of the all-time great players in the history of the game,” said Rays ace David Price.
“He went a little above and beyond today,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon.
In the world of ESPN Stats & Information, it is protocol to give a colleague a cap-tip when they provide an impressive note or an assist to others in the department. And I think the Rays realized both the impressiveness of the accomplishment and the boost that someone like Jeter represents to their department -- in this case, the game of baseball. Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman did, offering a spontaneous cap-tip of his own when Jeter passed him after hitting the home run for his 3,000th career hit.
“I felt like it was the right thing to do,” Kotchman said afterwards.
We do too.
The most interesting things seen and heard at Yankee Stadium on Saturday:
Seen: The oddest combination of jersey T-shirt backs sitting next to each other. The immortal trio of whom I wish I’d gotten a picture featured a Babe Ruth in-between Jeff Weaver and Steve Balboni.
Heard: Maddon has some novel ways of doing things when it comes to managing his Rays, and though he immediately noted he couldn’t do it in this situation, he did broach afterward the idea of playing a five-man infield once Joel Peralta got a two-strike count on Jeter, prior to Jeter’s game-winning hit. Maddon noted that Jeter’s history was such that he hit ground balls 70 percent of the time or more. “I was worried about the hole up the middle and I was worried about the hole between first and second,” Maddon said. “But you can’t be everywhere.”