The game frequently has good players and even great players. But rarely does the game get a once-in-a-generation type player. On the eve of the Captain’s surprising announcement that 2014 will be his last season, one thing is clear for any fan, no matter what team he/she loves: baseball will sorely miss Derek Jeter.
The New York Yankees had not won a World Series since the Reggie Jackson years of the late ’70s. They also had not been prominent in October baseball since 1982 having missed the playoffs 14 consecutive years. The consummate professional, Jeter took over the every day shortstop role for the Yankees in 1996 and had an immediate impact as he went on to win Rookie of the Year honors in the regular season. During the ALCS, with momentum shifting to the Baltimore Orioles, enter fireball closer Armando Benitez to a hold a tight lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Jeter, a relatively unknown diamond-in-the-rough player, endeared himself to Yankees fans with a home run off Benitez that was aided when 12-year old Jeffrey Maier, who had skipped school to attend the playoff game, reached over the right field fence to take away a catch from Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco. Until that moment, the Atlanta Braves with a string of six consecutive division titles had been considered the team of the ’90s. Jeter quickly changed that as his legacy grew into one of the game’s prodigious ambassadors.
Minus his 2013-injury plagued year, Jeter has been the starting shortstop for the greatest and most expensive sports franchise in the world for 18 years. For the Yankees, with all the history including baseball’s most recognizable players as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, 26 World Series titles, and a economic value exceeding $1 billion, Jeter ranks as the best of them all. His penchant to deliver in clutch moments and marketability is unmatched as he earned the trust of New Yorkers through wins. He is a five-time champion, including three straight from 1998-2000 and a World Series MVP in 2000. Jeter is also a 13-time All-Star and ranks tenth all-time with 3,316 hits. He boasts a .353 batting average in the World Series and is the all-time leader in runs scored, hits, total bases, and doubles during the fall classic. The Yankees have been to the postseason in all but two years during Jeter’s tenure. The organization has had many big free agent acquisitions from Roger Clemens, Paul O’Neil to Alex Rodriguez, but there never a question that Jeter was the face of the franchise. He alleviated pressure from other stars by talking extensively to the media. In an era defined by performance-enhancement drugs and records shattered by steroid users, his teammate Andy Pettitte reached to the dark side of HGH to recover from injury. But Jeter never did, he always played the game with integrity and respect. Even non-Yankees fans and his own MLB counterparts have a great amount of admiration for Jeter. “Jeter has played a first-ballot Hall of Fame career in the hardest environment in sports ” said Red Sox rival Curt Schilling.
Based extensively on statistics, Jeter is outshined by stiff competition from Alex Rodriguez (who would eventually become his teammate), Nomar Garciapppra, and Miguel Tejada. He never led the league in home runs or RBIs and was not the highest paid player. But Major League Baseball revolved around Derek Jeter. When exhibitions were played overseas in Japan, Jeter was a huge drawing factor. He has the highest selling jersey in the international market. At the behest of his Yankees management, he was always asked by Commissioner Selig to represent the country in the World Baseball Classic. His personal life and dating of supermodels made tabloid news as that of a rock-star, which only brought more attention to the game. The “Derek Jeter Wives Club” is a growing number of fans at Yankee Stadium.
Following the farewell tour of former teammate, friend and great Mariano Rivera, Jeter will too receive recognition for all the accolades he has accomplished in the game. He is a true winner and a role model for any aspiring ball player. Baseball will miss Derek Jeter.
All stats are courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference. com/.