By Andy Lindberg
I cannot stand the New York Yankees.
But Derek Jeter is the best shortstop I have ever seen, and quite possibly, ever will see.
I am a fervent Red Sox fan. In my years of watching the Red Sox I have celebrated in ’99 when we beat the Cleveland Indians to win the ALDS, (American League Division Series), in ’04 when we came back from three games down to beat the vaunted Yankees, and in 1997 when Nomar Garciaparra became my second-favorite Red Sox player behind only Tim Naehring, who retired following that season.
My love of the Red Sox is deep-seeded. It courses through my veins. I chanted “Nomar’s Better!” every single time I saw Derek Jeter step up to bat.
As good as Nomar was, and as much as I believe he would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer had he stayed healthy, Derek Jeter is, and remains the quintessential baseball player.
I first saw Derek Jeter in 2004, when my uncle and cousin took me along with them to the old Yankee Stadium to see the Bombers face the Orioles. I saw Jeter hit two home runs that night.
It’s a strange thing to see; raucous Yankee fans from the inner city Bronx, Brooklyn projects, Westchester County wealth, and Greenwich all come together in a hush, a quiet, awe-struck buzz whenever Derek Jeter steps up to the plate. I found myself at a loss. I had no experienced that at any other venue I had been to. Less than 10 years in the league, and Jeter was approaching the realm of legend.
In 2008 I went back with my other cousin, Patty, to see Yankee Stadium one last time before it got torn down. By this point, Jeter had reached and eclipsed legend status. Expecting the same reaction I was privy to before, what I saw instead resembled old footage of Babe Ruth when he stepped into the box. Everyone pays attention. Even when the Yankees are in the field, most of the crowd is looking at Jeter.
Now at nearly 37-years-old, Derek Jeter is trying to become the 11th member of the 3,000 hit club. Unbelievably, he would be the only Yankee to ever reach this plateau.
It sickens me to say it, but Derek Jeter is crucial for the success of the game. Players should model themselves after him instead of the grandstanding players like Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds.
Jeter’s statistics are mind numbing. This is his 17th Major League season, all with the Yankees. Remaining with one team for that amount of time in this day and age alone is worth an award of some sort. He has a career .312 batting average, 236 home runs, .383 on-base percentage, six Gold Glove awards (although only two were really deserved), and of course, 2,994 hits as of Tuesday, June 14, 2011. Statistics aside, Jeter just knows how to win. His intangibles are off the charts. When all is said and done, Jeter may go down as the single greatest shortstop ever to play the game.
And who could argue with that?
Jeter is one of the lone successful holdovers from the glory days of the ‘90’s Yankee dynasty. The Yankees used to be fun to hate, and Jeter among them. Now the team has become loaded with despicable characters, all of whom carry little to no redeeming value, continuously wearing away the boyish look from Jeter’s now tired, fading face. Now with a Grade 1 calf strain after years of busting down the line to beat out routine ground balls, it seems as if age is catching up with Jeter, the man who has always played through every injury he could.
When Jeter goes, it will be a sad day for baseball. Until that point, however one should try to catch one last glimpse of the fading star that is Derek Jeter, because he will soon fade away.