It may seem close when counting down to the dropping of the ball in Times Square to ring in a New Year, but to Derek Jeter, the magic number 10 separating him from the coveted 3,000-hit plateau is still a long way to go.
"Ask me when I get closer," Jeter told ESPNNewYork.com in the New York Yankees clubhouse before Friday night's game against the Cleveland Indians. "It's still too far away. I can't think 10 hits ahead. I can't get 10 hits in one game."
Jeter was responding to the statements of Tony Gwynn, a member of the 3,000-hit club who told MLB.com, "Getting to 2,990 was simple. Those last 10 are hard to get, because your thinking changes. All along you're just grinding it out, trying to hit the ball hard, trying to do things right. But as you get closer to it you try to cheat to get hits. People are coming to see you get hits, so it gets a little bit tougher."
Jeter disagreed with the basic premise of Gwynn's statement because, he said, he is simply doing what he has tried to do in every at-bat of his major-league career: Get a base hit.
"I think it's different from maybe (Alex Rodriguez) trying to hit his 500th home run or 600th home run because he's trying to do something different," he said. "I'm not trying to do anything different from what I always do."
Asked if he thought his thinking would change as his chase narrowed down to the single-digits, Jeter said, "I can't answer the question because I don't know, you know what I mean? I think it's a better question after the fact. Right now, honestly, I'm really not thinking about it."
But Jeter admitted he would be "disappointed" if he failed to get to 3,000 before the end of the current Yankee homestand, which has seven more games to go between Friday and Thursday. So far, he is 4-for-14 in the first three games since the team returned from the West Coast, and his single up the middle in the seventh inning of the Yankees' 8-3 loss to the Red Sox Thursday night brought him to the traditional threshold at which actual countdowns generally begin.
"Of course, I'd rather do it here," Jeter, who is batting .263, said. "I'm aware of it, of course. It's up on the scoreboard and when you're on deck you hear people talking about it. I'm certainly aware of it, but it really is not something that's right there, you know what I'm saying?"
But Jeter shrugged off the possibility that the number could play tricks with his mind, as Gwynn said it did with his, and as fellow 3,000-hit club members Rod Carew and George Brett said it did to them as well.
"Maybe it bothered Tony," Jeter said. "Maybe it bothered them. Maybe it will bother me. But I don't know. I can't answer that question until it's all over."
Or, until it gets really close. Which, according to Jeter, is when the number gets to one he can reach within a single game.
"That's when I'll probably start thinking about it," he said. "I would assume so, anyway, because everyone's talking about it I don't see how you could get away from it."
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.