Jeter hopes to enjoy his pursuit of 3,000
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TAMPA, Fla. - As he pursues this individual accomplishment, Derek Jeter plans to enjoy it.
Jeter enters the 2011 season 74 hits short of 3,000, an exalted number no player who has spent his career with the Yankees has reached. He admits to a general distaste for the attention that goes with his chase of individual accomplishments, but he said this will be different.
At least, that's the plan before the countdown-to-3,000 questions begin in earnest.
"I don't take anything for granted, I'm not just assuming that's something that's going to happen, but [I'll] just try to enjoy it," Jeter said Sunday before the team's first full-squad workout. "I think in the past I've tried to pretty much block it out and not pay attention to it, but any time you're talking about something as special as that, I think it's something that should be appreciated - I'm talking about myself - appreciate the journey and have fun with it."
Manager Joe Girardi said he would like that to be the case.
"But when Derek takes the field, he takes the field to do whatever he can to help the team win," Girardi said. "If he gets his 3,000th hit on a day we lose, he's probably not going to be real happy about it. But I hope he can [enjoy it] because it really is an unbelievable accomplishment. It's hard to believe, someone getting 3,000 hits."
For Jeter, the number 3,000 has a lot to do with why he's intent on enjoying the ride. That was not the case when he was in the process of passing Lou Gehrig for the franchise record in hits, achieved Sept. 11, 2009, when he got his 2,722nd.
"Not too many people have done it," said Jeter, who turns 37 in June. "It's really a mark for a lot of years people have looked to as something that's very, very hard to do."
Only 27 players (13 of whom have been righthanded hitters) have had at least 3,000 hits. The last player to reach 3,000 was Craig Biggio, who did so in 2007. He finished with 3,060.
Should Jeter have his typical season, something he certainly didn't have in 2010, he should reach 3,000 in mid-to-late June. Of course, coming off a year in which he had career-low numbers in batting average (.270) and on-base percentage (.340), nothing is guaranteed. And it took a late-season burst to get Jeter's numbers even to that point.
Jeter said the poor numbers, and the desire to prove they were an aberration, give him no more motivation this season than he's had in past seasons.
"He's a real motivated guy all the time," Girardi said. "But I think he believes he's better than a .270 hitter."
With Jeter's average at a season-low .260 after a 1-for-7 outing Sept. 10 against the Rangers, Girardi gave him the next day off. On that Saturday in Texas, Jeter and hitting coach Kevin Long made a slight alteration in his swing - primarily shortening his stride to get in a better position to hit the inside pitch - and the results were immediate. In the 19 games he played after meeting with Long, Jeter had a .342 batting average and .436 OBP. The two met this offseason, and that work will continue during spring training.
Jeter said 2010 was a season he "wasn't happy with," but at the same time, "good or bad, I've always tried to forget about the previous season."
Perhaps the most telling answer of his news conference came when he was asked about the production of shortstops his age. It was pointed out that history says most shortstops in his age range no longer are that productive; what gives him confidence that he'll be an exception?
"Well, you said 'most,' " Jeter said. "You didn't say 'every.' "