Monday, September 14, 2009

My Friday Night

Good morning Fackers. In the very first post I ever authored for Fack Youk, I recounted a brief meeting I had with Kevin Youkilis prior to attending the game in which Manny Ramirez hit his 500th career home run. That night, he became the twenty-fourth member of that exclusive club.

Witnessing that was the most historic event I attended in person since the very first game I ever went to: Phil Rizzuto Day at Yankee Stadium, where Tom Seaver won his 300th career game, becoming the seventeenth member of that exclusive club.

Friday night I was fortunate enough to be in the park for something that wasn't quite as historic as either of those two events, but was thoroughly more enjoyable, even if I did spend a large portion of last week making the argument that Derek Jeter setting the franchise hit record wasn't quite as big a deal as the media, particularly the YES network, was making it out to be.

If you read here with any degree of regularity, you know that both Jay and I like music a lot, and that we quite regularly weave it into what we do here. One of the things that I don't like about music is that there's a tendency amongst fans to overblow the importance of things. There's a certain breed of fan for whom every show they attend is the greatest show ever, or every new album released their favorite band is the best one yet. I think part of that is because music is a very subjective thing, but much of it is because people want to be part of something. If they trumpet up a certain performance as being historic then they become part of history.

Sports don't often fall prey to that sort of mindset. Sports are far more objective, there are winners and losers, people can tell the good from the bad pretty easily, and the historic milestones are pretty clearly defined.

Derek Jeter setting the career hit record for the game's most storied franchise is a big deal. Not as big a deal as when he reaches 3,000 hits or any hit milestones beyond that, not as big a deal as when Alex Rodriguez becomes the seventh member of the 600 home run club sometime next year, but it's a big deal.

What was most impressive to me Friday night was the crowd reaction. One of the things I mentioned last week was the possibility that the hit chase was being made into a bigger deal than it was to provide a platform for the fans to pay tribute to Derek Jeter. If that was the case, we certainly seized the opportunity to thank Jeter for all that he's done over the past fourteen seasons. Maybe we as fans just wanted to be part of history. The ovation, both in terms of intensity and duration, was something very impressive to experience in person, as was the genuine outpouring of congratulations from Jeter's teammates.

As fans of the Yankees, we get a bit a spoiled from time to time. The expectations are perpetually high, the goal each year is singular: win the World Series or the season is a failure. I'm not saying it right or wrong, but it's reality. And as we live and die with the team day in and day out for six plus months each year, it's easy to lose site of the forest while we're staring at any given tree.

Perhaps more than anything else then, Jeter's chase last week gave me cause to pause and reflect upon what we've all been fortunate enough to experience over the past fourteen years. It's not just the division titles, the pennants, or the World Series championships. In Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte, we've been fortunate enough to watch the careers of a collection of Yankees the likes of which haven't been seen in generations. Jeter will go down as one the top six or eight players in the history of the franchise. Rivera is the greatest relief pitcher in history. Posada is a borderline Hall of Famer and the best Yankee catcher not named Berra or Dickey. Pettitte is now third on the team's career win list and is one of the top five or ten pitchers in franchise history.

We've been very fortunate to observe the wondeful careers of these four individuals. And I consider myself very fortunate to have seen Jeter break that record Friday night - and even more fortunate to have witnessed it without having to listen to Kay, Sterling, or Waldman put their own stamp on it. Thanks for the ticket Gripp.

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