So I feel compelled to write something about Derek Jeter. Had I written this last week it would have been a rant about how Major League Baseball, all of the networks that air Major League Baseball and almost every Yankees fan I’ve ever encountered both in real life and online wanted me to be devastated that Jeter retired from baseball.
But this past week of playoff baseball has taken the aggravation out of almost this entire season of Jeter love.
The Kansas City Royals have played and won THREE extra-inning games to put themselves one win away from going to the American League Championship Series. The Kansas City Royals have played some of the most exciting baseball I’ve seen not related to the Boston Red Sox in just three games (and 34 innings). And there was nary a mention of Derek Jeter at any of these games save for the occasional viewing of that Gatorade commercial (that Deadspin made even better). Major League Baseball might not want to admit it but so far baseball is not only still living without Captain Intangibles but it’s thriving.
Okay, thriving only to baseball fans who enjoy the hell out of watching exciting baseball regardless of the size of the team’s fanbase – but tell the fans it’s all for them and eventually we’ll start to believe it.
And this was the issue most people had with the narrative that the baseball world was going to end when Jeter tipped his cap for the last time: We knew it wasn’t true.
I will not argue that Derek Jeter wasn’t a better than average player. (I will argue that had he played anywhere other than the New York Yankees he’d be remembered pretty much the exact way Craig Biggio is remembered – which isn’t so terrible, is it?) But he wasn’t bigger than the game just because he played with the same team for his entire career, never got accused of or caught cheating and played well on a consistent level for the majority of his career. Those things make him fortunate, possibly a good guy and a very talented player. They don’t make him the best player to ever take the field. They don’t even make him the last great player MLB will ever see. He was a good/sometimes great player who will most definitely make it into the Hall of Fame. The thing is, if you go to the Hall of Fame you will see an awful lot of good/sometimes great/really freaking amazing players already there.
According to the Baseball Hall of Fame website:
The Hall of Fame is comprised of 306 elected members. Included are 211 former major league players, 28 executives, 35 Negro leaguers, 22 managers and 10 umpires.
So it isn’t as if when Jeter gets the call his plaque will be hanging in there alone. There won’t be some angelic lights shining upon it to single it out from all the others (although I’m sure some folks, probably Jeter himself, would dig that). It’ll be there with all the other players in baseball who have made an impact on the game impressive enough to get elected to its Hall of Fame. Which is wonderful. Jeter’s parents should be very proud. And I’ll be happy for him and not begrudge him his place in baseball’s history one iota.
But he didn’t historically change the game and the the game isn’t worse off for his deciding to leave it. It moves on, like everything does, and so far it’s still wonderful.
So goodbye, Derek Jeter. You weren’t my least favorite Yankees player but I’m still not sorry to see you go.