Monday, October 13, 2014

N.Y. Yankees: So Long Mr. November

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

Jeter's final series at Yankee Stadium against Baltimore

New York Yankees: At night, mild mannered Derek Jeter turned into the notorious Gotham Hitman.

The 20-year playing career of Derek Jeter has ended.

It goes without saying, Derek was a professional on and off the field - always in total control of his affairs.  He stayed humble, but more importantly remained his own man, which in NYC can be difficult to do.  When GM Brian Cashman chose to callously negotiate Jeter's final extension through the media, the Captain chastised the organization for it.  In a blue collar town, that was endearing.

Derek Jeter was my son's favorite.  He's all my son has ever known.  I was saddened for him upon Jeter's final game.

Me?  I'm more practiced at seeing players come and go.  Being older and a little more jaded, it's rare I get attached to singular players anymore.  As a younger man, the advent of free agency helped ruin things somewhat.  Some players have come close in my adult years, but I always knew Jeter was different from most players in my life as a New Yorker.

Suffice to say, my son had better luck with his childhood hero than I did with mine.

He was different - a throwback.  His class stood out.

He transcends 3 different centuries of baseball. Jeter would have been as supremely respected in the Murray Hill clubhouse of the 1840s New York Knickerbockers as he was in modern day Yankee Stadium.

In New York City, obviously steeped in baseball history since its earliest day, rich with legendary teams and players of all eras, Derek Jeter will go down as one of its titans.

If you remember, there was a time Derek Jeter placed behind contemporary shortstops Nomar Garciapara, Alex Rodriguez, and Miguel Tejada, on statistical, as well as popularity lists.  He may not have been the best to ever play shortstop, but Jeter was great throughout.

That said, let Derek Jeter be a lesson and reminder of what it really takes to be a Hall of Famer.

The entirety of his career was a relentless storm of hits, right through his 18th season when he led the American League with the second highest mark of his career.  In the post-season, in short series competition, Mr. November's bat flashed with lightning and roared with thunder.

In the 139 years of professional baseball, only 5 players have more hits than Derek Jeter.

No other Yankee, no Met player, Giant or Dodger - no other New York City player even comes remotely close; not Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Zack Wheat, Mel Ott, DiMaggio or Gehrig, the Duke of Flatbush, Pee Wee, the Scooter, et al...  no one has more hits in this city than Jeter.

If you're old enough to have seen his whole career, like I did, then you had the opportunity to watch, listen or witness all 3,465 of them.

I only caught the 2nd half of Pete Rose's career, and the tail of Hank Aaron's career.  So, in my life as a baseball fan, Derek Jeter is indeed the hit king.

At the time Derek Jeter signed his final contract extension, he owned a career .314 batting average. Going forward, my worry was that he would jeopardize his average, and fall below .300 like Mickey Mantle did.

Missing most of the 2013 regular season with an injury turned out to be a mixed bag of goods.  In the end, Jeter started 2014 with a ,312 average, and finished the season with a career .310 batting average.  I feel that adds much more polish to a career, than say a .307 average would have.

We'll never know what type of 2013 season he could have produced, but we do know it cost him an opportunity at finishing 5th on the all-time hit list.  Only 2 American Leaguers have more.  Tris Speaker ended his career with 3,515 hits. Jeter was just 50 hits away.

He'll go down as one of the city's elite: with Jim Creighton Jr., Christy Mathewson, Jackie Robinson, Tom Seaver, and numerous others including Lou Gehrig and the Highlander/Yankee legends of the last 100+ years.


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