Many topics have been swirling around my head for the past few weeks: Jeter’s momentous day, the All-Star Game, the heat wave, the debt-ceiling deadline, why teenagers sleep till noon in the summer…the list goes on. But I feel I’ve got to address topics about Derek Jeter and have the last word–we may never pass this way again.
First off, Derek Jeter symbolizes all that is good about baseball. He’s a team captain. He’s played for only one team his whole career. He doesn’t lash out at the media. He doesn’t showboat. He never charges the mound in anger. He’s an All-Star and a future Hall of Famer. He plays with passion and easily carries himself with dignity and respects his fellow players and the game itself. Yet, there are those who hate him, usually for the same above-mentioned reasons. (And I’m sure a lot of the hatred stems from the fact that he plays on the Yankees. If he was the shortstop for the Royals, it’d be a different story.) Let’s leave out the hate just for a moment and consider the 3000 hits accomplishment.
Only 28 players in the history of the game have reached this milestone; less than half of those have been with the same team the entire time. No other Yankee has done this, ever. That alone is incredible. Now, let’s look at the actual hit. It was a home run that tied the game. And even though WCBS announcer John Sterling seemed more excited that the game was now even (he should have called it like “It is high…it is far..it is….3000!”), the fans were going crazy being a part of history. But Jeter didn’t take a long slow jog around the basepaths and he didn’t kiss home plate (like Wade Boggs did when he joined the 3000 club). He acknowledged his teammates, his family, the fans, and even the opposing team. In his press conference later, Jeter said that he felt bad that the game had been put on pause for four minutes; both teams were still trying to get an important win.
Which leads me to my next point: Jeter doesn’t think he’s bigger than the game. He’s proud of his accomplishments but when it comes down to it, winning the game and ultimately winning the World Series is more important to him. Playing in the All-Star Game is not what Jeter is about. Yeah, he was voted in by the fans and he could have been the BMOC at this event. But it was more important to take some time off and rest before getting into the second-half of the season, where the race for the AL East is heating up. Can you blame him? He’s 37 years-old and he’s got at least another 80 games to play. Why play in a game that really doesn’t matter? Although MLB grants the winner of the All-Star Game home field advantage in the World Series, the game has lost its luster and meaning. Heck, even the fan voting now is impersonal; you can vote a billion times online. Remember when you could only vote at the stadium by pushing out tiny squares on a paper ballot passed out by the ushers?? But I digress.
Many members of the sports media were down on Jeter for skipping the All Star Game. Usually a stand-up guy, Jeter has made a career misstep. How dare Derek Jeter snub the game and the fans? In Boston, many sports radio callers criticized the Yankee captain for this selfish act. But put down your stones, New Englanders living in glass houses. Tom Brady, the face of the Patriots and the NFL, has skipped three Pro Bowls. And you don’t get on his case. What’s his excuse?! Heck, the Pro Bowl is even played well after the NFL Superbowl. The baseball All Star Game is played smack-dab in the middle of the season! So cut Jeter some slack and stop the petty hatred. No matter what team you cheer for, he’s always been a class act and should be recognized as such.