It has been a rough month for Derek Jeter. As he heads into his final game in the Bronx, I can’t even begin to imagine the emotions that are engulfing his every move and thought. One thing is for certain: after the way he began his career 20 years ago, there was no way he could have envisioned ending it in September and not October.
It hasn’t simply been going out on a sour note that has plagued Jeter this past month. It seems everyone from the New York Post to Keith Olbermann has grown tired of the Captain and his farewell tour. I admit, I jumped in myself. A few weeks back, right here on Yanks Go Yard, I wrote an article pleading with fans to realize that Jeter isn’t the greatest Yankee of all-time and how tired I was of hearing it. But, that doesn’t mean he isn’t great.
Has this farewell tour been a bit excessive? Absolutely, it is impossible to disagree with that. Everywhere Jeter goes, money and gifts are thrown at him. People are paying outrageous prices just to grab a picture or autograph from him. It may appear on the outside that the guy that everyone praised as playing the game the right way has turned into a self absorbed, greedy New Yorker.
What is being over looked here is that no matter how poorly he played this season, no matter how badly the Yankees stunk up the joint, Jeter will be a baseball immortal. Just because the Yankees have been eliminated from playoff baseball and The Captain is basking in the riches of a 20-year career, it is no time to over look how good a player Jeter was. And that’s precisely what has been happening.
Jeter is going to retire in a few short days as the player with the sixth most hits of all-time. The five players ahead of him all played at least two more seasons and all but one had at least 1000 more at bats. That’s not too shabby. He is tenth all time in runs scored and everyone of the nine players ahead of him played at least two years longer than he did. Jeter played a heck of a lot more playoff games than the average Hall of Famer, but you know what? He still had a career .308 average and .374 on base percentage over 650 career at-bats. I can think of a large list of legendary players who were know not to show up when their team needed them most. Jeter was the polar opposite. For the better part of the last 20 years, when the Yankees needed a hit, Jeter got it. When the Yankees needed an out, Jeter was flying into the stands or miraculously on the other side of the field and out of position.
Could Jeter have won as much as he did if he was the center piece on a lesser talented team? Who knows? But he wasn’t. Do I think it is a bit odd that he had a career resurgence at 38 years of age after two down seasons? Maybe, but I think these naysayers pinning PED use on him is a bit over the top. Can I prove he wasn’t part of the game and didn’t use PEDs? Of course not, but no one can prove he did, so the conversation has to end.
Jeter may have brought a lot of the bashing on himself with the over the top commercials and the ludicrous farewell tour. What can’t be forgotten in all the backlash is that Derek Jeter, no matter how you cut it, has the numbers to prove he was a great player for a very long time. That doesn’t mean he has to be the greatest Yankee ever, or the greatest short stop ever, or even one of the top ten players in baseball history. It means that Derek Sanderson Jeter buttoned up the pinstripes in the right place at the right time. There were plenty of others who came and went in his 20 years, but at the end of the day, not many of them could sustain the numbers or post seasons he did. And that’s what we really should remember. Farewell Captain.