Wednesday, December 06, 2006

derek jeter

on a recent post, someone commented that derek jeter was really full of himself. i feel absolutely compelled to follow this up. the firm and complete rebuttal follows:

so, i realize that its december, not exactly baseball season. but, the truth does not descriminate about times or seasons. and, at such a time as this, the truth must be told.

i have been an avid baseball fan since about 1987, minus a couple years in the 90's after the strike when i was disappointed and frustrated. but, like the rest of the world, i returned in 98 to see the steroid slammers pound baseball back into our hearts. over the course of the last almost 20 years, i have followed many baseball players and kept up on their stats. i used to study the back of baseball cards like i would find words of life there. i knew whether players were better hitters in daylight or under the lights. i could tell you certain players birthdays. i say all this to say that i have been a huge baseball fan. and in all that time, with all the players i have followed, if i had to pick the most gracious, most humble player i have ever seen, it would be derek jeter.

the above picture is from a game we attended in yankee stadium. this one is from when he was hurt and playing for the trenton thunder. we got to see him from right behind home plate.

in a market where every little word can be blown out of proportion, every move is magnified and every mistake is turned into a monumental breakdown, that is, in new york, it isn't easy to be a star. but derek does it with grace. he is the consummate teammate. he is supportive of his teammates, never, EVER, saying anything bad about them, no matter how much the press baits him. he is generous with his praise of other teams, never showing a kind of cockiness that it would seem natural for him to have. his parents attend almost all of his games, and he stays well grounded with them. he prefers to spend his time in the clubhouse teaching the younger players, and helping them deal with the pressures of playing in new york. he shows respect. and dignity. and integrity. i have seen him make tough decisions. i have seen him handle very difficult circumstances. i have never seen a more gracious, less conceited ball player in my life. and that would be saying something even if he were a run-of-the-mill average player. but he isn't. he nearly won the mvp this year. he has pretty good numbers, year after year. but more than numbers, he is clutch. he is easy to hate if you aren't a yankee fan, because he always seems to come through for the yanks in the big moment. when its the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and hope dwindling, count me in as one of the ones who wants derek jeter at the plate. for two reasons. first of all, he may just give you that miracle. he seems to do it time after time. there is just something about him. but secondly, and more importantly, if and when he fails, he will do it with grace and honor. he will hold his head up and admit defeat and congratulate the winner. he will represent the very essence of sportsmanship. when i see my son growing up and playing sports, if i want to hold for him an example of how to work hard, how to have fun, how to treat other players on your team and other teams, how to win and how to lose, i will tell him about derek jeter.

derek making a famous catch against the red sox. we were in new york at the time, but had gone to the game before this one.


Rick Durrance said...

He's a pretty good player, I guess. An unfortunate team, but a pretty good player... I think he deserves to be an All-Star... Maybe someday he'll receive that honor.
Albert Pujols rules!

pete said...

holy shit, greg.

i've not studied baseball as you have. and i'm admittedly biased against the Yankees (everyone seems to have a bias for or against them, with no middle ground). all i can say is what i've seen, and that is cockiness and arrogance. only appearance? only apparent attitude? sorry, but that's all anyone outside new york gets to see most of the time, and when you're a public figure (and a New York Yankee is ALWAYS a public figure, even out here on the edge of the prairie), the way your attitude appears matters. obviously, it doesn't make a difference in a person's worth or their ability, but it does mean that people will see them a certain way. i'm hardly the first person to criticize the guy--he has been named most overrated player in baseball by more than one critic, and by most defense metrics he's a below average defender, in spite of his 3 Gold Gloves--and i'm not even a great authority on baseball statistics. i like watching a good game, and 9 times out of 10 i don't care who wins if both teams play well.

but hey, if Jeter's a really nice guy, great--i will gladly serve myself yet another slice of humble pie if it means that i've misjudged someone and they are in fact a better person than i assumed.

greg. said...

okay, so, as you can tell, i really like this man. even with the hype, i truly believe that he is one of the most underrated players in baseball. maybe you can't believe that to be true, and that is fine, but you will have to just accept that i do.

i agree, pete, that people tend to be polarized around the yanks - you either hate them or love them. i think that the team pretty much exudes a kind of elitism, some of it real and some it perceived. part of that is because of their owner, mr. steinbrenner, and the way he goes about his business. and many yankees fit this bill. they were bought at the highest price. the list is a long one. boggs was bought, as was strawberry and gooden. and clemens. and sheffield. and a-rod. and matsui (from japan). and randy johnson. and the list goes on. but jeter, here is a guy who, in a modern era of free agency, represents the way the game was originally designed. he comes up through the farm system as a kid, and sticks with the team. and the team sticks with him. they could have traded him. i mean, this is the yankees, they could have easily signed someone with better power numbers, or a higher fielding percentage, or both (how about tejada a couple of years ago). but they didn't. in fact, even when they signed a-rod, sometimes called the greatest shortstop of all time (i totally disagree, by the way), they moved him to third base. that wasn't derek's call. that was the yankees. why? what is about this guy that makes him irreplacable?

that is what i was trying to write about in this post. its that his daily presence is unparalleled. someday, people will look back on derek jeter as one of the greats of this game of baseball, not because of his numbers, but because he had a special something as an athelete that very few, if any, of his peers have. he stands apart from the pack because of his level-headedness, his uncanny ability to know what to do in the craziest of circumstances, and his above-average ability to come through in the clutch. that's all i'm trying to say. you can argue that he's not the best shortstop. i'll agree. you can argue that he shouldn't have won the mvp. that's fine. you can argue that his numbers don't warrant his salary. fine. but i just wanted to say that i really don't see how he, or even his appearance, is one of cockiness and arrogance.

don't confuse the yankees with derek jeter. if he were playing for, the kansas city royals, i think you would have a different perception about him.

pete said...

that's entirely possible, and i am totally willing to entertain that possibility. you have to admit, though, that it's hard to divorce the image of "Derek Jeter, New York Yankee" and "Derek Jeter, Baseball Player" in the minds of many people--that may be the root of the problem for people like me.

i'm not sure why you're so passionate about this, but for the sake of harmony, i'm going to let it go and defer to you on this. i see maybe 2 Yankees games a year, whereas you (obviously) see many more.

Have a great Christmas man.

greg. said...


good. let us leave this topic behind, recognizing that i am abnormally passionate about it, and will never really be satisfied until the whole world has statues of jeter next to their virgin marys. i recognize my own ridiculousness, and my propensity to take myself way too seriously.

thanks for putting up with me.

i hope you, too, have an awesome Christmas.

grace to you. and peace, brother.