The MLB All-Star Game is used to highlight the best players in baseball near the halfway point of the regular season. Derek Jeter is not one of these players, but he still is worthy of his spot in the starting lineup for the American League.
In most cases, the positions on the All-Star team are for the players who have excelled throughout the first part of the season. Almost everyone in the starting lineup and certainly the reserves have put up big enough numbers to warrant their inclusion in the Midsummer Classic.
On the other hand, Jeter has struggled throughout most of this season in all phases of the game. The shortstop has put up a triple slash line of .272/.324/.322 with just two home runs and six stolen bases. His on-base plus slugging percentage of .647 is the lowest of his career, with the exception of last season when he played just 17 games.
According to ESPN.com, the New York Yankees star has contributed a WAR of just 0.5 this year, which ranks 13th among American League shortstops. This means that 12 of the other 14 teams in the AL have a player who has been more valuable this year, yet Jeter is the one representing the AL at Target Field.
Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight broke down the veteran's season from a historical perspective, noting he is one of the worst All-Star starters of the past 40 years. Since 2000, only five players have been less productive before getting a starting nod at this prestigious event.
Interestingly, the worst player on the list is first-ballot Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. In reality, this is the best comparison for what Jeter is going through—a player who does not deserve the spot based on the season's numbers but is nevertheless being rewarded of an extended career of achievement.
Before he retires at the end of the season, the 40-year-old legend is set to complete his 20th year in the major leagues, all with the Yankees. This feat alone deserves recognition in an age where so many players bounce around to different places in free agency.
Of course, Jeter has been quite good in that time, accumulating 3,408 hits, 14 All-Star appearances, five Gold Glove awards, one Rookie of the Year award and five World Series rings. Putting him into one extra All-Star Game is not the biggest crime, even if a player like Alexei Ramirez or Erick Aybar might be more deserving of a start.
However, the important thing to remember is that Jeter being in this game is not just for him; it is for everyone else involved. Fans might be tired of hearing about the fact that this will be his last appearance on this stage, but the players are certainly enjoying themselves.
National League starting pitcher Adam Wainwright discussed the honor it will be just to face Jeter in this matchup, saying, "I have been in the big leagues for nine years. I've never faced him. I'm very excited about it, just to say I faced the best. And he is undoubtedly one of the best to ever play his position, one of the greatest Yankees of all time," via Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Yasiel Puig, who has become quite a star himself, also noted his excitement, via Bob Klapisch of The Record:
While the players turn into fans on the field, the actual fans will also be enjoying themselves. Whether you love Jeter or hate him, his appearance will certainly be more memorable than almost any other player on the field. Ripken's final showing was undeserved, but he did create one of the top moments in All-Star Game history:
Additionally, there seems to be a universal respect for Jeter, which puts him in a class above others in the game. The latest Jordan commercial seems to capture this perfectly:
Even the biggest Red Sox/Orioles/Mets fans will be able to enjoy the moment that Jeter takes on the field on Tuesday night. Like everyone else, they will hope that something incredible happens.
The shortstop has created so many great plays over the past two decades. Although some of them might have been praised just a bit too much, they remain part of the history of baseball. If fate has anything to say about it, he will come through with one more big one.
By the numbers, Jeter should not even be in attendance at Target Field. However, we all know that the superstar deserves to be standing between second and third base on the big stage one last time.
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