For any number of reasons, Alex Rodriguez’s “chase” of 600 home runs didn’t really seize the attention of Yankees fans, especially compared to his approach of 500 home runs three years ago. A-Rod’s home-run total didn’t get much attention until he’d reached the high-590s, and by the time he finally hit the home run yesterday, half of the drama was a product of how long it had been since he hit No. 599. And then there’s Derek Jeter, whose chase of 3,000 hits is already getting some attention — 128 hits before he gets there.
In today’s Daily News, Filip Bondy writes that Jeter now “regains the spotlight” and assures us that his chase of 3,000 “[s]hould be more fun.” And yesterday over at Deadspin, in a post titled “I Don’t Care About Alex Rodriguez’s 600th Home Run,” Yankees fan Barry Petchesky writes about the arbitrary nature of celebrating a 600th home run — it’s “only a round number because we count in base ten” and is “a milestone in the sense that it gives ESPN something to cut to for its live look-ins” — though he admits you can “check back in when Jeter nears 3,000 hits, and I show myself for a blatant hypocrite.”
These are just two mentions, of course, but there’s little doubt that Yankees fans are poised to celebrate Jeter’s 3,000 like no other individual accomplishment of this generation. Remember when Jeter was chasing the record for hits at the old Yankee Stadium — a record few had any familiarity with until he approached it? Or all the attention that surrounded his chase of the (far more significant) franchise hit record last season? Those were mere dry runs.
Jeter’s 3,000th hit will be A-Rod’s 500th homer, Roger Clemens’s 300th win, and New Year’s Eve 1999 all rolled into one. (Remember, of course, that neither A-Rod nor Clemens had steroid accusations or admissions hanging over their milestones back then.) Some fans may have hesitated to fully embrace A-Rod’s 600th — be it because of steroids or whatever else — but none of that will come into play next year. Jeter’s 3,000th is going to be an unprecedented party, and it’ll be starting sooner than you think.