Stadium only suitable setting for Jeter's hit
Yankees icon needs seven in four games to reach 3,000 in Bronx
Seven hits in four games -- this is what history requires from Derek Jeter and the 2011 Major League Baseball schedule.
True, the subplot has been easier to track than the plot in this drama. Nothing outweighs the collective performance of the team, right? In their current 10-game homestand, the New York Yankees have reached both the depths -- a sweep at the hands of the Red Sox -- and the heights -- three victories over the Indians by a cumulative 24-8 score.
But through it all, the individual drama has marched on toward its conclusion. The question is not if, but when, as in: Will Derek Jeter get his 3,000th hit while the Yankees are playing at home? Jeter's progress toward 3,000 has been relatively steady, but not quite as swift as the Yankee faithful would have hoped.
When the homestand opened, Jeter was at 2,986; 14 hits away from 3,000. With four games left in the homestand, he is at 2,993 career hits, seven away. Put another way, at the start of the homestand Jeter needed 1.4 hits per game to reach 3,000 by the end of the homestand on Thursday. Now he needs 1.75 hits per game to get to the landmark by that time.
The Yankees have one more game remaining against the once-hot, now-fading Indians, and then a three-game series against the defending American League champions, the Texas Rangers. After two night games, the Texas series winds up with a day game. That might, under normal circumstances, be a day of rest for Jeter, or at the very least a day of designated hitting, particularly since the Yankees are also scheduled to play afternoon games on Friday and Saturday.
This is where the bad news arrives in the Jeter/3,000-hits scenario. After the homestand, the Yankees will play three Interleague games at Wrigley Field against the Cubs.
I don't think you have to be a Yankees fan to agree that hit No. 3,000 should occur at Yankee Stadium. For Derek Jeter, who has meant so much to the franchise, this is the natural, the correct and the perfect place for this lofty achievement to occur.
On the other hand, it is difficult to think of a less suitable place for this hitting summit to be reached than the home of the Cubs. If the 3,000th hit had to come on the road, how about in Boston, at the peak of the rivalry? Or at least on the road against another American League East team? Or if it had to be a National League team in Interleague play, how about one that was a postseason regular? Some place, any place with some historical connection to the Yankees and to Jeter, for that matter.
The Yankees playing the Cubs is like a science-fiction movie, maybe "When Worlds Collide." The Yankees lead the baseball world in World Series championships. The Cubs are still without a ring 103 years running. The 2011 Yankees are battling for the AL East lead, as usual. The 2011 Cubs are barely avoiding being baseball's only sixth-place team by staying ahead of the Houston Astros in the NL Central. These Cubs are, in other words, worse than usual.
Nothing at this late date will diminish the achievement when Jeter reaches the high plateau of 3,000 hits. Only 27 other men in the game's history came this far. History will not think less of him for reaching this goal on Chicago's North Side rather than in the Bronx.
But this occasion, not to mention Jeter's status as a Yankee icon, deserves Yankee Stadium as the place for the mark to be reached. On the road would be another thing, and on the road against the Cubs would be a third thing. It is not a galaxy far, far away, but it's nowhere near what Derek Jeter is about, either.
I understand, neutrality is rarely achieved on any Yankee topic. But in this case, as objectively as possible, Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit should occur at Yankee Stadium.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.