Derek Jeter is a great many things these days. To some, he’s the greatest player of his generation – and on the Mt. Rushmore of greatest Yankees of all time. To others, he’s the most overrated player in history – not only a terrible fielding shortstop, but also essentially a singles hitter who really wasn’t that clutch in big moments. To other still – specifically the cops in “The Other Guys” – he is simply a bi-racial angel. The celebration of Jeter as he nears the end of his playing days has gotten way out of hand. Every moment is documented and praised, until even the most reasonable among us wants to vomit.
But the venom now coming out against Jeter is equally repulsive. Keith Olbermann and the rest of the Stat-zis love to wrap themselves in the comfort of the brutal truth of their numbers, and tell you: ‘Listen, we hate to do this – we know everybody loves this guy, but the numbers show that he’s not great and you are all dopes for thinking that way.’
If it’s numbers you want, how about these: seven trips to the World Series and five wins. Sixth on the all time hits list (and as a side note, anytime your name is mentioned next to Cobb, Aaron and Musial, you are inherently one of the greatest players ever). First amongst all the great Yankees in hits, games played, stolen bases, and at-bats. And finally, the number 2. That’s is Jeter’s number and it will be retired the second his season ends. Number 2 also happens to be the last single digit number still active for the Yankees.
Derek Jeter, however, is more than just numbers. Jeter is a guy who plays the game the way it should be played. He plays hard, and has indeed come up big in the game’s biggest moments (flip play at home, the dive into the stands, and oh yeah: the 2000 World Series MVP) There was never an ounce of controversy attached to Jeter in an era when virtually every player of consequence is tainted in some way. He has been a class act on and off the field for two decades.
And finally there are two things that help Jeter stand apart from the crowd. The first is the incredible list of girlfriends over the years: Jessica Biel, Minka Kelly, Mariah Carey – hell, even a Miss Universe. That’s a list that even Justin Timberlake is impressed with – and that’s right, Jeter dated Biel before she married Timberlake. Advantage Jeter!
The final thing on the list cannot be verified, but I choose to believe it. I’ve heard that Jeter loathes Alex Rodriguez for the shame he has brought upon the House That Ruth Built. I’d like to think that A-Rod won’t get an invite to the retirement party, or better yet, he shows up and isn’t on the list and the bouncers refuse to let him in.
Now for everyone reading this who’s saying “Well, this is just some diehard Yankee fan, born and raised in the Bronx, who has the number 2 tatooed on each butt cheek,” I’m sorry to inform you, I’m actually a Red Sox fan. I’ve spent the last 20 years waiting for this guy to leave the game and stop tormenting my team. And now that he is finally stepping away, I know that I will miss watching him play. Is he Ruth? No. Is he Mantle? No. Is he a player who brought honor to the game? Yes, and baseball will most certainly miss him when he’s gone.