He did it. He tied one of the best ballplayers that ever lived. A legend, an idol, a hero. Derek Jeter is in lockstep with all of that, having broken out of the longest slump of the season (0-12) to knock in 3 hits tonight.
Those in attendance at Yankee Stadium got their money’s worth. Because even watching it on tv, I was admittedly blinking back tears. Very little else moves me quite like the feeling of pride in being a Yankee fan. The Tampa Bay dugout knew what they were in the presence of, as well as anyone. The 45,848 at the stadium standing and cheering...they all felt it, too. You could just tell by their reluctance to stop applauding.
It was humbling and inspiring and, if possible, made me that much more enraptured with this team. Every time they take the field, their fans are witnessing a genesis of heroes.
We talk about Mantle, Ruth, Dimaggio...but I've never seen them play. And I can only extrapolate from printed documentation the extent of their greatness. But now someday I'll be telling my kids about Derek Jeter. That thought is almost too big for me to wrap my head around. God, I love this team.
And so I'd be remiss in not reviewing the rest of the night...
- It's official. The 8th inning is poison to the Rays.
- It's also official that Joba Chamberlain is not someone I want holding the ball in any inning prior to the 6th or 7th. 3 IP, 3 hits, 3 Ks...2 runs. It's sad to think about how electric and UNHITTABLE this guy was 2 years ago. His ERA was anemic, his fastball blistering, his slider splintering. And now? Well, suffice to say I received the following text at 1:04 today: "Does it bother you at all knowing the yanks are gonna lose when joba starts now?" Later on, another text from the same guy: "They ruined this guy."
- The Ray are playing like the Mets. It's pathetic, really. They have some of the best players in the AL, and they're fumbling around like someone shook them awake at 6am and said, "Hey! Yeah, wake up! It's time to play baseball." Everything's one step behind, out of focus, and stilted. Way to go, Baddon. What's with the sweater, by the way? We got it. You've checked out. Tomorrow he'll be ringing a bell and wearing his "Done with 09" sandwich-board.
- Jason Bartlett homered for the second game in a row, and it's gotta be tough on him. Same goes for Carl Crawford, who scored the only other run of the game. And their entire pitching staff, actually (Nice game by rookie Jeff Niemann.) But none had a rougher night than Chris Richard, whose throwing error in the 8th allowed Alex Rodriguez to score, and whose ill-advised positioning at first allowed Jeter's record tying hit to whiz by him.
- Back to Jeter. He laid down a bunt in the 1st (great move) to shake off the slump. Then a ground rule double for hit #2. And lo and behold, his record breaking shot was a "CLASSIC JETERIAN SHOT!" Suzyn Waldman may or may not have gone into cardiac arrest.
- After his "CJS," his reactions were sublimely ideal, and indicative of the class he brings to the game. Regarding his 2 minute ovation: "I really didn't know what to do because we were losing at the time and I didn't want to disrespect Tampa," Jeter said. "I never dreamt about all of this." (Ok, I'm calling BS on the second part of his statement, but he gets a bit of latitude here.) I got a bit of a kick out of how awkward he looked during the ovation, trying to get all back into position as if the game was going to resume any second. Kind of like how you feel when everyone's singing Happy Birthday to you. What do you do? Sit there and try to look excited? It's a long freaking song, too.
- Now's as good a time as any for me to learn how to spell Jonathan Albaladejo's name. My dad never learns the names of the guys his daughters bring home because he knows they're gone once Opening Day rolls around. I've applied the same logic to learning about our relievers. But he pitched 2 scoreless innings, and the guy is growing on me.
- The rest of our relievers were just as brilliant, particularly Alfredo Aceves, who came in after Joba was either chased or strategically taken out, one can never tell with him, and proceeded to pitch 3 hitless innings. His pitches were dancing all over the plate, and in 3 innings, he demonstrated why both our pen and rotation has been as effective as it's been: Off. Speed. Pitches.
- I can't say I'm thrilled about the Return to Micromanagement that Girardi seemed to be getting into last night. But tonight his pitching choices were justified and worked out perfectly. I may be done with questioning anything this guy does.
- The 4-5-6 batters may have provided the numbers (ARod/Matsui/Swish were a combined 5-12), but all it took was one blast from #20 to set the Bronx into pandemondium. Christ, what a rocket, too. 1-1 on the day.
I'll wrap this up with some numbers:
- #2 hits 3 to tie #4. On game 141.
- #2 puts his 2,721st hit in the books almost exactly 72 years to the day since the Iron Horse set the record.
- On 9-6-37, the record was set. On 9-09-09 it was tied.
- 9-9-9. Or 27, if you add 'em. (A backwards 72.)
And I don't think I have to remind any Yankee fans of the significance of that number.
Congratulations, Jeter. You bring new meaning to Waite Hoyt's famous words, "It's great to be young and a Yankee."