One of the early surprises of the season is the offensive output of Derek Jeter. Going into tonight’s matchup against Minnesota, Jeter is hitting a robust .366 with 2 HRs and 6 RBI. The slow bat that turned him into a below league average hitter the last couple of years has disappeared. I was ready to see him get his 3,000th hit and start the countdown of when his contract will expire. Not only has he returned to form, but he is better than ever. Since the 2011 All-Star Break he’s hit .332. That is vintage Jeter, and the version that helped the Yankees win a World Series in 2009.
Now that questions of age and health have been put aside, how far up the hit ladder can Jeter climb? To date his total is 3,103. Some have speculated that Pete Rose and his 4,256 hits are not out of the question. Jeter has claimed in the past that he would like to play until he’s 43 -years old. If six seasons is all he has left, then it would take 192 hits a year to reach Rose’s magic number. Ironically, that is his per season average coming into this year. Ruling Jeter out would be foolish. I already threw dirt on the grave last year only to see him return to form after the historic 5 for 5 day in which he collected his 3,000th hit. You can bet, provided he stays healthy, that he will jump from #17 on the all-time hit list to #11- passing Cal Ripken- by season’s end.
Can he do it? It’s asking an awful lot for Jeter to stay healthy and hit at an elite level to that age. His lack of power makes it difficult to put him in the DH slot. I don’t think he can play any other position effectively, nor would it be a wise move to teach him this late in his career. Obviously, he could have use as a bench player/veteran mentor, but I don’t see Jeter sticking around for that role. Playing part-time also won’t be conducive to reaching the historic hit milestone, either. There is, however, a caveat to all this. Just look at how Pete Rose ended his career.
At the end of his age 38 season Pete Rose had 3,372 hits. He played seven more seasons, retiring at the age of 45, and averaged 126 hits. He was a player-manager the final few seasons of his career. If Jeter’s body doesn’t allow him to play full time or perform at the elite level necessary to reach Rose, would we see him end his playing career on a similar note? Could we see the Yankees reach out to Jeter and take on the player-manager role? Would he hang on to the age of 45, 46 or later as a backup?
I don’t know how important the hit record is to Derek Jeter. I don’t even know if managing is something he would find attractive or be very good at. I do know that I probably shouldn’t count him out.
I already did that once and got burnt.