Monday, September 22, 2014

Requiem for an Enemy

I come here not to bury Derek Jeter, but to praise him.

In these, the final weeks of the Yankee legend's career, it's fashionable to mock him for being a shadow of his former self (his .230/.270/.293 post all-star break slash lines are a particularly cruel reminder that time always wins, and those are boosted by four consecutive 2-hit games through yesterday). I confess that I've jumped on the bandwagon myself, with help from the skipper of the Tampa Bay Rays.


I can't speak for others, but my insignificant jab was aimed at the Cult of Derek Jeter rather than the man himself. For as much as I've long rolled my eyes at the former, the latter is indisputably the Red Sox opponent I most feared and respected over the course of his career.

Derek Jeter is inarguably an all-time great, even as the confluence of his good fortune to play in New York when he did, the quality of his teammates, and his uber-professional approach led to the creation of a narrative to which no player's actual achievements could truly measure up. But even so, his measurables, at least at the plate, really do argue for his inclusion on list of the legends. He's first all-time among shortstops in hits, second in runs, and in the top ten in OPS, OPS+, HR, RBI, 2B, and - despite the often-accurate criticisms of the Fire Joe Morgan crowd - WAR (which combines offense and defense). I know that counting stats have their flaws, but there's something to be said for sustaining a level of play long enough to compile as many as has Jeter. He's not the greatest shortstop ever, but he's in the discussion.

(As an aside, I really miss Fire Joe Morgan. That link is a really cool remembrance by the site's main writers.)

You really can't find a more fitting representation of the difference between Derek Jeter and the Cult of Derek Jeter than this really well done homage from Gatorade and the attendant fawning over the ad. 



The ad is terrific, for sure, as is Jeter. But when people, even respectable journalists like Rob Neyer, say shit like this:


Well, that's the kind of stuff that makes a fella want to start hating all over again. Here to praise, though. Here to praise.

One of the strengths of that ad is how well it depicts Yankee fans' feelings about Jeter. But Yankee fans are supposed to get verklempt in the presence of the Captain; they've been programmed to do so by his sustained reallygoodness and a willing media for 20 years now. The measure of Jeter's impact  might be more accurately captured by his standing with fans of his biggest rivals.

When Jeter came to bat against the Red Sox, even as I knew he wasn't as dangerous as, say, Gary Sheffield with his menacing bat waggle, or Robinson Cano or Alex Rodriguez, even then, I was always afraid. Here comes another hands-inside rifle to right to score a runner from second. And, dammit, there it came.

In 2004, when the Sox trailed the Yankees, 3-1, in the ALCS, their hopes were dashed when Jeter drilled an opposite-field double to clear the bases in the top of the 6th of Game 5. I'd begun writing their obituary, because that's how it was supposed to end, with Derek Fucking Jeter beating them.

And when that incredible, impossible, still-goosebump-inducing series came to an end, when the Sox thumped the Yankees, 10-3, in Game 7, it wasn't the images of the stricken, befuddled Yankee fans that let me know it was really, truly over (though they were the best, weren't they?). No, it was the anger and then the resignation on Jeter's face as he raged against the dying of the Curse.

So, as Jeter finishes more Willie Mays stumbling around the outfield than John Elway on top of the world, he still deserves the accolades he's receiving. I respect him as much as any player I've ever rooted against. He is, as much as it pains me, one of sport's great winners, even though his calm-eyed Captain Intangibles creation myth is just so much happy horseshit.

In the final analysis, I'm happy to see him go, because he can't beat my team any more.

Re2pect.

47 comments:

Danimal said...

Was anyone by chance at the Yankee game yesterday? Just curious.

Hey Whit....happy birthday fella.

Danimal said...

South Park's 18th season premier victim? Little Danny and the Washington professional football team.

zman said...

I don't think I've been programmed by the media as much as by the fact that only five people in the history of professional baseball have more hits than Jeter (two of whom had their last at bats about a decade before WWII). And hitting the ball is, after all, one third of what you do in baseball (the other two thirds being "you throw the ball, you catch the ball").

Danimal said...

Flew a prop plane on Silver Airlines to Tampa this morning. Now on a Fox Rental Car shuttle taking me "off site" to my vehicle. #oppositeofballer

rob said...

you're so programmed that you don't even realize you've been programmed, z. this is some matrix-style shit.

zman said...

I'm a victim of 400 years of conditioning. The man has programmed my conditioning. Even my conditioning has been conditioned!

zman said...

Only 12 people have reached base more than Jeter, and he's only 4 behind Ted Williams (who is tremendously overrated). And I'm just talking about reaching base in a literal baseball sense. When you start getting metaphorical then you're on some Tiger Woods shit.

rob said...

my computer must be broken. the screen looks like it says that ted williams is overrated, but that's so preposterous as to call into question everything the author of such a sentiment has ever said, so it must be a computer error.

zman said...

Success!! Note that I ranked Teddy Ballgame ahead of Jeter on my manliness continuum.

http://gheorghe77.blogspot.com/2011/07/manliness-continuum.html

rob said...

baited me like ted did a hook

Whitney said...

Thanks, Danimal. Had a good weekend in Nags Head with fratres, Norfolk friends, OBX friends, and our old pal Vicky. Very good way to spend a birthday.

Squeaky said...

Whit, Happy B-day! I know it's a stretch but have a beer for me.

I want to the Pats game this weekend and I think they played three songs recorded after 1995 the whole game. It was great for all those white dudes in the 40's. There were song medleys by Motley Crue, Metallica and Queensryche. WTF.

Whitney said...

Thanks, Squeaker. Feeling pretty old today. If nothing else, because of a nice story my folks relayed. My 94-year-old grandmother asked them how old I was turning, they asked her to guess, she said 52. I'd seen her last week. Dammit, Grammie. Come on.

That on top of a story from a month ago: we were at a friend's pool party in VB. Big crowd, lots of kids, I was throwing the ball around with a few of the younger ones in the pool. I overhear one of the girls say to the 6-year-old daughter of our friends, "Is Whitney your grandfather?" Much laughter. Ha ha.

Seems like I should be retiring soon, at least.

mr kq said...

Happy Bday mate! Wish we were pinted up right about now. But she thought you were FIFTY-TWO? Damn, that's cold... Wait.

Danimal said...

Watching Battle of the Network Stars on ESPN Classic. Howard Cosell is the mc. Mark Harmon just kicked Lorenzo Lamas' ass on the obstacle course portion of the competition. It was impressive. Lamas is a pussy. This is terrific television. I'm traveling tonight which explains why I can watch such a thing.

Danimal said...

Tandem bike race next! This is a relay with each network having 3 teams. They each go around the track 1 time. There are thousands of people at this thing. Cosell is in top form. This is fucking dangerous. And right on queue, Lamas goes off the track and wipes out. ABC wins!
Cosell isreplaying the wreck in slo-mo. Lamas is such a douche.

Danimal said...

Seriously, a tandem bike race on a track and field track! I guess it was a different day back then. Was "liability" a word in the 70's? Scott Baio!

Danimal said...

Melissa Gilbert, "running like the wind," Cosell yells.
Gabe Kaplan!
Donna Mills!
Fred Willard! This needs to rereun in primetime on network tv.
Mark Harmon is a beast! NBC WINS!

Danimal said...

Donna Dixon. She's hot. And by the way, from Winchester, hence the Dan Aykroyd Grand Marshall gig at Apple Blossom 10 years ago.
Tug of War!

Danimal said...

Sam Jones! Who the fuck is Sam Jones?
YOU HAVE TO HEAR HOWARD COSELL ON THIS. He is unreal.

Dave said...

i love it when you guys get all quaint and 20th century with the baseball stuff.

can't believe i missed whit's fiftieth . . .

Whitney said...

Who is Sam Jones??? Flash Gordon! Didn't you ever watch Ted? (We know Dave did.) Or Flash Gordon??

Whitney said...

And Rob, when you want to honor me and include my number in the word you want to use for me, it will be really easy.

C00L

Danimal said...

Yes I did. I knew he looked familiar.

TR said...

Quien es mas macho - Lamas o Montalban?

rob said...

watching men in blazers' ncbsn debut. i could watch these guys for hours.

zman said...

Day one of a four day solo dadding session in the books. zwoman can't get home soon enough. I will have sooooo much political capital.

zman said...

Montalban es mucho macho. Khan!

rob said...

poison ivy update: the eye is fine, even if the skin around it is a bit dry. a few patches here and there on the rest of my body, but an alarming outbreak on my hand greeted me this morning. fortunately, for obvious reasons, it's my left hand.

TR said...

You can get creative with calamine in a pinch...

TR said...

I have Men in Blazers on the DVR. The chemistry those guys have is amazing. They're also unbelievably funny. I'm glad they're blowing up.

I'll be here all night commenting on Rob's comments! Or at least until the Jets fall behind by three TDs...

rob said...

it's perfectly lo-fi, tr. and they somehow wound up with the george michael sports machine sign. which is a nice, if bizarre, touch.

TR said...

Jets torturing me by hanging in the game.

zman said...

The world really needs another Dracula movie?

Shlara said...

Happy b-day to Whitney AND Clerence.
Can't believe I didn't score an invite to that big 5-0 party, I bet they served some top notch drinks at that shin-dig

And I love Danimals commentary on battle of the network stars--I was obsessed with that show whe it ran in the 70s---showing the repeats in prime time would certainly be more entertaining than some of the new crap they try to serve us now

Clarence said...

Thanks, Shlara. I'm sure Whitney is already asleep.

50 is the new 69.

Danimal said...

I appreciate the love Shlara. I figured at least one person would appreciate it.

mayhugh said...

Battle of the Network Stars is awesome to watch now. Many of the participants took it really, really seriously and sometimes it's surprising to see who was really athletic (Gabe Kaplan runs like the wind) and who wasn't (Lamas, Ron Howard - though probably not much surprise with respect to the latter).

Mark said...

Matt Bonner is a treasure. http://grantland.com/the-triangle/15-questions-for-san-antonios-matt-bonner/

mayhugh said...

I had never seen "Fundamentals of the Game with Coach B" and that is pretty much 8.5 minutes of gold.

Mark said...

It really is. Bonner might be at the top of my NBA players I want to hang out with list.

Squeaky said...

Huge time suck but this recut of Raiders of the Lost Ark is pretty cool in b/w without any dialog and a new soundtrack.

http://extension765.com/sdr/18-raiders

mr kq said...

So there's this gif/meme - whatever you guys call that shit - going around on the facebook where some huge kid runs over a small tackler (Rob?) in a sevens game. It's truly awesome Thought it would be funny to send to a few ruggers.

Note to self and Clarence - do not google "big fat rugby player". On a work computer.

Squeaky said...

Rob, you got a new gig?

DJ Squirrel at the Clarendon Ballroom on 26-7th.

https://clarendon-ballroom.squarespace.com/calendar/2014/9/26/dj-tbd

Whitney said...

Jon Stewart just crushing it tonight. DVR the rerun tomorrow.

Marls said...

I'm at Stan's pouring one out for DJ. I might be overserved.

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