Thursday, September 25, 2014

Derek Jeter's finest accomplishment

It couldn't have been scripted any better. During his last game at Yankee Stadium, after the Baltimore Orioles had rallied to tie the score in the top of the ninth inning -- Jeter drove in the winning run with one of his trademark opposite field singles in the bottom of the ninth. The Bronxers went crazy.

It seems like it's always been that way with Jeter. When the heat is on, he delivers. Captain Clutch. What's ironic is, during his entire career with the Yankees, the above was the first game he had played in a game at home with his team already eliminated from playoff contention. There will be no typical October heroics for Jeter in this, his final season. It's a shame he won't be given a chance to go out on top with another World Series championship, but it was not to be.

Even the most rabid Yankee-hating fans wouldn't dispute Jeter's greatness over the years. Certainly, he'll be an absolute lock for first ballot Hall of Fame induction when he becomes eligible in 5 years. He might even accomplish something no player in the history of the game ever has before. Unanimous selection. Time will tell, but probably not. There will likely be a few voters that leave him off their ballots as a matter of principle. Perhaps they will have a point. After all, if the likes of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams weren't "worthy" of a sweep, then why should Jeter be the first? Even the top vote-getter, percentage-wise, of all time, one Tom Seaver, was left off 5 ballots. Was Jeter better than those guys?

Nevertheless, Jeter has had a remarkable career. Besides his 5 World Series championships, and a dozen or so All-Star selections, he's #6 on the all-time hits list. His career batting average is actually slightly better than #1, Pete Rose, but Charlie Hustle played a few more years than Jeter. As did Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, and Tris Speaker -- the only players with more career hits. (Though to be fair, Cobb's .367 lifetime batting average stands far and above the rest, and Stan the Man's .331 was definitely a cut above Jeter's .309).

There is also ZERO doubt Jeter's #2 will be retired by the Yankees. Nobody will ever wear it again. Oddly, or maybe not, #2 is the only single digit number that has not already been retired by the Yankees. The Yanks are big on immortalizing past heroes. Consider the others ---

#1. Billy Martin
#3. The Babe
#4. Lou Gehrig
#5. Joe DiMaggio
#6. Joe Torre, just recently
#7. The Mick.
#8. In honor of both Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey.
#9. Roger Maris.

#10 is gone as well for Elston Howard, as are a slew of other numbers for various former pin-stripers.

Jeter definitely belongs in the club. But he did something even more remarkable over his long and distinguished baseball career.

Remember, Jeter was there throughout the infamous "steroid era", but nobody has ever suggested he was even remotely involved. Further, he's a handsome guy, and a superstar that was making countless millions of dollars. It's a safe bet to assume Jeter has had his fair share of "offers" from the fairer sex over the years, up to and including many which might be considered by some to be world-class cuisine. Yet he's remained single, and we've never seen his name splashed around the tabloids because he's "seeing" somebody, and they just became an "item". For all the legions of newshounds and paparazzi that would like nothing better than to sink their slimy little teeth into such a story -- it never seemed to happen. For all his on-field heroics, Jeter was a master of keeping his private life just that -- private.

So all hail the fantastic career that Derek Jeter had as a baseball player. A worthy Hall of Fame inductee indeed.

But his finest accomplishment might well have been playing 20 years in the high-profile zoo that is New York and, never once, during all that time, could anybody find the slightest bit of dirt to associate him with. And you just know there were many over the years that were digging as hard as they could trying to find something -- anything -- to take the shine off of Jeter. But they never could, because what they were looking for wasn't there.

Turns out, every once in a great while, a superb athlete and an all-around nice guy come in the same package.

Imagine that.

No comments:

Post a Comment