Throughout his Yankee career, Derek Jeter seemed to always be in the spotlight. He's the Yankee captain, the leader, the face of the franchise, and his face is all over TV whether it be in the pinstripes, or showing us features in the Ford Edge.
But after a career low offensive season in 2010 and a contract-drama offseason, the spotlight shined on Jeter in a different light. Instead of "Look at the beloved Yankees captain..." the light had more of a "Jeez Jeter, what's wrong with you?" type vibe. And when he didn't get off to the start he would have liked to in 2011, the frustrations grew. Even some fairly loyal Yankees fans like my 87-year old Grandma began to lose patience and faith in the Captain: my Grandma frequently complained, "Hey, all Jeter does is groundout, I'm tired of him..."
And I admit it: I am very hard on Jeter. My father is a devoted Jeter fan. In his eyes, Derek Jeter can do no wrong. If he's not hitting well, according to my Dad, he's playing through the pain. Or, what my Dad does whenever I bring up that Jeter is hitting at a clip of say, .256, is he avoids what I say, and responds with something like, "A-Rod can't hit for power, what's wrong with this bum?"
My brothers are on my "side" with the whole Jeter thing. We admire and respect him, but we're not ones to give him free passes like my father is. If he's not playing up to his capability, we're concerned. We don't just brush it off and bow down to him. All we want is for our Dad to treat the other struggling Yankees equally to a struggling Jeter. Why criticize the others when Jeter isn't hitting either?
I was recently challenged to a debate in which I had to oppose the claim that Derek Jeter is dying out. At first I was a little unsure of what to say, because looking solely at batting average - well, let's just say he isn't improving in that respect. Then I began to think about what to say in my argument, and a rush of guilt came over me. Every day I would bring up Jeter in a negative light to my Dad. And I never mentioned any positives. Why? I was being just as irrational about Jeter as my Dad was about A-Rod (I'll have to explain more in depth another time about that, he really is ridiculous on hating A-Rod). I began thinking, Jeter is 37 years old, age and injuries have caught up to him, so is it really fair to expect him to be a consistent .300 hitter like he once was? How could I be so cruel as to forget everything he has done for the team and just look at meaningless (in this case) stats?
A wise baseball fan and friend said this to me in regards to Jeter: "As far as a baseball player, he's great, but what's hard for people to grasp is that he's great without being great at one thing, he's not especially powerful, he's not the fastest, he's not the best fielder ever, he's just...good at everything and has a flair for the dramatic which makes him great."
Jeter is also the perfect guy to look up to and is the perfect example for anyone to try and emulate. He is a great player who is an even better guy, and he goes about his business so well. He's never in trouble, never arrogant, and he's always for the team. He does all the little things right, and makes it truly impossible to hate him. Anyone who hates him needs their head examined.
I see now why my Dad never utters a bad word about Derek - because he can't! Stats are not everything, especially to the man himself. Of course Jeter wants to do well, but as long as he can help the team win, he is satisfied. And ultimately, that is what I want as well. I don't care how high the Yankee batting averages are. I just want them to win. And at 52-35, they are doing just that - even if Jeter isn't hitting .300. He's still leading.
#3,000 yesterday (actually 2,999-3,003) was incredible. Congratulations Derek Jeter, Mr. future first ballot HOF, Mr. November, my Captain. I'm lucky to have witnessed history yesterday. And just overall, I'm so lucky to have grown up watching you. I know that no matter what, you will continue to shine.
by Virginia Califano
Questions? Comments? Contact Virginia at pinstripepartisan.com