Monday, July 11, 2011

Congratulations to the Captain: Derek Jeter...Mr. 3000

Derek Jeter has been a Great member of the New York Yankees ever since he broke into Major League Baseball in 1995. 5 rings later, I place him in the conversation for being one of the top five Yankees of all time. We all know about Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle, but the Captain is right there.

It is fitting that, at age 37, he gets his 3,000th hit on his 2nd at bat of the home...With a homer, becoming the first Yankee to reach the milestone. And, only the 2nd player get there with a big fly. (Wade Boggs while with Tampa Bay). By the way, he had a five hit game and stole a couple of bases in a 5-4 team victory in which he also drove in the game winning run.

To my mind, Jeter should be a first ballot, unanimous selection into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But, he won't be, and for most preposterous of reasons. Here it is. He's too clean. No steroids. No controversy or scandals. Nothing the media could feed upon in all these years. Nothing.

And, for as much as the writers who will someday vote Jeter into Cooperstown want the 'clean guy', some would simply rather have the lightening rod, dumb, quote machine. Were Jeter one of these guys, they'd killed him for it. You can't make the media, for the most part, happy I'm afraid. I hope to never find myself in that particular subgroup.

Finally, my favorite memory of Derek Jeter came as I covered him with the YES Network my first year with the then start-up operation. I took our young son to Spring training in Tampa. And, as we sat in the dugout, I noticed our son talking to Jeter as I was conducting another interview on the field. Our son then handed Derek my cell phone. A brief conversation ensued with one of our son's grade school classmates.

When I returned to the dugout, my phone was ringing. It was the kid's dad apologizing for his son lying about speaking to Mr. Jeter and burning minutes on my phone. All I could tell him was that his son was NOT lying, and that Mr. Jeter was a very nice man and one of the outstanding role models in sports I've ever encountered.

Derek Jeter has done nothing in all these years to make me consider changing that opinion.