Reluctant testimony, it can be argued, is the strongest type of testimony. As a Red Sox fan and a guy who embraces advanced statistics, I’m supposed to hate Derek Jeter. And I do. But not today. Today is a sad day because I’m a fan of the game. And today is a sad day because Derek Jeter no longer plays that game. Say what you will about Jeter – and I’ll say none of that today – but he’s a guy who baseball is going to miss.
I don’t have this feeling surrounding too many retirements. As I write this, I can think of only two other players. Carl Yastrzemski and Cal Ripken. Mike Schmidt or George Brett could have been similar, I suppose. Tony Gwynn too. But not for me. For me, this is number three.
I work with a guy, brilliant guy, who’s a Yankee fan. What’s funny about him, at least to me, is that as smart as he is, he just doesn’t give a damn about advanced statistics. He sees the game as a child would, in its purest form. Really, in its greatest form. When we started talking baseball, I wanted to teach him all about these advanced numbers. What has actually happened is that he’s reminded me to appreciate the game as I once did. He loves Jeter not because of the Captain’s numbers. He loves Jeter because he’s Derek Jeter. He’s Derek Jeter! And he should. And you should. And today I do too.
Derek Jeter is the best shortstop in the history of baseball’s most successful franchise. Jeter played in more games than any other Yankee. He came to the plate more times. He had more hits than any other Yankee, more singles and doubles and stolen bases too. He’s second to only Babe Ruth in runs scored. Hell, he’s ninth all-time in Yankee homers and sixth in ribbies. He has more WAR than Berra, more offensive WAR than DiMaggio, more total bases than Mantle. And at least for today, he has more Yankee-ness than anyone.
Should he have announced his retirement at the beginning of the season? Hell yes! Let baseball fans enjoy this moment. Every one of these moments. Should he have started the All-Star Game this year? Of course! No matter what kind of three months Alexei Ramirez was having, nobody wanted to see him play as much as they did Jeter. Am I bothered by the constant Jeter talk? Absolutely not. Not today anyway. He’s Derek Jeter. And he deserves it.
Tomorrow I can go back to being myself. Red Sox fan. Numbers guy. Jeter hater. But for today – the day after the start of the ALDS and the first day of baseball Jeter has really missed in 20 years – I can admit with pride that I’m sad to see him go and that I’m going to miss him. Thank you, Derek.