Derek Jeter: The Consummate All-Star

“I’ve always enjoyed the All-Star Games, and I’ve always appreciated it, so I don’t think I’ll treat this one any differently. Everybody wants me to be so emotional all of the time, but I’m coming here to play the game, and anything else that comes with it, I don’t know.”

-Derek Jeter via USAtoday.com

 

Derek Jeter, a 14-time All-Star, has always been an over/under/properly rated superstar, and a subject of much debate. As the heir apparent to the New York Yankee greats starting in 1995, he has personified the “right way” to play the game. Baseball fans either love him, or hate him. But everyone respects him, and everyone has an opinion about him. His hustle, his desire to play every day, even into his 40s, is admirable. It’s not because he’s pompous. It’s because he loves the game, and still desires to give 100 percent, to grind out the innings, to do what he can, even in his diminishing capacity, to bring another championship to New York. He has been compared to Yankee greats, but has been understated in his role, even on the biggest stage in professional baseball. He has played along some of the all-time greats: Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Roger Clemens, and many other role-players, who would be the saviors of their teams if they had played for the Cubs, Royals, Twins or Pirates, like Paul O’Neil, David Wells, Robinson Cano, and countless others.

As mentioned before, Jeter is now playing his 14th All-Star game. Not counting tonight, where he led-off the game with a double, he slashed .440/.481/.600 in ASG play. It seems like the biggest moments have produced the biggest result for Jeter. At his age, at this point in his career, should he really care about his showing in a glorified exhibition? Many players see the ASG as what it is. Even with the added benefit of home-field advantage in the World Series, most find it as a time where they can have fun with other players who are worthy of the accolades of being an All-Star, but Jeter was ready to get to work to bring home a potential victory for the AL squad. It seems that Jeter thought of it as another opportunity to do the right thing for the game of baseball.

The ballpark in Minneapolis was abuzz before Jeter’s first at-bat. Prior to the AB, a commercial for the Jordan brand of Nike played, giving respect to the man who kept the brand relevant in the baseball world, not unlike Bo Jackson, who put the brand on the map prior to his ASG home run during the company’s infancy. After the commercial break, the stadium rose to its feet, paying respects to a man making his final appearance among the greatest players of his time. He began to laugh and joke, however, when the celebration reached the 30-second mark, as he was ready to get down to business. He gave the fans something to really cheer about when he laced an opposite-field double to right field to lead off the game. He then added a lead-off single to right to start the bottom of the third, and advanced to second on a passed ball. The announcers remarked about his swing as if they were evaluating a prospect, raving about his inside-out approach, his patience in getting a hit on a 3-2 count, and his hustle, even though it was going to be nothing but a single. Jeter never passed 2nd base. The hitters behind him weren’t able to pad his already impressive ASG stat sheet.

There have been many favorite players in the game. Players who personified the game, who made baseball worth watching. Brett, Rose, Murphy, Rivera, Clemens, and many others. But in today’s nomenclature, where the baseball world has become a 24-hour cycle of highlights, who has more personified the talent, drive, and passion required to become the consummate all-star than Derek Jeter? When he exited the field in the top of the 4th, he gave a humble tip-of-the-cap, was congratulated by his teammates, and promptly entered the dugout to thank his teammates for taking the ride with him, and enjoy the rest of the game. At age 40, he had given his all, and after returning from the dugout to give one more obligatory tip-of-the-cap, took a seat on the pine, understanding that he had done all he could, as he had always done all he could to win the game that day. That is something every sports fans can respect.

 

Statistics from www.baseball-almanac.com

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