Sunday, July 10, 2011

Congratulations, Derek Jeter

As a life long Yankee fan I was beyond ecstatic that the great Derek Jeter did what no New York baseball player has ever done (no Yankee, Met, New York Giant, or Brooklyn Dodger) in getting his 3000th hit. He did it in spectacular fashion as we all know.

I devoured all the online articles about it and the best is by Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. His closing is spot on and poignant:
The sports world is drastically changed from 1995, when Jeter collected the first hit of his major league career. That Jeter, in all ways that count the most, is remarkably the same in that changeable environment is, like the threshold of 3,000 hits, a rare achievement to be celebrated.
The best thing about Mr. Verducci's article is that he avoids what the other writers were prone to do. Even when lauding Jeter, they do so by saying what he is not, in that, he is not like the other great Yankees or players because of his lack of power numbers. It's a ridiculous in its backhanded compliment sort of way, similar to the criticism of Jeter now for his skills diminishing.

Hello? He's 37 years old. Jeter's decline is NATURAL, what every non-performance enhancing drug using ballplayer has gone through at a similar age. Sometimes it's as if the media critics (the same that vilify Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens for their PED use) would rather have Jeter hit .340 now with 35+ homers. That doesn't happen to a clean ballplayer at Jeter's age. I suspect he'll get his average up to the .300s eventually, if not this year than in the coming seasons. Yet mainly he'll be in the .270 range. That's natural for a ballplayer who's been clean all his life. A ballplayer who is one of the all-time greats and the best I ever had the pleasure of rooting for as a Yankee fan.

When I was very young my favorite Yankee player was Lou Gehrig. A mythological, tragic hero who performed great feats on the ballfield in the shadow of the iconic Babe Ruth and was cut down in the prime of his life by a terrible disease that now bears his name. Of course, I never had the honor of seeing Gehrig play since he died well before I was born. I lamented the fact that I would never root for a Yankee on par with Gehrig. Thank you, Derek Jeter, for proving me wrong.

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