#2. Derek Jeet-ah. #2.

jeterI look forward to Bob Sheppard posthumously introducing Derek Jeter’s at bats again in 2014. I will appreciate every at-bat because the end is near.

Baseball fans all now know that 2014 is the last season for the Yankees Captain and future Hall-of-Fame shortstop Derek Jeter. He has been the Yankees shortstop since 1996 (and a handful of games in 1995). This will be his 20th season in pinstripes and, as he announced, his last. Hopefully it’ll be among his best, but that may be too much to ask for an aging athlete who’ll celebrate his 40th birthday in June. Then again, he did lead the majors in hits in 2012 when he turned 38, so you can never sell him short.

His statistics are impressive–3300+ career regular season hits and rising. His regular season lifetime batting average is .312, and his post season average is .308 (higher in the World Series). However, his stats only tell part of the story. He has been the example of “doing things right”–running out every ground ball, effort on every defensive play, team first on every occasion. Trite though it may sound, there is no “I” in Derek Jeter. Yes of course he is proud and he has been well compensated (and has earned every dollar, and some) , but his goal is simple–Yankees victory, every day, spring and fall, with the goal of World Championship. He has achieved the team goal 5 times during his career, and perhaps #6 will be ahead in 2014. His rings will fall short of Yogi Berra’s 10 rings, but I suspect there will be few, if any, major leaguers going forward who’ll match his rings in today’s game

Derek Jeter is also a master communicator. He says nothing. Nothing controversial, nothing about himself, no trash talk, no questioning the manager, no bad mouthing a teammate or opponent. He speaks of team goals and victory, and his words are genuine. His actions and words are seamlessly aligned.

He has been the best shortstop in major league baseball history in overall performance, though ironically perhaps no better than 5th best Yankee, behind Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, and possibly Berra and Rivera. In truth there are no rankings of Yankee greats, only retired numbers in Monument Park and plaques in Cooperstown. He will easily achieve them both. Jeter has also been fortunate to have played with other Yankee greats overlapping his career—Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite, and Jorge Posada. Their careers have roughly spanned the same time frame as his, and they are each now retired. Honors await each of them as well. The 5 Championships have been the result of their combined performance and those of other Yankee players.

jeterpupblanketJeter is also the namesake our pup, and as you can see he is a winner in his own right. While I suspect there are many dogs now named Jeter, I submit there aren’t any as smart and cute as ours. Our pup will no doubt will miss hearing his name and lifting his head during Yankees telecasts.

Derek Jeter has also been an important influence in our household. He is our daughter’s hero, her favorite player since I brought her to Yankee Stadium as a young girl and she saw the young rookie shortstop. For her, Jeter’s retirement is the end of an era. There is virtually no one who understands Yankees history, current and past, as well as she does. (Notice I did not use a gender qualifier). Brian Cashman was smart enough to call her a few years ago, when as a 21-year old, her insights in letter to him inspired him to reach out. So Jeter’s retirement is a sad event for her.

JetercutoutHer cutout of life sized Derek Jeter remains in her room in our home even though her she now resides in New York City (naturally) working at Taylor, a major PR agency–alas life sized cutouts don’t fit well in tiny NYC apartments.

In looking at the Yankees schedule, I am fortunate to have purchased tickets for Sunday September 21. Minutes after Jeter announced his retirement my wise daughter suggested I jump on Stub Hub and buy tickets for the last Sunday home game, which will possibly be a Jeter ceremony. Others not as wise as Carolyn did the same, though not as quickly, and the tickets I snagged for $34 apiece are now being sold for more than $500 a ticket.

We also have tickets for Wednesday September 24, the next to last home game, but have not purchased the last regular season home game on September 25. As Carolyn commented, there will be October games to be played, so the 25th will not be his last home game. My strong wish is that we once again attend the final game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, as we did in 2009, and see a triumphant Yankees team, with Derek Jeter addressing the crowd again speaking about team victory, not of himself, and telling the Yankees fans that they are the best in the world (true).

There couldn’t be a better ending to a great career.

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