When I decided to redesign Jobu’s Rum, I chose the time between the end of the football season and the beginning of the baseball season, because nothing’s supposed to happen in February and March. Sure, some guys get signed to minor league deals, maybe a couple of guys get hurt, but that’s it. One of the greatest players in the history of your favorite franchise isn’t supposed to announce his retirement while you’re busy writing CSS code for your sports blog. I’ll forgive Derek this time, but the next time he retires, he better announce it in April.
I’m obviously not going to say anything that hasn’t been talked about to death already when it comes to this topic, but I wanted to get my thoughts down on paper, much like I did when Mariano Rivera retired. It can be a little traumatizing losing something that’s been consistent for going on 20 years, and this will help me deal with it as a fan, so bear with me.
Is Derek Jeter the greatest Yankee of all time? This is an unwinnable argument, so I am not going to have it. Babe Ruth is probably the most talented and best hitter in Yankees history, and only a handful of guys can probably say they were better than Jeter (Mantle, Dimaggio and Gehrig come to mind). You can’t even compare how the players handled New York really, because playing baseball in new York in the 90s, 2000s, and 2010s is much more different than I’m sure it was in the 20s, 40s or 60s. Comparing players from different eras is a waste of time. Everyone’s going to think whatever era they grew up in had the best players.
The one thing I can safely say is that Derek Jeter is the greatest Yankee in my history as a Yankees fan. Growing up, Don Mattingly was my favorite, but his career was cut short due to a bad back. He also didn’t win any championships. My memories of “Donny Baseball” include random home runs or big regular season hits, but he only ever hit one home run in the playoffs, and he never even made it to the World Series. Derek Jeter has played in seven fall classics and won five. I have five pretty vibrant memories of him celebrating with teammates after the final out of the entire season, and those cannot be overtaken by anything Mattingly ever did.
Like Mattingly, Jeter was a class act off the field as well. He’s never failed a PED test, and we’ve never heard anything negative about him in the media either. He’s never even really said any public disparaging remarks about anyone, and this is a guy who was a teammate of Alex Rodriguez‘s for ten years. Derek said in his retirement press conference that a lot of his privacy and lack of sound bites was by design. He said staying private was what helped him thrive in New York City, but how the hell does someone that well known stay out of the headlines? Sure, in the 40s and 50s you’d never hear about players’ off-the-field antics (if the player didn’t want them spoken about), but that was a different media. If Jeter hasn’t been called out for doing anything he shouldn’t be doing, it’s because he’s not doing it. Otherwise, he’d be all over the New York Post, right?
He’s widely respected around the league by even his greatest rivals. Although I wish his last game were going to be in the Bronx, Jeter and the Yankees are scheduled to finish the season in Boston, possibly fighting for a division crown. I, for one, can’t wait to see how Boston sends him off. The people of Boston might hate the Yankees, but even they respect Derek Jeter deep inside. I think it will be a classy sendoff.
I’m glad Derek announced his retirement before the season started for that reason. Like Mariano, he’s giving fans and players alike a chance to know they’re seeing him for the last time. I know he’s never liked the attention, but if anyone deserves to be sent off and lauded at every stadium in the majors, it’s Jeter (OK Rivera too, but not too many teams can brag that they have two all-time icons leaving the game at around the same time). I’m going to miss seeing #2 suit up for the Yankees at shortstop every day, but there’s one other thing I’ll miss too. We’ll never hear Bob Shepherd call another Yankee to the plate again. The great Yankees and Giants public address announcer passed away a few years ago, and his voice will finally leave the game when Derek Jeter retires.
It’s been an amazing 20 years, Derek. Here’s hoping you can go out the way you came in, with a World Series championship.
Featured image courtesy of: Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News
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