The Pinstripe Alley Top Moments Tournament continues with the 2000-present bracket. Vote for the moment that deserves to move on in the poll below.
#4: Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit
When Derek Jeter began the 2011 season struggling mightily, the world had declared that he was finished. Critics wrote him off, fans were already thinking about shortstop replacements for the long term, and the New York Times published an ode to Jeter's career for his 37th birthday--seemingly in the past tense. It mourned the loss of a Yankee icon and reminded the reader that our heroes must get old and unfortunately this reminds us of our own mortality. But it seems they forgot he was still an active player, and that he was still Derek Jeter. And Derek Jeter does not and would not exit his career with a whimper. After Jeter's calf injury put him on an extended disabled list stint, he went down to Tampa to work on his swing with his former coach Gary Denbo. They made great strides and Jeter was ready for the regular season again.
On July 9, 2011, Derek Jeter sat at 2,999 hits. From what Jeter had told the media, he wanted the spotlight off of him so he could return to being a productive member of his team. That task would not be easy as the Tampa Bay Ray's ace David Price was on the mound. In the 3rd inning, Jeter made history; he whacked Price's hanging breaking ball over the left-center field wall and thus also came Michael Kay's famous home run call as Jeter made "history with an exclamation point". But he did not stop there, as is typical Jeter fashion. Jeter finished the day going five for five and had the game winning hit. He became the only Yankee to ever reach 3.000 hits, only the second player to hit a home run as his 3,000th hit (Wade Boggs), the second to have five hits on the same day as his 3,000th (Craig Biggio), and only the second to be a regular shortstop when hitting his 3,000th (Honus Wagner). That's a lot of history.
Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit was just the cherry on top of what was an unbelievable career. And yes, his career is not over yet, but I feel that it is already at the point of reminiscence. But what makes this moment all the more remarkable was how even after everyone had decided he was a has-been, Derek Jeter decided to prove us all wrong and give us one of the greatest moments of his career.
#5: Luis Sojo wins the 2000 World Series
The Yankees were on the verge of a "three-peat", as Joe Buck put it. After handily defeating (two sweeps) the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves in 1998 and 1999, respectively, the Yankees looked for but another to cap off their dynasty. At this point in Game 5, the Yankees held a 3-1 lead, but that's a little deceiving. The Yankees had yet to win a game by more than two runs, so it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that the Mets could force a Game 6 or 7. Game 5 was a classic match-up between Andy Pettitte and Al Leiter, and it was exactly the pitching duel everyone expected.
Pettitte and Leiter provided Pettitte and Leiter-esque performances. Pettitte pitched seven innings and allowed two earned runs, both in the second inning, and threw 129 pitches. Leiter matched him pitch-for-pitch as he pitched eight and two thirds innings with two earned runs...up until his last pitch. He also threw 142 pitches which is just remarkable in its own right. In the top of the ninth inning with two outs, Luis Sojo came to the plate with men on first and second. He was not exactly what one would call a dangerous hitter. With a career 71 wRC+ and a total of 2.2 fWAR, he was the definition of a stop-gap utility man. But what made the dynasty years the dynasty years was the ability of any player, regardless of his place on the team, to be able to come through when they needed to. And Sojo did just that. On the first pitch he saw, he hit a dribbler up the middle. A play at the plate was imminent, but the ball only hit Posada at the plate and bounced away, causing Brosius to score for another big insurance run. And in the next inning, Mariano Rivera came in, as he always did, and shut the door on the Mets and the Yankees won their 26th World Championship.
As I said before, what's amazing about this moment is that it came from the little guy. Between Jim Leyritz's game-typing home run and Joe Girardi's triple in 1996, Tino Martinez's grand slam in 1998, and Sojo's hit in 2000, the dynasty years were not built on the backs of super stars. The little things, like hitting a weak single up the middle, was all the Yankees needed to finish off their World Series run.
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