Derek Jeter had a right to be impatient. Nine years between World Series rings? That must have seemed like an eternity for the Yankees' captain, who earned one in his rookie reason and collected four in a five-year span during the team's end-of-the-millennium dynasty.
But in the chaotic aftermath of Wednesday's clinching Game 6, Jeter behaved as if order finally had been restored in the baseball universe, at least the way he always remembered it. In a side room, away from the Champagne-spraying bedlam, he calmly reflected on the championship drought and what it meant to be back on top.
"You forget how good it feels after the final out," Jeter said. "But I appreciated the last ones that we won. I knew it was very difficult to do. If it was easy, people would be repeating every year, and no one's done it since we did."
That sentence seemed like a poke at the Phillies, who were thwarted in their attempt to become the first club to win back-to-back titles since the Yankees' three-peat ended with the 2000 championship. Jeter, who usually avoids any verbal sparring, even made a crack about Jimmy Rollins' prediction that the Phillies would win in five, but he didn't mention the Phillies' shortstop by name.
As for his 2008 closing-day promise to bring the ghosts from across the street to the new stadium on 161st Street and River Avenue, Jeter smiled.
"I would think so," he said. "I don't know what else you want us to do. We won a championship here." New building, same Jeter, who has hit .313 in 138 postseason games in his 15-year career and missed the playoffs only once, in 2008. With a title on the line Wednesday, Jeter went 3-for-5 - his second three-hit game of the Series - and scored two runs. He hit safely in all six games and was 11-for-27 (.407), falling one hit short of the record for a six-game series.
In seven trips to the Series, a total of 38 games, he has batted .321 (50-for-156) with 32 runs and a .384 on-base percentage. He was named the MVP of the 2000 Series for hitting .409 (9-for-22) with two homers in the five-game win over the Mets. The higher the stakes, the better the Jeter, and it held true again.
"I enjoy it," Jeter said. "Having fun doesn't mean you're going to have success all the time, but it's a lot of fun to play in the World Series. This is what you dream of as a kid. It doesn't get any bigger than this, so you've got to enjoy it when the spotlight's on."
Jeter won his first title in 1996, when he was a 22-year-old kid. Now, at 35, he was the oldest starting shortstop for a championship team since the Dodgers' Pee Wee Reese did it at 37 for the Dodgers in 1955.
When asked if baseball is "better off" with the Yankees as champions again, Jeter laughed, saying "much better," and then revealed his secret to staying confident about winning another World Series.
"I don't read the articles you guys write," Jeter said. "You've got to separate the years. Even when we won, you don't think about the previous year when you're playing that year. You have to be able to separate them when you play this sport because you're going to fail a lot of times. So the only way you can be successful is to have a short memory."