Earlier, I shared my joys about Derek Jeter. He’s been a consistently good player for most of his career. His final years haven’t been all that, but overall, he’s been a staple in Yankees baseball. I hate the Yankees, but he’s one of few players that I don’t hate. I like him. He’s good for baseball.
Since I live in Southern California, I even made it out to his final game in Anaheim just so I can see him one last time. I wanted to see him play one last time. I even snapped this Hall of Fame photo. I enjoy watching him play.
With that being said, the love-fest he’s gotten all season long is too much. Do we need all this? Do we need everyone showering him with all this love and gifts and ceremonies? The excessive force-feeding of merchandise? Yes, he deserves great praise. But this is going overboard.
Jeter was never among the greatest player of his generation. He never won MVP, never won a batting title. He rarely was ever the top guy in any major statistical categories. He was good and has had memorable postseason moments, but hanging on to those clutch postseason games does not define a two-decade career.
I wonder though. If Derek Jeter didn’t spend his entire career with the Yankees, would all of this happen? Let’s say (hypothetically) he hit free agency or was traded in 2006. He joins the, oh let’s say Royals, and wraps up his final season this year. Would they shower him with love like we are seeing now after splitting his career in two cities? Doubt it.
Jeter’s “legacy” of playing with one team is his only thread that’s keeping this farce of a celebration as if he were some mega-hero alive. If he spent the last half of his career in Kansas City, producing the same numbers he did in the last half of his entire career, would there be a season-long celebration of him? Doubt it.
Because he played for the Yankees all his career, this is happening. He’s the Yankee legend. Already they are talking about retiring his number and he himself is not retired.
Even though he was an above average player (well, in between above average and great), playing for the Yankees adds that to it. Who’s to blame for this overbearing love-fest? The media? Sure. The people for eating up what the media gives them? Absolutely. This is the reason why this farewell tour is happening. He was surrounded by a franchise whose aura has been unfairly created and a payroll that allowed Jeter to be surrounded by winning talent year after year. He could have announced his retirement after the season, but he knew that he would get this treatment if he did it before.
Five World Series titles is a great feat. I won’t take that away from him. But a lot of the success in those years came from guys like Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and Roger Clemens to name a few. He was good. He even won a World Series MVP. But he was surrounded by good, too. Lots of it. All the time. Every year.
I know if Albert Pujols decides to announce his retirement before his final season, he will get a farewell tour. Even though he didn’t play his entire career with one team like Jeter, Pujols is hands down one of the all-time greatest players. The same can be said when Miguel Cabrera retires. Both are MVPs, both have won multiple batting titles. Pujols is in the 500 homer club. Cabrera has a triple crown. Jeter never sniffed those numbers. Those are players whose elite status is higher than Jeter’s. I doubt they will get any lavish celebrations like what we are seeing.
It’s a shame too because all this exaggeration of Jeter’s greatness lies solely on the fact that he played his entire career as a Yankee. And it unfairly elevates him to a status as if he’s an angel sent from baseball heaven for us.
I remember Cal Ripken’s farewell tour season. He spent his entire career with the Orioles and all the accolades and praise was all well-deserved. It was in no way as extravagant as what Jeter is getting. Ripken has accomplished way more than Jeter ever has. But because Ripken never played for “the ultimate franchise” with a wealth of money to bring in winning talent year after year, he didn’t get the magnificent royal treatment.
I’ve enjoyed watching Jeter play. He is part of the cornerstone of my fandom in watching baseball. He deserves to be praised. But the over-the-top praise he’s getting right now? It’s only happening because he spent his entire career with the Yankees. No other realistic fact apparently really matters during this love-fest.