Sunday, July 10, 2011

N.Y. YANKEES ~ Jeter's Home Run Trot Into 3000 Club

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

new york YANKEES:  Deeds Speak Louder Than Words.  It's Why Some People Get It.  And Some People Don't.

Stop and think before you speak.  The persona you save may be your own.  Or, you can hope nobody reads GQ Magazine.  "He doesn't hit home runs like me."  Maybe not.  He just knows how to rise to the occasion.  But that was only the very beginning.  And days like today are why silence; even cold, immature silence; is golden....(and smart).


I know.  That's the direction I was headed.  Most of what followed, I deleted.  It wasn't what this should have been about.  Read on.

DEREK JETER:  Al Capone Would Have Been Proud.

Fairly or not, once upon a time he was a player who once stood in line behind two; three; and even four other shortstops around Baseball for his share of respect.  Astonishingly, that came during the dynasty years and the prime of his career.

If you're old enough to have followed Derek Jeter's entire career, you'll know how his was never the first name to roll off the tongues of conversationalists debating the best shortstops of the game.   Guys like Miguel Tejada; Nomar Garciapara; and present teammate Alex Rodriguez were almost always mentioned ahead of him.  Even Barry Larkin often times skipped the line when they were issuing out props for the position's biggest stars.

He was routinely voted by his piers amongst the game's Most Over-Rated Players and in spite of Gold Gloves, was constantly being undermined by some defensive computation or NASA metric revealing how bad of an infielder he really was; - Or so they say.

"How many times do we need to watch him bounce into a double play?"
"Girardi should bat him ninth!"
"He's nothing but a glorified singles hitter!"
"If the ball isn't hit right to him, he's not fielding it."

Some of those shouts and criticisms are new; some are old.  There's a little merit in them, but a lot of nonsense in all of them. Why? - Because you can't qualify everything in Baseball.   And unfortunately, we now live in an age where we feel the need to quantify everything.

Even his Captaincy has come under attack at various times over his tenure.  He felt compelled to back Jason Giambi during his steroids plight, but took a more ambivalent approach when A-Rod went through his.  This isn't pick on A-Rod day, but Derek Jeter was equally criticized for pairing up with; at the time his good buddy; Alex during the most intense moments of the old Yankees/Mariners rivalry. 

In practically always having the right thing to say, the Media sometimes felt cheated of something they wanted to hear from the mostly stoic Captain.  During all those Yankee/Red Sox battles, the Media always wanted more from him and criticized The Captain when they didn't get it. 

Outside of feeling slandered by Alex Rodriguez back in the day, and feeling slighted by Brian Cashman this past off-season, Derek Jeter has been a model of comportment.  And what he felt about those respective situations still manifested itself in a high degree of; albeit passive-aggressive; professionalism.

That job description; Captain; was thrust upon him by the late George Steinbrenner.  Captains; leaders; aren't necessarily appointed, so much as they are born?  Derek Jeter pulled it off because his parents raised a fine young man.  Nothing more; nothing less.  But the Boss knew Jeter would never let down the brand.  And till this day; this special day in Yankee History; he remains correct; - just as Derek Jeter has always stood correct and upright, in Pinstripes.

But when you've amassed a resume like Derek Jeter's, these may seem like paltry critiques and minor issues that come with the territory. 

So be it then.

This afternoon, Derek Jeter took a bat to the doors of the Immortal Club and with five precision swings, bashed the doors open with a delight even Al Capone (Robert DiNiro/Untouchables) would have been proud of. 

Today, Derek Jeter stands as the Godfather before all his contemporaries with more hits than Tejada; Garciapara; the guy who plays to his right; and any other shortstop who's ever played this game outside of Rogers Hornsby.  And with five rings on one hand for them to kiss, and a wad of hits in the other, Derek Jeter hammered home the last word today on any lingering debate about who the era's Don of Shortstops is.

Derek Jeter has outlasted Nomar and Tejada.  And let's be honest, Alex Rodriguez outgrew the body-type of a shortstop long ago and is probably in his rightful position anyway.  But that's the price Alex paid to become a Yankee.  He deferred shortstop to The Yankee Captain just as he should have. 

Derek was never as slick a fielder as Omar Vizquel.  But then again who was?  But he outlasted him too.  There was no living in the shadow of the great Cal Ripken Jr. and his breaking of The Iron Horse's consecutive games played record.  Today, when you look around the landscape of Baseball, none of his contemporaries have sustained their careers like Derek Jeter has (save A-Rod).  The Baseball Writers of America are currently struggling as to whether Barry Larkin is a Hall of Famer or not.  When Derek Jeter's name comes up on the ballot for the first time, there will be no debate outside of by what percentage does he get in?

No.  For Derek Jeter, starting in 1996, there were Championships and the matters of playing shortstop for a dynasty.  And today, it was about accomplishing what no Yankee ever has; not even the great Lou Gehrig; or Babe Ruth.  Joe D., the Mick; Yogi; one; no Yankee ever.

There is Yankee lure; too much to capture here.  There's also been famous tags.  One is Mr. October; Reggie Jackson; esteemed and revered for World Series greatness on three pitches.  And then there are players stuck with monthly monikers for more dubious reasons.  Alex Rodriguez has a lock on Mr. March and of course, Dave Winfield was labeled Mr. May by the Boss back when....   

But Derek Jeter is Mr. November.  He is the owner of one singular moment no baseball player will ever get a chance to live out again; so help us God.  But for the very solemn reasons that moment became possible, there is no better player in baseball to embody what those times meant and why Baseball always plays a part in our Lives.

Prior to 2:00pm this afternoon, one hit and ninety feet were all that separated Derek Jeter from the Immortal Club.  In his second at bat, he introduced himself with a three hundred and sixty-foot trot around the joint.  Career hit number 3,000 did not come on a single to right.  Instead it came on a home run pulled to left and into the first row of the bleachers.

Jorge Posada was the first to hug him at home plate.  Mariano Rivera was the last.  The two exchanges were by far, the most noticeably heartfelt on-field embraces.  And so in the manner in which Derek Jeter has gone about his career, his most notable achievement happened and ended with an expected correctness.  Only in the world of Derek Jeter can it work out so perfectly; with a home run to boot.

The game of Baseball is grand and Derek Jeter reaffirmed it.


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