Joe Girardi knows exactly how many hits he had in his Major League career. As Girardi tells the story, he was about to be taken out of his final game when Tino Martinez told Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa that Girardi was one hit away from an even 1,100. Girardi singled in his last at-bat to reach the mark and end his career with a nice round number.
The idea of reaching 3,000 hits?
“I’ve played with players that have gotten 3,000 hits (in their careers), but I’ve never been in the dugout when it happens,” Girardi said. “It’s mind-boggling to me. For a guy who played a long time, was an everyday player for more than a few years, I was a long ways away from 3,000 hits. To think about how difficult it is to do, it’s mind-boggling.”
Derek Jeter has 2,926. He’s already the active hits leader, and should join the exclusive 3,000-hit club some time this season.
“I’m going to try to enjoy it I guess,” Jeter said. “I don’t take anything for granted. I’m not assuming that’s something that’s going to happen… It’s a hit thing. Every time you’re up there, you’re trying to get a hit anyway, so it’s not like I’m trying to do anything different.”
How much he enjoys it probably depends on the game in which he gets it.
“I hope he can enjoy it,” Girardi said. “But when Derek takes the field, he takes the field to do whatever he can to help the team win. If he gets his 3,000th hit on a day that we lose, he’s probably not going to be real happy about it.”
Here’s the audio plus a few more notes from today’s Jeter press conference.
• Jeter said he has every intention of exercising the fourth-year option in his contract. “Yeah, why not?” he said. “I’ve never tried to put limitations on what you can do. I take it year to year, and if you ask me now, then of course, I want to play as long as I’m enjoying myself and I can help this team.”
• The occasionally ugly contract negotiations are in the past, Jeter said. He said he doesn’t feel disrespected, and he doesn’t think about the situation any more. “My job is to come and play shortstop and try to help this team win,” he said. “That’s never changed over the 15 years, and it’s not going to change now. I really try to keep those things out of my mind and try to focus on what I’m supposed to be doing, and that’s trying to improve and help this team win.”
• On the state of the rotation: “I wouldn’t say worried is the right word. We just need other guys to step up. I think a lot of times when you have young guys coming up, all they need is an opportunity. Right now it looks like there’s going to be some opportunities. I wouldn’t say worried or concerned is the right way to put it, I’d say I’m more interested to see what’s going to happen.”
• On preparing for spring training in his late 30s: “No question (it’s harder). When you’re younger, I don’t think you have to do as much. When you’re older I think you take less time off, you have to do more. You find yourself spending a lot more time doing things. I think that’s natural for anyone.”
• On the Red Sox: “Boston, what can you say? It seems like it’s the same thing every year. They have a really good team. I would assume that they are one of the favorites… Their team is great, and we understand how difficult it is to play them. It seems like they’ve made as good of improvements as any team in baseball.”
• On feeling motivated to prove something after last season: “I think the motivation is to try to win. The motivation is to try to be a better player. I sound like a broken record, but even when you have good years, you still assess the season afterwards and you think about what you can do to improve and get better.”
• One Girardi comment about Jeter: “I think he self-evaluated after his rookie year. The great players do it. They look at things every year – and sometimes it’s every week or every day – and think, ‘What do I need to get better at?’ Derek is that type of player. He’s going to look at his game, think about things that he wants to do, that he needs to try to do, and he’s going to do that.”
Associated Press photos of Jeter with coaching assistant Brett Weber and shortstop prospect Eduardo Nunez