Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Deification Of Derek Jeter

Good morning, Fackers. It was a pretty decent weekend for the Yankees, after they left Toronto at least. Being one-hit by Roy Halladay was rather frustrating and getting blown out on Sunday was brutal in a very different, protracted sort of a way. Even the game that they won at the Rogers Centre was painful to watch, a nine inning, 6-4 game that somehow took 3:52 to complete.

Yesterday redeemed the weekend as we were treated to a great pitcher's duel in the first game and an offensive explosion in the second with the Yanks winning both. I had wondered about the decision to throw both Burnett and Sabathia in a double header as it figures to get one of them out of their typical rest pattern for their next start, but I think we'll all take the two wins now and worry about that later.

Increasingly, the topic of conversation turned towards Derek Jeter as the weekend pressed on. He picked up 5 hits on Saturday and Sunday and looked to chip away at Gehrig's record during the twin bill on Monday. The YES Network even put together an intro that played before each of the games of the doubleheader about his pursuit of the All-Time Yankee hits record saying he is "Forever identified as a champion; a hallmark of Yankee greatness" and has "the consistency of a metronome". They also set a new record for most presumptuous text poll ever during the night game which asked fans if they would rather witness Jeter's 3,000th hit, final game, number retiring or Hall of Fame induction. But Jeter went 0-8 so the quest will have to wait.

Look, every Yankee fan loves Derek Jeter, my generation especially. He came up when I was 11 years old, won the Rookie of the Year when I was 12 making him the perfect sports idol for kids around my age. When we're old and gray, we're going to still remember Jeter fondly because he'll be inexorably tied to our youth.

Maybe it's the contrarian in me, but I have trouble liking things that seemingly everyone else does. If you are a hardcore Yankees fan and someone asks you who your favorite player is, chances are, you'll at least try not to say Derek Jeter. Because he's everyone's favorite player. It's too obvious.

Even dummies like Wallace Matthews can appreciate what Jeter has done. What Matthews can't do, however, is write an even-handed column using "facts" or "relevant statistics" to explain how great Jeter is:
And yet, Jeter - unlike teammates Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi and Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, not to mention probably hundreds of others throughout both leagues - resisted the temptation to take advantage of what was encouraged by the Players Association and tacitly approved by Major League Baseball.

That took more strength than any of the juice monsters could ever imagine, or ever hope to muster up.

He never tried to be more than what he was, a contact hitter with an inside-out swing who was as happy to dunk one just over the head of the second baseman. He kept score not by the number of tainted home runs he could hit . . . but by the number of rings he could collect.

He's got the rings, four of them, and he's got the money. But most of all, he has his self-respect and the knowledge that his accomplishments are not beholden to an unscrupulous chemist, a rogue doctor, a failed police officer turned "personal trainer'' or some sleazy gym rat disguised as a clubhouse toadie.
Aside from being wrought with weak clichés and and the same bullshit every boring writer has always said re: Jeter's intangible winnerificness, it's incredibly unequivocal. You'd think that after so many players seemingly above speculation like Andy Pettitte, Rafael Palmero, Manny Ramirez and if you'll recall, A-Rod at one point, have been exposed for using steroids, Matthews might want to steer clear of unilaterally proclaiming his cleanliness. But Matthews thinks he can do that, because Jeter is just different.

Again maybe it's because I'm wired to go against the grain, but I don't like the milestone chases. The flashbulbs going off when he's still 3 hits away from Gehrig's mark don't make sense to me. I'm not a fan of the love Derek Jeter gets for being Derek Jeter®. I enjoy watching him more when the attention subsides and we don't have to incessantly talk about how great he is. Because talking about how much you're enjoying something makes it less enjoyable.


  1. I think deification is a good way to put it, Jay. I think there is nothing wrong with enjoying the moment and discussing its personal value and broad-based appeal. What gets me with the current situation with Jeter, and with seemingly all such milestones, is the way in which mass media beat them into the ground. There is just no letup then, after all the hype, they steer toward another story du jour.

    I guess we should be thankful that ESPN didn't camp Ed Werder in front of Yankee Stadium or Jeter's house during all this. Now THAT would have been torture.

  2. So you love statistics but dont like it when someone breaks a milestone/stat just because everyone else is interested?

    I fail to see the sense in that.

  3. Liking statistics and being engaged by milestone chases are two different animals. You can use stats to uncover things that aren't apparent or obvious at first glance. They give you a million different ways to look at things.

    Like Jason said above, these chases are beaten to death by the media to the point where it becomes the default topic of conversation. And that makes it tiresome and uninteresting.

  4. Derek Jeter is my favorite player and I don't see any shame in that just because he is the most popular Yankee.

    As Ben at RAB said this morning(although the point of the post was his contract situation):

    "Derek Jeter will become the Yanks’ all-time leader on the hit list. In a few weeks, we’ll hear rumblings of a potential MVP award. In a few years, he’ll reach that 3000-hit plateau and possibly even that 3500-hit mark. Along the way, he’ll hit his 250th home run and score his 2000th run."

    It has been pretty damn fun to watch his entire career.

  5. Jay,

    I can understand where you are coming from. I would say Jeter and Mo are my favorite players, and I would be hard pressed to say which one I like more.

    The issue is with the media. How many times have you seen a commercial about a television show proclaiming "the one episode you won't want to miss" or "Nothing like this has been on TV ever before" or, well you get the idea. They are competing with so many other media outlets that the hyperbole has gotten out of control. It's not just the TV media either, the ESPN website is guilty of it also. I try to listen to the FAN radio on the way to work but its just impossible, I can't stand the "this is the Yankees (or Mets) biggest game of the year" discussion about some random game in May or June. I guess they feel this is the best way to keep their audience but it is driving me away.

    I hope when Derek passes Gehrig he gets a nice standing ovation, and we move on to the next milestone. Let's save the big one for when he passes Rose (Now that would be great).

  6. I agree with Anonymous (which is something I don't often type on the internet!). Hate the game, not the player. When Jeter is taking all this in stride and not acting out-of-character one bit I'm not going to hold the media frenzy against him.

    In itself, the act of passing Gehrig is not explosively fascinating but the chance it gives fans to take in all of Jeter's career so far is nice. Just like Mo notching his 500th save, I'm going to get a thrill out of seeing Jeter pass a record by doing what he's always been doing and still doing it well in his mid-30s.

    And it might get overblown but I'd much rather have a team that celebrates its history and accomplishments than...well, the Mets, who celebrate other NY teams of the past.