Each time the Yankees' season ended during the subsequent five seasons, Jeter packed his belongings and headed home to Tampa, Fla. The last thing he wanted to do was watch other baseball players compete for a championship.
"I don't want to watch," Jeter said. "I've said it before. You feel like you're a little kid and your parents don't let you go outside and play. I don't want to look out the window and see everybody play."
When Jeter burst on to the scene, it seemed as if he and the Yankees were going to be in the World Series every year. They made it to the Series in five of his first six seasons, winning four titles during that span, and in six of his first eight years.
At 26 years old, he already had four rings and seemed destined to earn so many more. No wonder he used to kid around with Yogi Berra about someday catching his 10 championships.
Then the titles stopped.
After winning four rings in his first five seasons, Jeter's Yankees lost to the Diamondbacks in 2001 - after bringing a lead into the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 - and to the Marlins in six games in 2003.
Then they blew a three-games-to-none lead over the Red Sox in the 2004 American League Championship Series, and after that, the Yankees didn't get out of the first round until this year.
Beginning with ALCS Game 4 in 2004, the Yankees had lost 13 of their last 17 playoff games entering the current postseason. No wonder Jeter avoided watching the World Series.
"I'd see highlights," he said. "I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't aware of what was going on. But I can't sit and watch. It gives me a sick feeling. Sometimes I'd check the score, but I want no part of sitting down watching."
It's been nine years since Jeter last celebrated a championship, and the joking around with Berra has changed a little during that time. Now Jeter doesn't joke about catching the Hall of Famer's 10 titles. Instead, Jeter said their talks are about how much easier Berra had it 50 or 60 years ago.
"One thing I get on Yogi about, man, he would go straight to the World Series," Jeter said. "They didn't have playoffs. See, that's unfair.
"With these different rounds of the playoffs, anything can happen in a short series. You never take for granted that you're just going to play a season and end up in the World Series. It's very, very difficult. We were spoiled early on."
Now that he's back in the Series, Jeter is quick to note that the time away isn't going to make him appreciate it more.
"Because then you're saying you didn't appreciate it when it happened," he said. "I always appreciated it every year. I appreciated it my first year. I appreciated it the sixth time we went even though we lost . . . I never lost appreciation for how hard it is to get here."
Back in the World Series again, chasing that elusive fifth ring, Jeter reiterated Tuesday that he wants to be judged by how his teams fare and not by anything else.
"That's the reason you play," he said. "You're playing a team sport. The bottom line is to win."
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