Honestly, guys, are you really holding your breath until Derek Jeter hits 3,000?
Do you really care that much anymore?
As we move inexorably (Jeter could move a little faster) toward the 28th major leaguer making The Mark, I find myself less and less interested. Can’t we just get it over with, move on and let him slip out of our thoughts until his Hall of Fame speech (maybe then he will say something interesting.)
I’ve always liked the captain—abstractly, the way I admire George Washington and Lou Gehrig, two other remote historical/entertainment figures—but I never really had warm feelings for him, as I did for, say, Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon, Bernie Williams, even Paul O’Neill. It seemed like there was some there there with those guys, even when they held it in or acted out boorishly.
If a credible scientist told me that Jeter was an extraterrestrial or a cyborg, I would take it under consideration. There has always seemed something missing, or at least withheld.
It’s hard to read him. (“Hey, Buddy,” is his signature greeting, not making eye contact, moving briskly along.) Is there something super smug there or over-defended—he’s so afraid of revealing himself he shows nothing?
He has that right. I just don’t have to care about him.
As you know—some of you have already trashed me for this here—Jeter started losing me for what I felt were un-captain-like actions.
I thought he should have moved over to third base when Alex Rodriguez joined the club. A-Rod was arguably the best shortstop around at the time, certainly the better of the two, and playing in a more familiar position would have shored up his own vulnerable psyche. Better for the team, right, captain?
I didn’t find that mime act last season all that cute, clutching his elbow to pretend he’d been hit by a pitch. He was believed because he had built up this image of integrity. Let’s not get into what else he gets away with.
The fact that I know so little about his personal life only means I’m free to speculate—pervy sex, designer drugs including performance-enhancers and a house so large and tasteless people call it St. Jetersburg (whoops, that one’s true). I speculate almost as a defense reaction—I remember how little I knew about Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Pete Rose, Mickey Mantle, until I knew too much.
I’m glad I don’t have the problems that Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have—how do you deal with an icon whose use-by date has expired. General manager Cashman was asked by Michael Sokolove, writing for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, whether Jeter’s contract extension was based more on what he had accomplished or on what the team expected he would produce in the future.
Cashman said: “People can look at it and come to their own conclusions. The contract got done, with Derek remaining a Yankee, and hopefully we’ll win more world championships with him at shortstop.”
I’ll come to my own conclusions, Brian. The Yankees can afford Jeter and didn’t want to alienate a fan base that might have negative feelings about a worker laid off by a bottom-line corporation. Of course, if the worker is non-productive …
Well, that’s Girardi’s problem now. Where do you put Jeter in the lineup? We assume he wouldn’t throw a Posada-like hissy fit if he was disrespected to, say, seven or eight, where he belongs.
Coming off the disabled list and swinging for 3,000, Jeter needs to lead off, get as many at-bats as possible. Two hits, one a double, in his second game back was a good sign that this will be over soon.
But it won’t really be over. There’s the HBO special, Derek Jeter 3K, that reportedly will give us a glimpse of the mansion and the current girlfriend, Minka Kelly, soon to be one of the new Charlie’s Angels. There is that song by Fran Kowalski, a well-known singer-songwriter, that includes these lines, according to a Times blog:
We know we all enjoy the show
That baseball fans have come to know
The shots that make it past defenders’ mitts,
Derek Jeter’s 3,000 hits
And then there’s his appearance in the All-Star Game, which—I’ll come to another conclusion, Brian—he has not earned by his performance this season or last.
Okay, what about loyalty?
As Sokolove pointed out in his magazine piece, “The Yankees have reached the World Series seven times during Jeter’s tenure and prevailed in five of them.”
Then again, “His baseball earnings have surpassed $200 million—not counting the three-year, $51 million contract that he signed before this season.” Seems we’re even up.
(Sokolove, a seasoned baseball writer, was denied access to the Yankees clubhouse for his piece on the aging of Jeter. I guess we can’t blame Jeter for that, can we?)
I’m a Yankee fan and grateful for what the captain has done. But he’s done it. Once he’s past 3,000, let’s develop the future of the team, Granderson and Gardner and Nunez. Platoon Jeter, bench him, make him a mime coach. Unless we just want to watch him grow older.
Robert Lipsyte is author of the memoir An Accidental Sportswriter.
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