Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jeter Smacks No. 3,000

Derek Jeter reached the milestone he's been chasing the last couple weeks by hitting a home run for career hit No. 3,000. He's the 28th player ever first to get that many hits while wearing the uniform of the New York Yankees. With the team's legacy of great players and teams that's an amazing feat.

More amazing to me is that despite Jeter's stellar play as a key player on several World Series winners, a debate has still raged about who is more important to the team, Jeter or Mariano Rivera, acclaimed as the greatest closer ever.

As Jeter closed in on the hit plateau, callers on sports-talk radio in New York stated their case for one over the other. Mike Francesca, the drive-time host on WFAN, sides with Rivera. After all, he says, Rivera has been almost perfect in the post-season and he is the difference between the Yankees and the teams they played.

The whole the argument rings false. Yes, Rivera came in and closed games, but without other players putting the team ahead there would have been no games for him to finish. And Jeter, the Yankees' captain, usually helped give the team those leads.

Championship ball clubs need more than one player to win. The Yankees always felt secure when Rivera came in to close out games, but they also knew Jeter was likely to get a key hit or make the right play in the field.

Maybe some caller made this point, but I never heard it: Both Jeter and Rivera were needed for the Yanks to the dominant team of the decade. That doesn't diminish the contributions of either. Together they helped propel the Yankees to greatness.

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