Men want to be him and women want to be with him.
These words describe Derek Jeter to a tee. These words have always been associated with at least one member of the New York Yankees ever since Babe Ruth plopped down in New York in 1919. There has always been a man in pinstripes that is the talk of the town, fingered as the apex of popularity in the free world. But, now that the current Yankee captain's career is entering its sunset, the question must be asked, who will replace Jeter as the quintessential Yankee?
Ruth was the original. Not a single person in the world could have rivaled the popularity of the Babe in the 1920s except for maybe the pope (and I think even the Holy Father would have donned a Yankee cap were he to meet Ruth).
As Ruth began to have to wriggle into his pinstripes, Gehrig arrived to Yankee Stadium as a fresh-faced, shy youngster who didn't demand the spotlight. He was the future, and the fans realized that, eventually embracing him as the heir to Ruth.
After Ruth retired, the next young Yankee idol in 1936 stepped into the spotlight straight out of California. Joe DiMaggio was instantly loved by the New York fans who still had the Iron Horse to idolize as well. DiMaggio was the exact thing that a Yankee was supposed to be. He married famous movie stars, he endorsed products that he loved, and drew attention wherever he went.
DiMaggio was joined in 1941 by the too small Phil Rizzuto. Ruizzuto, who didn't always have the hitting stats that screamed "Holy cow!", was a slick defender and an instant fan favorite.
A decade into his tenure as a Yankee, DiMaggio was joined by Yogi Berra, a guy nobody could justify disliking. His friendly disposition and less than exemplar grammar gave him one of the best personalities of any of the ball players at the time.
As soon as DiMaggio retired, Mickey Mantle, a good-natured southern boy, was able to make fans soon forget that DiMaggio ever left. Mantle was followed up by Thurmon Munson, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly, and finally Derek Jeter.
Now who could possibly follow in this list of extraordinary men, all of whom have transcended the sport. Now that Jeter has roughly three to six years of baseball left in him, who can succeed him.
Until recently, I was convinced that minor league phenom Austin Jackson would be the man to take his place. He had everything it would take to replace Jeter, but alas, he was traded this off-season to the Tigers, which leaves me completely at a loss.
My next thought was possibly CC Sabathia. He is already playing up to the level that the quintessential Yankee must play up to, but he does not seem to me to be that person that will be synonymus with the Yankee name.
The only other players currently on their major league roster that seem to have the potential to be "that man" are Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. These two men have the hype needed to be THE Yankee, but neither have shown that they will be a dominant player for years to come, although both have shown flashes of brilliance.
Also, the only minor leaguer that seems to be coming up with the noteriety and skill needed is Jesus Montero. The hard-hitting catcher who will probably end up being a DH or 1B at some point down the line has the hype and potential enough to be the quintessential Yankee.
It seems to me, however, that the next man who is the face of the Yankees is not yet on their team, and not even in their farm system yet. Keep your eyes peeled folks, because when these types of players come, they come fast and usually from out of nowhere.
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