Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Derek Jeter. Number 2.

Derek Jeter. Number 2.

For nearly half of my adult life, he has played shortstop for the New York Yankees, a team that I have grown to loathe over that time period. In fact, it is safe to say that there exists nowhere a sports franchise that I detest more than the New York Yankees. As a Red Sox fan, I suppose this is natural. Over the years I have developed an intense dislike for players in pinstripes. Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Andy Pettitte, Jaba Chamberlain, just the sight of them would raise my blood pressure. But with Jeter it was different.

Don’t get me wrong, I never cheered for him. There was no player in the game who I less wanted to see in the batter’s box with the game on the line. It didn’t matter if he was in the midst of a 0 for 30 slump, when the lights were the brightest, and the pressure at its highest peak, Jeter always seemed to come through.

Derek Jeter will play his last game this week, and that fact has caused me no small amount of sadness. The truth is, Derek Jeter represents everything that I love about the game of baseball. He is a throwback to an earlier era in the game. He’s the kind of player who never ran his mouth, never made news off the field. I never heard him say a negative thing about a teammate, never saw him try to show up an opponent. All the guy has ever done is play baseball at the highest level, while managing to save his best moments for the biggest stages when the pressure was the most intense.

He’s not even in the discussion of greatest player ever. There are many others with better power, more speed, a better arm, and better range. But there isn’t anyone to ever play the game with better instincts, no one who was more clutch.

A game as old as baseball experiences peaks and valleys and right now baseball is in a very deep valley. The game has gotten slow, its popularity is flagging with every demographic except mine…mid-fifties white guy. Losing Derek Jeter could not possibly have come at a worse time for the game that I love. But, father time waits for no man. So, number 2 will hang up the cleats for good after a game against the Red Sox on September 28, 2014.

He will probably hit an opposite field double with the bases loaded, top of the ninth to drive in the winning runs. Damn that guy!

Thanks Derek. Thank you for playing the game the right way, for never embarrassing it or yourself by beating up a woman or acting like a fool in public. Thank you for providing an example for young players to follow, an example of class, dignity and grace under pressure.
Derek Jeter. Number 2.