Be honest, do you miss Derek Jeter all that much? The person I mean, not the player? I don’t, and I’ll try to explain why…
Derek Jeter, a Yankees icon, who is sure to be overwhelmingly elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame next year. Five World Series Titles, a .310 lifetime batting average, 3,465 career hits, 14 All-Star Game appearances, and the list of Jeter’s accomplishments as a player goes on.
Somehow though, and I know this borders on heresy with some Yankees fans, I feel like I’ve been bamboozled by Derek Jeter over the years, taken for a ride and dropped off at the nearest bus station when he felt like it after his retirement in 2014.
The smugness of the interviews he did on those rare occasions when we thought we might get a glimpse into what Derek Jeter was thinking about his or the Yankees performance on the field. In retrospect, and for example, his constant refrain when asked to comment on a season the Yankees just played with, “If we don’t win the World Series, we failed,” served himself, the man holding five rings more than his teammates.
Derek Jeter’s wispy white public image is also a matter that someday will be open to debate and criticism the first time a New York reporter breaks the “Code of Silence.” You know, one of those tell-all books like the kind Jane Leavy dared to write about another enigmatic Yankee icon, Mickey Mantle, which she aptly titled, “The Last Boy And The End Of American Childhood” (read a preview here).
This is not to downgrade or disparage Mantle or Jeter, it’s just to set the record straight that both were protected by the New York press and media, even while Matt Harvey, for instance, was ridiculed and essentially ran out of town for every misstep he made trying to emulate Derek Jeter, the man Harvey once said he wanted to be most like.
And while we’re at it, let’s set another part of the record straight. Derek Jeter’s final at-bat driving in the winning run is the only baseball moment I have on my DVR recordings, and it still causes a stir in my being whenever I replay it. It’s this one…
Yes, a mighty triumph in a man’s baseball legacy. And there were so many others to remember too, like the play where Derek Jeter dove into the stands on a foul ball, emerging bloodied and shaken. All as crisp in our minds as though they happened yesterday, and ready to be passed on to our sons and grandsons as proof that Derek Jeter was a special player.
But for me, that’s not the whole story. And I suppose the most critical question I have about Derek Jeter, the person, is this. What the heck is he doing in Miami? Is it the ego-busting need he had to own a team, which is hardly the truth anyway, as he is only a minor investor in the conglomerate that bought the team? So, what is it – power?
Derek Jeter surely has power with the Marlins, but he could have had the same thing with the Yankees. Though never confirmed by Hal Steinbrenner because Jeter jumped the gun on him with his pursuit of the Marlins’ buy, isn’t it reasonable to think the Yankees would have welcomed Jeter with open arms to stay with the franchise as an investor with high ranking privileges?
After all, Brian Cashman has been doing what he does for more than a decade. Eventually, someone will succeed him, and what better person is there for the job than Derek Jeter?
In the interim, while Cashman works out his severance pay or another position with the Yankees, Derek Jeter could have been home with his newborn, new wife, and the big house in Tampa “keeping in touch” with the Yankees, a la Alex Rodriguez and now Andy Pettitte, a recent hire of the Yankees after spurning a call from Jeter to join his team.
Stating the obvious, Derek Jeter has every right to live his life as he chooses. But so do I, as does the legion of Yankees fans. To put it another way, when Derek Jeter stepped away from the playing field, he owed the Yankees nothing as they did he. $265 million went into his pockets, and in return for that, the Yankees received a Hall of Fame-worthy career on the playing field. No one is cheated.
At the same time, however, it needs to be stated with full force that when Derek Jeter retired from baseball, he also retired from the Yankees. And for all his “Yankees Persona,” including well-known little shows of Yankeeism like making a point to touch the Joe DiMaggio quote, “I’d like to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee” every time he took the field to play a game.
For myself, I think I’ll just turn on the TV and call up that final at-bat by Derek Jeter…but with the understanding that I’m only living and seeing the illusion.