Derek Jeter: Putting a Career in Perspective


Sep 14, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) smiles in the dugout during the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

How Will Derek Jeter Be Remembered?

In case you haven’t heard the news, Derek Jeter announced yesterday afternoon that he will retire following the 2014 season. He’s had an illustrious and highly decorated career. You could say it’s been one for the ages. Within minutes of the announcement, which came via his Facebook account and not through the Yankees, all of the major media outlets were beginning to run their prepackaged retrospects and the talking heads on all of the talking head shows were losing their minds.

From my perspective, as someone who didn’t root for Derek Jeter, but instead spent countless hours begging and pleading with the baseball gods for his failure, yesterday was a very conflicting day.

For starters, I hate the Yankees. As a fan of a “small market” team I have had to sit and watch as they overpaid for talent year in and year out all while Jeter guided them to one World Series title after another. Meanwhile, we sat and watched from afar as we fell short year after painstakingly frustrating year.

Second, Jeter could do no wrong. As the face of the Yankees, he became a media darling. The Yankees were in the forefront of every major telecast and every national story with Derek Jeter front and center. You couldn’t get away from him, especially during his prime.

I grew to loathe Derek Jeter.

Sep 5, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter makes the throw to first base to get Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino (not pictured) for the first out in the top of the third inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Mills/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

However, for all of that “bad” stuff, Jeter did a lot more good. He played the game the right way and always appeared humble. Given the stature he held in the baseball world and for the team he played for he could have easily become a prima donna. He didn’t. He played hard every game, year in and year out. And he did it the right way, never once being linked to PEDs. As much as I hate to say it, he was an excellent role model for millions of kids and he deserves the praise that is about to be piled on for the next seven or eight months.

He also unknowingly gave me and my wife a common ground for which to build our relationship. What started off as a joke between the two of us, her liking the Yankees because I hated them so much and, in her words, Jeter was “cute,” quickly became our thing. I’ve documented it before on this site and affectionately have dubbed her the “Yankee Loving Wife.” Because of Derek Jeter, she became a full-fledged fan of the game of baseball, even if she is a Yankee fan first above all else.

I guess I have to thank him for that.

Anyways, knowing that yesterday would go down as one of the toughest days of her life to this point, I decided to get the Yankee Loving Wife’s take on Derek Jeter and how an average fan that isn’t engrossed in advanced stats and sabermetrics viewed his career. Here’s what she had to say.

Brian: Last year Derek Jeter struggled with injuries and didn’t have a typical “Derek Jeter” type of season. However, two years ago he led the AL in hits and had one of his best seasons. If he bounces back and has another great season, is there any chance he comes back, or do you think he’s done for good?

Yankee Loving Wife: I think this is it. I really do. The only reason I think he’s coming back this season is because he wants to go out on his terms. Same way as with Mariano Rivera. It’s a pride thing. He wants to be able to leave the game when he’s ready. Not because his body betrayed him or because the Yankees cast him aside. I think there’s a better chance he would come back if he suffered a major season ending injury early in the season. Again, because he’d want to leave on his terms.

Brian: What will you miss most about Derek Jeter?

Yankee Loving Wife: I’ll miss his consistency and him just being there every year at shortstop. It’s going to take some getting used to not seeing his name in the lineup or going to a game and not seeing him run out on to the field. He’s the last of the “Core 4” to call it quits so above all else I’ll just miss that era of Yankee baseball. Change isn’t easy.

Brian: What did you like most about Derek Jeter?

Yankee Loving Wife: I loved that he seemed to play the game the right way. It says a lot about his character and why he’ll go down as one of the best Yankee captains ever. I also love that while he spent the majority of his career playing during the peak of the steroid era, he has never been linked to any of that. Again, it speaks to his character. And like I said before, I’ll miss the consistency. He wasn’t the greatest shortstop of all-time, but he was solid every year for the most part.

Brian: What do you think is Derek Jeter’s legacy?

Yankee Loving Wife: Hands down he’s the greatest of the modern Yankees. He was the captain and the face of the franchise for so long. I think he’ll be remembered as one of the best leaders the game has ever seen, which says a lot. I don’t think he was the best shortstop ever but because of all the intangible things he brought to the table it would be hard to pick anyone else over him, at least in my opinion. A lot of people might say he was a good player that was simply lucky to fall into a great situation, but how much of that great situation was because of him? That’s what people are overlooking when they argue against him. Bottom line, he’s one of the greatest players we’ve ever seen. Punch his ticket to the hall of fame now.

Brian: Last question. Who will be missed more? Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera?

Yankee Loving Wife: Oh… tough. Call me crazy, but after everything I said about Jeter, I’m actually going to say Rivera. I say that because he WAS the best ever at what he did. He was also much more of a character than Jeter and was almost larger than life. He had the Metallica entrance music, the unhittable cutter, and was domination in its purest form. He was like a human victory cigar. Yes, he blew some saves, but 9 times out of 10 when he came into the game it was over. Jeter has been the man, but Rivera was almost larger than life and super human. Of course, ask me again a year from now when Jeter is actually gone and we have no idea who is playing short stop.