For years, the only thing Red Sox players and New York Yankees fans could seemingly agree on was that, whether you competed against him or whether he brought you joy, Derek Jeter was worthy of respect. That’s why, when he departed the game in 2014, organizations from the Sox to the Angels showered him with gifts and tipped their caps.
That’s why we were so surprised on Monday night, when Manny Ramirez stepped to the mic at Fenway Park and ignited a flame, dropping a quote that suddenly began to circulate sans-context.
According to certain Twitter feeds that wanted to create a narrative, Manny — unprompted — reportedly said, “If you put Jeter in Kansas City, he was just a regular player.”
Considering what a common Twitter refrain this is from 15-year-olds who demand engagement, it was easily to assume he took a straightforward shot at the five-time champion. Why? Because that’s what every red-blooded Bostonian under the age of 25 wanted to hear.
In reality, Ramirez was making a much larger point about the context necessary to cultivate stardom in this game, and the lucky circumstances both he and Jeter stumbled into playing in New York and Boston, the two second-to-none media markets in the game (in his opinion). But he made the “mistake” of connecting Jeter and Kansas City, a much more crunchable soundbite.
Therefore, you get this easily-shareable morsel, which reputable sites like The Sporting News ran with:
Manny Ramirez showed respect to Yankees’ Derek Jeter, not shade
Thanks so much, unbiased BostonStrong_34. You did exactly what you set out to do, accidentally dishonoring Manny in the process instead of The Captain.
Because the full Manny quote is all about how being in New York or Boston — and nowhere else — can motivate an MLB player to be the best they can be. He’s actually arguing that, without the New York fans and the postseason stage, Jeter never would’ve gotten the chance to fulfill his ceiling as an MLB player.
And that’s objectively true. “Derek Jeter, mid-90s Kansas City Royal” is a Hall of Fame-level talent, but one who’s never able to secure the moments that made him a hero to a generation.
Ramirez and Dennis Eckersley also go on to call Jeter the “greatest,” a moment that BostonStrong_34 not-so-surprisingly sliced out of his preferred narrative.
Believe us, we understand the urge to jump on Manny here. It sounded like he was feeding the trolls, bringing up Jeter during a mid-June Red Sox-Tigers matchup (and, by the way, great time for a 2004 reunion, really taking a risk by all attending a heart-stopping big game together).
Instead, he was trying to elevate baseball in both New York and Boston, showing thanks for the circumstances that landed him on the perfect stage, allowing him to compete with the “greatest” in Jeter. It’s much better that way.