2006-06-02 / Sports

Derek Jeter Has 2,000 Hits And The Heart of a Winner

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

New York Yankees Derek Jeter throws to first to get Kansas City Royals Angel Berroa. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)New York Yankees Derek Jeter throws to first to get Kansas City Royals Angel Berroa. (AP Photo/Ed Betz) NEW YORK - For all his greatness, Derek Jeter has never been known as a numbers guy. He doesn't hit a lot of home runs and since he hits from the top of the line up, the runs batted in usually are reserved for those lower in the lineup.

But that's the way he likes it, because when he was first called, Jeter learned winning was the most important thing for a Yankee from the man who held the captain's title before the shortstop.

"When I came up in '95, Donnie [Mattingly] was still here," Jeter said during the Subway Series a few weeks ago. "The way he carried himself and the way he went about his business, I could tell that's the way to do it. I learned a lot from watching him. You come here; you learn quick that you come here to win."

Conducting himself under that mantra over the past decade, Jeter has accomplished a few milestones. The most notable came Friday night when the shortstop became just the eighth Yankee to get 2000 hits in the pinstripes.

Since he is only 31 years old, the captain has a great chance to break Lou Gehrig's mark of 2,721 and ultimately become the first bomber to break the 3,000 mark.

Yet, those numbers don't matter to Jeter. "You are here to win," he said. "You need to know that you are not here to put up stats and are here to win.

As long as you come in with that attitude, you will be fine."

That's why Jeter has no problem where he bats in the lineup. After being the leadoff batter for the past few years, Johnny Damon's arrival moved the shortstop down to the number two slot. But the All-Star says it doesn't change the way he hits.

"People make a big deal about the order," Jeter said. "You need to do the same things if you hit first. If the No. 9 hitter is on base, you move them over. If Johnny is on first base, you move him over. It's the way you are suppose to play the game regardless of where you hitting. The only read difference batting leadoff is that I may not have as many chances. Other than that, your job stays the same."

Jeter, though, has a few ideas of what to change in baseball if he had the opportunity.

First of all, he would eliminate interleague play.

"Nah, I don't like it," he said. "I am like old school. I liked it when you play the World Series against a team you have never seen."

Jeter also doesn't like the unbalanced schedule, which has his Yankees play AL East opponents 19 times a year.

"That's too much," Jeter thought. "Too many questions being asked about Boston when we go there on Monday and you come back and play the Mets again and Boston again. You want to beat teams when you play them, regardless when you are playing them. We played Boston like 100 times over the past few years."

Though with 2,000 hits under his belt, Jeter doesn't have to complain about who he is playing against.

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