The once-impenetrable aura of Derek Jeter has taken a hit the last two seasons. The iconic Yankees shortstop entered free agency for the first time coming off the worst year of his career in 2010 and absorbed some rare criticism when his bitter contract negotiations with the Yankees went public.
The first half of this season has made it clear Jeter is in the sunset phase of his career, both at the plate and in the field, and the Yankees’ success with Jeter on the disabled list the previous three weeks (they were 14-4 with him on the shelf due to a calf injury) has led even the most devout of Jeter supporters to wonder if the Yankees are better off without him.
But the player with an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time — “The Flip” or the Jeffrey Maier incident, anyone? — will almost certainly turn back the clock and author one more storybook moment this weekend when he records the 3,000th hit of his career at Yankee Stadium.
Jeter went 1-for-3 in the Yankees’ 5-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians Wednesday, July 6 and returns home for the opener of tonight’s four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays with 2,997 hits. Even with Jeter slumping badly at the plate — his .322 on-base percentage is .001 above the league average, his .258 average is .004 above the league average, his .327 slugging percentage ranks 73rd out of 81 qualifying American League batters and only seven players in the AL have fewer extra base hits than his 14 — he should, barring injury, reach the 3,000-hit milestone at home.
The pursuit of history has, not surprisingly, been good news for ticket brokers. Fans eager to see Jeter become the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits — no player has ever even recorded his 3,000th hit in a Yankees uniform, never mind all 3,000 — have driven demand for this weekend’s games to playoff-like levels.
“The demand has definitely picked up considerably as he’s getting closer to 3,000,” Jason Berger, the managing partner of AllShows.com, told Ticket News.
Those with tickets to the Friday or Saturday game should feel particularly upbeat about their chances at seeing Jeter get his 3,000th hit. Jeter has recorded three hits in a game only twice this season — the last time on May 8 — and needed a pair of infield singles in extra innings to get to the four-hit mark against the Baltimore Orioles April 24. But Jeter has at least one hit in 48 of the 65 games he has played this season and has authored eight “hitting streaks” of at least three games apiece.
Judging by the ticket prices this weekend, fans have already done the math. As of this afternoon, Thursday, July 7, StubHub.com had 1,125 tickets for tonight’s game, the cheapest of which was a $24 seat in the outfield grandstand. But the most inexpensive ticket for Friday, July 8 was an $87 outfield grandstand seat. For Saturday, July 9, the cheapest ducat was a $60 bleachers seat, followed by a $66 outfield grandstand seat. The prices are far lower for Sunday, July 10, with a $40 outfield grandstand seat the cheapest thus far.
In addition, according to FanSnap, the average ticket price for Saturday’s game, as of Wednesday, July 6, was $165, more than twice the $77 average price a week earlier.
“Friday is definitely the leader, the demand on Friday is higher than any other game right now, followed, I think, by Saturday,” Berger said.
In typical Jeter fashion, the calf injury gave him a second chance to create a happy ending. Had he not gotten hurt against Cleveland in New York on Monday, June 13 and spent three weeks stuck on 2,994 hits, Jeter would have needed six hits in the three-game series against the Texas Rangers June 14-16 in order to get to 3,000 at home. That was possible, but unlikely for someone who had as many as six hits in a three-game span just four times in the season’s first 64 games.