Cal Ripken Jr. can identify with Derek Jeter’s pursuit of 3,000 hits perhaps more than anyone and said he vividly remembers the pressure he faced 11 years ago as he chased the same milestone.
Jeter is four hits shy of becoming the 28th player in Major League Baseball history to collect 3,000 for his career. The New York Yankees’ shortstop and captain collected two hits last night in his second game since returning from a calf injury that sidelined him for three weeks.
“The focus and pressure of the end result of just trying to get a hit ever-so-slightly changes your thinking and your approach at the plate,” Ripken said yesterday during a telephone interview. “I did want it to be over with.”
Ripken, 50, began the 2000 season nine hits away from 3,000 and got off to a slow start, totaling six hits over the Baltimore Orioles’ first nine games. He then broke out with three hits on April 15, 2000, to reach the benchmark at the age of 39.
“I would imagine if he had his druthers he’d say, ‘Let’s get this thing over with really quickly and we’ll celebrate it for a minute and then move on,’” Ripken said of Jeter.
Like Jeter, Ripken spent his entire career with one team, playing 21 seasons with the Orioles, including 16 at shortstop before moving to third base. Jeter, 37, is in his 17th season with the Yankees and could become the 10th player to top 3,000 hits while spending his career with only one franchise.
Excitement and Relief
Following his 3,000th hit -- a single in Minnesota -- Ripken said he felt a mixture of excitement and relief when he shook hands with Orioles first base coach Eddie Murray, his former teammate who joined the 3,000-hit club in 1995.
“When you’re running down to 3,000 hits, people are in anticipation of each hit, so in your mind you’re thinking of getting a hit as opposed to being nice and free and easy,” said Ripken, who made the American League All-Star team 19 times during his career. “Certainly (Jeter) is superhuman in many ways, but I’m sure he’s human in the fact that every once in a while it creeps into his mind and it does create a little bit of pressure just to get to the finish line.”
The three major-leaguers to reach the milestone over the past decade are Rickey Henderson in 2001, Rafael Palmeiro in 2005 and Craig Biggio in 2007. Jeter is seeking to become the first player to collect his 3,000th hit with the Yankees.
Jeter’s chase was delayed three weeks because of a calf injury and he’s gone 2-for-10 since returning from the disabled list two days ago. He’s hitting a career-low .257 over 272 at-bats this season.
“It’s hard enough to get one hit let alone six, so I’m not thinking about that,” Jeter said in a televised interview after last night’s 9-2 win over the Cleveland Indians. “I’m just trying to go one at a time.”
Jeter beat out an infield single down the third base line in his first at-bat yesterday. He hit a double to the centerfield wall during the second inning and then went hitless in his final four plate appearances.
The Yankees complete their three-game series today in Cleveland and then return to New York for four games against the Tampa Bay Rays before baseball’s All-Star break.
While the pursuit of records and individual achievements can take a player out of his routine, Ripken said Jeter has the benefit of having played in pressure-filled situations such as playoff and World Series games in New York.
“He’ll draw from those things and deal with this,” said Ripken. “I’m also sure he’ll be relieved once he’s past it.”