The Derek Jeter farewell tour hit St Louis on Monday, as the Yankees and Cardinals opened up the first game of a three game series.
And it was pretty cool to see.
I know that sometimes people roll their eyes when a team (especially like the Yankees) parade someone around on a victory lap. And certainly, it happened last year with Mariano Rivera and the same New York franchise.
But it still feels genuine, and it feels deserved. For two reasons.
First, consider everything that Jeter has meant to the game, and has meant to the current guys on the roster. And all the rosters around Major League Baseball.
Jeter, who will turn 40 a month from yesterday, is not only a five-time World Series Champion and 13-time All Star (in fact, he has many, many, many more accolades that I could list here.)
He is also the face of not only one of the most popular franchises in all of professional sports, but of a generation.
He is the Michael Jordan of the last fifteen years wearing Jordan baseball cleats.
He is the guy whose batting stance and positioning in the middle of the infield so many players in both clubhouses this week grew up imitating.
“It’s just how he goes about his business, how he plays the game,” Kolten Wong said before Monday’s game.
“You never see Jeter getting talked about in a bad way. He always does everything right. He is a true big leaguer and a professional, and that’s what all of us in here strive for,” Wong continued.
“Pretty sure I had a Jeter glove growing up. It was one of my first infielder gloves.”
But enough about Jeter as an inspiration, as an idol. How about Jeter the player? There is plenty of reason to celebrate him as he takes his final lap from city to city.
Joe Sheehan of The Joe Sheehan Newsletter & SI perfectly summed up Jeter’s on-field accomplishments in February after The Captain announced this would be his final year:
Jeter is tenth among shortstops in career bWAR, and above him on the list you have two deadball/prehistory players (George Stacey Davis and Bill Dahlen) and two other who spent about half their careers playing a position other than shortstop (Alex Rodriguez and Robin Yount). Ranking shortstops is a minefield; what we can say is that Honus Wagner and Cal Ripken Jr. are the clear 1-2, and that there’s a group of players behind them who can be sorted into just about any order depending on how you weight time at shortstop, how you evaluate defense, whether you make a timeline adjustment. This is largely unresolvable; you can probably defend Jeter as high as third — if you ding Rodriguez for a decade at third base and Davis for playing 110 years ago — and as low as 12th, if you think his defense was even worse than bWAR says it was.
SIDEBAR: Joe is a friend of KMOX, and I can’t urge you strongly enough to check out and subscribe to his newsletter. It is incredibly indispensible information for every kind of baseball fan: http://joesheehanbaseball.blogspot.com/
So there you have it. Take a minute to think about what Jeter has meant to the game, and to so many of the superstars playing the game today.
I’ll take the baseball reasons over any of the other reasons, but I don’t have a problem with people wanting to praise Jeter for the way he goes about his business.
I also find myself rolling my eyes as people criticize Johnny Manziel and other guys for posting “CONTROVERSIAL” photos to Instagram or Twitter. Jeter is none of that. I suppose, given his dating pedigree, his level of celebrity, and the proliferation of social media showing us whatever we want about whoever we want whenever we want, it’s another notch on Jeter’s belt that he has never been the subject of an off-field controversy.
But if you’re like me, and you don’t really care about any of these guys’ personal lives, realize that he is a damn good baseball player.
And that should at least be enough to cheer him on as he finishes his victory lap in St Louis tomorrow.