I’ve kept quiet with my Yankee commentary as of late (shocking, I know). I’ve been watching, yelling at the TV, and arguing with Boston fans, but in terms of putting my rants to paper (er, screen?) … not so much. However, last night something happened that warrants me coming out of my Yankee-blogging hiatus…
I make it very obvious that I am incredibly amazed by Derek Jeter. While I do find him to be eye-candy, it’s more than that for me. I think he is a man among men, someone who defines what it means to be a role model in a professional sports world so often dominated by questionable behaviors. Not only did he lead the Yankees as a rookie when they were down and not the team we so often see today, but he does it every day, with grace and with passion.
Up until his more recent contract negotiations, there was never a negative word in the media about him – drama simply doesn’t go with Derek Jeter. I will admit I’ve been bothered by all of the media attention centered on his age, his declining stats, and anything and everything that can be said about how he “can’t perform.” Until today.
ESPN tweeted an article by Ian O’Conner which truly spoke of just what makes Jeter who he is, what makes “Numbah 2” so deserving of the C on his jersey and the reputation he has earned. He called it effort, and I’d like to add passion to that as well.
Jeter, similar to other players who go down as Yankee greats, stands out to me because he has passion. He stands out because day in and day out, he gives his all to the team, the fans, and the field. There are plenty of athletes out there who know that they’re talented, and not only that, but they use their talent as a crutch when they have an off-day… or in Jeter’s case, an off-season. Not him though.
Last season Jeter put up some lower than usual statistics, instead of saying “I’m Derek Jeter I can do that because I am the captain of the Yankees and I’ve led this team to multiple World Series titles,” he showed up to pre-season early to get some extra practice and training in with hitting coaches.
That’s what defines him as a Yankee great – he wants to play for this team every single day; he wants to win and he wants togive 110%, even if his 110% isn’t the best it’s always been. And let’s face it, when your 110% was always beyond par, and well above average, your lesser 110% is still pretty damn good if you’re Derek Jeter.
Now, he’s racing to hit his 3,000th hit on his home field, and become the first Yankee to ever hit that number. He’s said that the only pressure he’s felt on this journey has been simply that: hitting it at home and not at an away game. The Yankees are set to hit the road after this series against Cleveland, so it’s no wonder he’s been feeling a little bit more pressure, with only 6 to go as of last night.
Until last night, Jeter has been seen by fans as invincible. He hasn’t appeared on the DL since 2003, and he’s never been one to complain or take a day off. He’s played in over 2,000 games for a team that makes the post season nearly every year without fail. He’s the Yankee with five World Series rings. He’s the Yankee who leapt into the stands against Boston to catch a fly ball, emerging with a bloodied face, and playing not only the next night, but the rest of the game, too.
He’s not one to take a day off, and so when he walked off the field last night, you had to know it was bad.
But who can say this is really that surprising? Shortstop isn’t exactly the easiest position in baseball, and he’s done so for sixteen seasons. He has more experience and “street smarts” about the position than any player in the league, and up until recently, he’s also had more physical skill. Now however, his body is wearing down from giving his all every single night for all of this time.
He’s had this passion about him for the past sixteen seasons and no one has been able to stop him. He plays through everything. Except this apparently. Rumor has it Jeter will be placed on the 15-day DL. For a team being hit left and right with DL players, this one hits a different nerve: life without Derek Jeter.
I for one can’t handle the thought. But I know the day is going to come. Someone younger, faster, and more athletic is going to come along and replace the captain eventually… but not today. For tonight at least, we’ll see Nunez in his spot on the field and Gardner taking his place in the lineup, but for fans, he’ll still be in our minds. 6 away from 3,000, and still, invincible.