Derek Jeter: The Last Yankee Hero
Unlike many other current sportswriters, I’m not going to write like the Captain is dead. Don’t get me wrong—when I found out Derek Jeter was retiring, I legitimately could not focus for the rest of my work day. I will attend as many games as I can to see him this year. I will watch every single game I am physically able to. I will most certainly bawl my eyes out on the day he takes his final bow. But Derek Jeter is not dead yet. We are left with one more year of magic and memories, and any true baseball fan will cherish them.
"Jetes" is going to take one last lap, and boy what a lap it’s going to be. You think Mariano Rivera’s farewell tour was something? Jeter’s will be staggering. There is nobody-- and I mean nobody-- on the planet who has a legitimate beef with him, and you can bet each and every team is going to show him the respect he deserves. I am incredibly bitter that he will play his last regular season game in Fenway, by the way—although perhaps it’s fitting that he beats them one last time.
If you’re any sort of a baseball fan, you know the numbers. I don’t need to sit here and rattle off the stats-- he’s one of the most successful postseason players ever. He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, and if they could vote him in in one year instead of five they would. He is, in my opinion, the most undisputedly great athlete since Michael Jordan.
But Derek Jeter is so much more than just a great player. What we will really remember him for—what makes him a legend—is the impact that he had on the game and on those who love it.
What Derek Jeter Means To The Yankees
I was looking at the Yankees roster today, and I realized something: they are just about out of homegrown talent. With Derek Jeter’s departure, the Yankees are left with a handful of pitchers, none of whom have truly endeared themselves (which is not to say that they won’t) to Yankee fans. After being spoiled by decades of heroes, the Yankees’ habit of signing free agents has left us with very few career Yankees. Derek Jeter is, again, the last.
There are not enough words to describe what he means to the Yankees. Somewhere, they’re already hammering out his plaque in Monument Park, where he will sit alongside the rest of the immortal Bombers. At 23 years old, I have no memory of a Yankee season in which Derek Jeter wasn’t in the starting lineup. When Jeter leaves, a new era for the most storied sports franchise of all time will begin.
What Derek Jeter Means to Baseball
Let’s be real. Baseball hasn’t been the same since the advent of the steroid era. If you had asked a non-baseball fan to name a famous baseball player at any point in the last 20 years, there’s a decent chance he or she would have thrown out a name associated with steroids: Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Braun. Even now, as soon as someone has a resurgent or breakout season, he is questioned (Jose Bautista and Chris Davis are two good examples). Derek Jeter is the one player who is and always has been above suspicion. He has spent his career establishing a persona characterized by class and integrity, and he has remained incorruptible in the modern era. He avoids social media, he stays out of the tabloids, and he never produces regrettable quotes.
What does Derek Jeter mean to baseball? He is baseball’s last true hero. Baseball’s history is marked by certain men who surpassed the limits of mortality—Ruth, Gehrig, Robinson and Clemente, to name a few. These are characters whose reputation off the field is matched only by their skills on the field. Jeter may be the very last of a dying breed, and I don’t see anyone on the horizon who can live up to the standard of integrity that he has set.
The world is a better place with Derek Jeter at shortstop for the Yankees. Even if you've taken him for granted for his entire career, turn on every Yankee game you can this season, because you are going to miss him when he's gone.
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