Derek Jeter’s 2012 season has rapidly become a modern-day Juan Ponce de Leon story. Somehow, after an abysmal 2010 and a mediocre 2011, the one they call Captain Clutch has been graced by the Fountain of Youth. I don’t think any Yankee fans are complaining.
Despite turning 38-years-old earlier this summer, Jeter is currently leading the MLB in hits, ranks seventh in batting average, and is in the midst of his best season since 2009. I am by no means naïve enough to think that Derek Jeter has transformed back into the Jeter we all grew to know and love in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Do not expect Captain Clutch to continue to deliver like this day in and day out over the course of the next few years. Science and age are entirely against him.
Earlier this week (Tuesday), in a loss to the other Sox (Chicago), Jeter homered to claim his 3,256th career hit. An astonishing number to say the least, but also a special number. It brought Captain Clutch within 1,000 hits of the all-time hit king, Pete Rose. Rose’s 4,256 hits is one of those iconic numbers in sports that nobody ever could see falling. Could Mr. Jeter change that?
Pete Rose was also in the midst of his 17th full season as a 38-year-old playing for the Philadelphia Phillies (his first team other than the Reds). Amazingly, the one that was known as Charlie Hustle played until the ripe age of 45 (nothing too crazy like Roger Clemens). In his seven seasons after turning 38-years-old (from 39 to 45), Rose compiled 884 hits, an average of 126.29 a year. He only batted over .300 one time in those years, as a 40-year-old. Prior to becoming an old man, Rose had ten 200+ hit seasons.
In 16 full seasons (1995 he only played in 15 games), Jeter compiled 3,076 hits, an average of 192.25 a year. He also had seven seasons of 200 or more hits (this year will likely be number eight) and is the only New York Yankee to secure 3,000 hits. Jeter also has only had six seasons in which he slugged out less than 190 hits.
Both players are simply phenomenal. Consistency like this is not something you see every day, or really ever. The real question is does Jeter have the desire to play another five, six, or dare I say seven years? Captain Clutch is averaging 1.39 hits a game in 2012, putting him on a pace to end the season with 222 hits. This would give him a grand total of 3,310, 946 shy of Rose’s record. If Jeter were to hypothetically play five more seasons, he would need to average 189 hits a year. If Jeter were to play six more years, he would need to average 158 hits a year. And if he were to somehow keep it going until the ripe age of 45-years-old and play seven more seasons, he would need to average 135 hits. This would be feasible, but is it really desirable?
Jeter has never been about the records and individual accolades. He has always been about one thing: Winning. His current contract is set to end at the end of the 2013 season with a player option in 2014. After the debate that went down the last time Jeter was in contract negotiations, I do not think anybody wants to go through that again. If Jeter gets another ring this year or in 2013, his career will definitely be over. Even if he doesn’t, I do not see this guy playing into his forties the way Rose did. Jeter is a first-ballot Hall of Famer even if he retires right now. If you asked me today, I would say Charlie Hustle’s record is safe. Unless, Jeter decides to hold onto the Fountain of Youth for another half-decade. Continue reading Captain Clutch the new hit king?