I found it really interesting to listen to sports’ talk radio the day after the American League defeated the National League 5-3 in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. Some hosts and callers were appreciative and respectful towards New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter while some were just down-right vicious towards him.
Such is life in the 24/7/365 world of sports’ talk.
Personally, I found it to be almost a sign from the gods when during Jeter’s first at-bat some idiot in the crowd shouted “over-rated” as Jeter stripped a double into right field. In many ways this has been a microcosm of Jeter’s career.
Much of the hatred towards Jeter is the fact he wears pinstripes and has worn them for his entire 20-year career. The Yankees are the ‘Notre Dame’ of Major League Baseball meaning you either love them or hate them. There is no in between.
Many fans and even some ‘baseball’ people think Jeter is over-rated and this is their opinion. It’s wrong, but it’s their opinion. Does he belong on a pedestal with Ruth, Cobb, Mays and Aaron? No he certainly does not. Is he a Hall of Famer? Absolutely he is so why can’t we just appreciate the guy?
On Tuesday night, he was given a standing ovation as he came to bat in the bottom of the first inning. The ovation lasted just over a minute and it was obvious the private, humble Jeter was a bit overwhelmed and ready to get on with baseball.
When he exited the game he was given an ovation that lasted over two minutes as he tried on several occasions to escape into the dugout. If you asked Jeter in a private moment I guarantee he’d tell you it was a bit much but why was everyone mad at him?
Last year, MLB gave a very appropriate goodbye to Mariano Rivera but I fear that who ever is ‘producing’ the All-Star Game is trying to do too much to give each installment a ‘special moment.’
There is no question in my mind that Jeter deserved to be honored and in his first at-bat it was perfect. It could have been finished there and then when he exited the game he could have tipped his cap, received another nice round of applause and retired to the dugout.
The question was raised many times this week and I feel it’s an honest one; would Jeter have received this had he been wearing the uniform of another team? No, no he wouldn’t have and the reasons are simple.
Would Derek Jeter have won five World Series titles while playing in Kansas City? Los Angeles? Atlanta? More than likely not and that’s the difference. Jeter wasn’t the reason the Yanks won those five titles because he had plenty of talent around him but he had a hand in winning them with clutch play and hitting that has rarely been seen in contemporary baseball.
Jeter is currently at .311 for his lifetime batting average and that won’t change a ton over the final few months of the season, but his more important totals were his career average of .308 in the playoffs (158 games) and his .321 average (38 games) in the World Series.
Think of the great plays and clutch hits that Jeter has provided and your left with no doubts as to why MLB wanted to honor him, but MLB also has other agendas as well. This means making sure its’ stars are celebrated but it also means they are searching for the next face of baseball which most believe will be Mike Trout and with good reason.
Hopefully you can just appreciate Jeter’s accomplishments without having to judge where he belongs all-time. Let MLB handle all of the pomp and circumstance.