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October 27, 2009 at 1:05 am ET
Don’t Hate, Appreciate

jeterDerek Jeter has played 15 seasons at the major league level, and reached October 13 times, claiming four World Series triumphs along the way. Jeter is also the all-time Yankees hits leader and will become the first career-Bomber to reach the magical 3,000-hit plateau.

Jeter has been an All-Star 1o times, won three Silver Sluggers and Gold Gloves, was the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year, and is the only man to have ever been named MVP in both the Midsummer and Fall Classics in the same year (2000).

But do your very best to erase all of that from your mind, because if you only concentrate on the statistics and the accolades, you will fail to see Derek Jeter.

Fans often ponder what would result if it were possible to fuse attributes from a supremely talented player to one who, while less talented, loves the game every bit as much as those same fans. Such as combining the pure talent of Jose Reyes with the passion and determination of Nick Punto, for instance.

Though it didn’t happen in the lab of a mad scientist, it has happened nonetheless. Jeter is that rare player, born with all the ability of a superstar, but blessed also with the heart of a role player.

Regardless of the money, the fame, the awards or even the women — one thing towers above all others for the Yankees shortstop — winning.

And it’s not just in the incredible plays Jeter has been responsible for that have helped drive so many victories, but lies also in one aspect of Jeter that is rarely, if ever talked about.

After all these years and all the moments that Jeter has provided, one particular action is indelible.

It is not Jeter’s shuffle pass to Jorge Posada in Oakland, or diving into the stands against the Red Sox, or his walk-off shot against the Diamondbacks. No, these momentary actions have nothing to do with Jeter heroics.

To my mind, Jeter’s defining characteristic is that whenever a Yankee other than the captain delivers a big knock or scores a crucial run, the first player that leaps over the railing of the New York dugout to celebrate and congratulate is always the same man — Derek Jeter.

General Douglas MacArthur’s declaration that “There is no substitute for victory” hangs at Yankee Stadium, forever reminding her players of what it means to be a Yankee. And whether you like it or not, New York’s tradition of titles and intimidation were long absent until Jeter resurrected them.

And though some would have you believe that Jeter’s legend and notoriety are a result of the New York media, make no mistake, victory is the beginning and the end for Jeter.

The future Hall of Fame shortstop is now 35 years old and could become a player who many fans look back on with regret at the realization that they did not appreciate how special he really was. Of course by then he will have retired and become another chapter of Yankee lore.

You don’t have to fall victim to that same, senseless thinking. Don’t allow your Yankee-hatred to blur your perception of one of the truly magnificent players in the history of the game.

It’s simple really, to suggest that Jeter is overrated is the very definition of laughable.

Jeter may not have the range of other shortstops, he may not have the hands, he may not have the arm, he may not have the speed, he may not have the power — but Jeter always finds a way to be right in the middle of the action when the chips are on the table.

For the first time since 2003, those chips are about to be on the table once again. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that four rings have eased Jeter’s pain of having missed the past five World Series.

Win or lose, Jeter will make his presence known.

I’ve been saying it for a long time, but will finally write it for all to see — if you don’t like, or at the very least appreciate Derek Jeter, then you don’t like baseball.

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4 Responses to “Don’t Hate, Appreciate”
  1. AlexPoterack says:

    “Regardless of the money, the fame, the awards or even the women — one thing towers above all others for the Yankees shortstop — winning.”

    I can’t help but think of what the Fire Joe Morgan guys had to say in response to a similar sentiment:

    “Joe Mauer, meanwhile, issued a different statement to the press after going 2-4 with a walk against the Cleveland Indians. ‘Fuck the World Series,’ said Mauer. ‘Seriously. Write that down. Fuck the World Series. If I ever win a World Series ring, I will literally just take it and fuck the tiny ring-hole.’ Mauer punctuated his remarks with a graphic, thrusting pantomime, presumably of what he would physically do to the World Series ring. Mauer added: ‘I don’t give a flying goddamn about winning. I am an awards guy. I’m Joe Fucking Mauer. I only care about individual honors. How many times do I have to tell you guys that? Mauer out, fuckfaces!’ Mauer then urinated on a picture of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett holding hands and stormed out of the clubhouse whistling a pro-al Qaeda anthem that he wrote himself earlier in the day.”

  2. T-Dog says:

    Oh my God! LOL at the previous comment.

  3. steve says:

    Nobody is saying Jeter wants to win more than Mauer. But if you like baseball and you hate Jeter, you are kinda pathetic, because the dude is good.

  4. Adam C says:

    Nice piece. I’ve always felt that a lot of Derek Jeter fans are the Yankees version of Boston’s pink hat fans, which is why it’s been a rare occasion when I have admitted to someone that Derek Jeter is indeed my favorite player. I wonder how many people would actually hate him if he was on another team? He’d still be my favorite player, but with less rings.

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