Thursday, July 7, 2011
George Brett: No. 3,000 is toughest hit
By Andrew Marchand
NEW YORK -- Just three hits shy of becoming the first Yankee with 3,000 hits, Derek Jeter said if anyone were to give him advice going into the final four games of the first half, it would probably be simple.
"Hurry up," Jeter said with a smile on a pregame dais as he addressed the larger-than-usual media throng for the first of four games against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium.
George Brett didn't have any advice, but the Hall of Fame third baseman, one of the 27 players in the 3,000 Hit Club Jeter is seeking to join, predicts the 3,000th hit of Jeter's career will be harder to get than the first.
"That first at-bat will be a little tough," Brett said of Thursday night's Yankees game.
"He'll get a standing ovation in anticipation," Brett said on a conference call Thursday afternoon. "But the one thing about Derek Jeter is he's been the star of that team for a long time; he's been the focal point of that team for a long, long time. As many World Series as he's played in -- there's more pressure playing in the World Series than getting three hits in a four-game series."
As for Jeter, he expects the crowd to be into it at the Stadium, comparing it to his 2,722th hit, which broke Lou Gehrig's Yankees record on Sept. 11, 2009. On that rainy Bronx night, the crowd stayed and saluted the Captain throughout the weekend.
"It was a couple of years ago when I was approaching Gehrig, the crowd was outstanding," Jeter said. "I remember the day I did it how much it rained. The fans actually stayed in the stadium and stuck around for the game. So I would anticipate it being pretty animated."
Jeter and the Yankees wanted him to reach the mark at home. They hope to get it out of the way this weekend, because the Yankees start the second half with eight games on the road.
"We are going to try to wrap this up this weekend," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Until Jeter gets to 3,000, Girardi said he is committed to keeping Jeter in the lineup. Girardi said that he could DH Jeter for one of the games this weekend. Routinely, Girardi would give Jeter one day off over a seven-day span to rest his body.
Since coming off the disabled list Monday, Jeter is 3-for-13 in three games. On the year, he is hitting .258 with two homers and 22 RBIs.
When Jeter reaches 3,000, he will become the 28th major leaguer in history to the mark. He will be the first to hit the milestone as a shortstop his entire career.
Jeter seems destined to be the fourth-youngest player in history to 3,000. Ty Cobb (34 years, 244 days), Hank Aaron (36 years, 101 days) and Robin Yount (36 years, 359) got to 3,000 quicker.
If Jeter were to get three hits on Thursday night, he would be 37 years and 11 days. Pete Rose was 37 years and 21 days when he got his 3,000th hit. Jeter said he has no current designs on 4,000, let alone Rose's record of 4,256.
"I'm trying to get these three," Jeter said.
Brett said it would probably take a couple of at-bats for Jeter's nerves to calm enough for him to get a hit.
"I think he'll really, really have to breathe and relax and not really think about it," Brett said. "Once he does that, I think he's going to be able to do it."
Five or six years ago, Jeter said, he first realized no Yankee had ever reached 3,000 hits. During spring training, he and a few of his teammates were thumbing through a media guide and came across the all-time hit list.
"We saw that no one had 3,000 hits and that was mind-boggling to me," Jeter said.
When he realized that Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig or Joe DiMaggio never reached 3,000, his first thought wasn't that he could become the first Yankee to accomplish the feat.
"I've always tried to focus on the present," Jeter said. "I try not to look too far ahead because you never know what is going to happen. You realize that you may have an opportunity if you play long enough. But I try not to look to far down the road."
Girardi thinks Jeter would like to put 3,000 behind him so he could just focus on the games and avoid having special news conferences before every series.
"Knowing Derek, I think he would like to get it over with, in a sense," Girardi said.
Jeter, who usually tries to keep everything ultra private, is being followed by an MLB and HBO production crew that is chronicling his every move. Jeter is also selling $5 bracelets for DJ3K, with $1 of each one sold going to charity.
Brett said he'd never met Jeter. If he were to congratulate New York's captain on joining the club, he'd tell him: "I admired you throughout your whole career. You've kept your nose clean in an era where it's really hard to keep your nose clean."
"I'm more impressed with the consistency he's gone out and played with," Brett said. "Obviously, it's a lot more pressure playing in New York than in any other city in the country."
Like Jeter, Brett got all his hits with one team -- with the Kansas City Royals from 1973 to 1993. He had extra pressure as he approached No. 3,000: Brett was hurt with a few games left in the 1992 season, unsure if he'd play another year.
He reached the milestone in time and added 154 more hits before retiring.
"I'm sure he has many, many more hits to come with him," Brett said of Jeter, noting his own batting title as a 37-year-old, Jeter's current age.
Brett isn't sure how many more guys will join him and Jeter in the club. Players of his era stayed in the game longer because they made less money and wanted to "continue to build that nest egg."
"Is that desire still going to be there when they're worth $250 million when they're 37 years old?" Brett said.
Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.