The wait is finally over.
With a home run drive to left field in the third inning Saturday, Jeter becomes the 28th player in baseball history to reach 3,000 hits and the 10th player to get all of those hits with one team. He's also the first player to reach the plateau in a Yankee uniform.
Jeter will be known for much more than getting 3,000 hits, of course, but the meaning of the milestone fits Jeter about as well as it could fit any player. You don’t get that many hits over a career by accident, averaging 199 hits a year for 15 years doesn’t get you there, because you can only get there by showing up and performing at a high level every single day.
That’s exactly what Jeter has done over the course of his career. This will be only the second year since 1996 that Jeter has played in fewer than 148 games and he’s gotten at least one hit in 77 percent of those games.
Saying that consistency is a player’s greatest hallmark feels like damning him with faint praise, especially in the case of someone who has been as good as Jeter has been throughout the years. But it really is remarkable.
He’s done it hitting at the top of the order as the captain and shortstop of a Yankees team that is considered a failure if it loses in the seventh game of the World Series and, for the most part, he did it just as well in 2009 and 2003 and as he did in 1998 and all the years in between.
That consistency extends to everything Jeter has done since joining the Yankees. He has always been the same guy off the field – humble, blander than you’d expect for someone with a succession of beauties on his arm, utterly unaffected by the constant hubbub around him – and that probably explains a lot about his ability to keep moving toward 3,000.
To get 3,000, you have to be the kind of player that approaches a May game against the Orioles the same way you approach a World Series game and that has been Jeter in a nutshell. Every time he’s stepped on the field since joining the Yankees, you have known exactly what to expect from Jeter and you’ve never had any reason to feel like you got less than your money’s worth.
That’s why this milestone, more than any other he will reach in his career, tells us something absolutely essential about Jeter. He wasn’t always the best player, though he should have at least one MVP award, but he was always the same player and that might even be more impressive.
There will be entry into another club in Cooperstown that speaks to Jeter’s greatness across all things in baseball, but it is hard to imagine it will tell us more about Jeter than his entry into the 3,000 hit club.