Lets start from the beginning in 1996 (no its not actually the beginning but it’s the official beginning of the legacy of Derek Sanderson Jeter)…
It was October 9th 1996 when the legend of “Captain Clutch” began. Jeter came up to bat in the 8th inning with the Yankees down 4-3 to the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS when he drove an opposite field shot off of Armando Benitez over the right field wall to tie the score at 4 that led to a 5-4 victory in 11 innings.
(yeah I know Jeffrey Maier interfered but a homer is a homer. Eat that O’s fans.)
It led to the first World Series in his MLB career as the Yankees disposed of the Atlanta Braves 3 weeks later.
1998: after Jeter asserted himself as one of the league’s premier shortstops with a .324 average, 19 homeruns and 84 RBI, Jeter leads the Yankees to their second title in a 4 game sweep of the San Diego Padres where he batted .353.
1999: Jeter led the league in hits and was second in average and runs and also drove in a career high 102. He batted no less than .350 in any playoff series as he led the Yankees to their third title in four years by beating the Atlanta Braves once again.
2000: after another stellar season (.339/15/73) Jeter hit .409 with 2 homeruns in the World Series to lead the Yankees past the New York Mets in five games and earn World Series MVP honors. He also won All-Star game MVP honors as well.
2001: no the Yankees didn’t win the World Series that year, but two plays added to his legacy and defined him as a player.
Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS: Terrance Long smacked a double into right field that was surely going to score Jeremy Giambi and lead the A’s to a sweep of the Yankees who had just lost two games at Yankee Stadium. Shane Spencer threw a terrible ball into the infield that missed every Yankee on the field and was headed for the A’s dugout.
All of a sudden out of nowhere Derek Jeter swoops in, scoops the ball up, tosses it to Jorge Posada who then tags out Giambi and the Yankees win the game and then the series.
(My buddy Scully said something funny about that play. He said that the thing people forget about that play is that Jeter was terribly out of position. If he had played in his natural spot then he doesn’t make that play. This is true. Jeter had no business being anywhere near that ball… but he was, and no one is complaining about it at all especially me.)
Game 4 of the 2001 World Series (or the Byung-Hyun Kim nightmare series): you couldn’t set this up any more perfect than it was. 9/11, the world watching as the Yankees lifted the city on its back and tried to win another title to uplift the entire city. The clock strikes 12 and for the first time in baseball history there was baseball in November. Derek Jeter has a 3-2 count and drills an opposite field homerun and beats the Diamondbacks to draw the series even at two and gains the nickname “Mr. November.”
(Side Note: I’m over the 2004 blowup against Boston, I got past Randy Johnson’s failures, the loss to Florida in 2003, and the fact that we couldn’t beat the Angels for 350 years.
However, I will never, ever get over losing that series to the D’Backs. We had them reeling with the debacle that was BH Kim. The drop back was perfect, the world was finally cheering for the Yankees, we were supposed to win and bring a title home for the city to celebrate and drown out the horror that was 9/11.
Even after we lost 15-2 in game 6 I was sure that we would win game 7 especially after Alphonso Soriano drove a Curt Schilling fastball over the wall and gave us a 2-1 with Mariano Rivera coming in. Then all I can remember was a Luis Gonzalez bloop, Bob Brenly jumping up and down with his palms wide open and then 8 years of steroids, Carl Pavano and the follies of A-Rod.
Even after the 2009 title the one that got away in 2001 still stings.)
2003: Jeter is named the 11th Captain in team history. This is after he dislocated his shoulder trying to stretch out a triple in a game on opening day. He doesn’t know the meaning of taking it easy. Maybe someone should explain that to Hanley Ramirez.
2004: you knew our fans were harsh… but we booed Derek Jeter in the midst of a 0-32 slump… come on buddy. This is the Captain, Captain Clutch, the man behind the flip, “Mr. November” and all of those monikers that made us gush over him for years and years… and we boo him because he has a slump?
That’s another great thing about Jeter, he understood the fans frustrations. He didn’t mock them or bash them or run down his accomplishments, he went out there and worked it out. He knew Yankees fan expected and demanded a lot and instead of getting mad he fought through it… and did this…
Jeter tracks down a pop fly in the top of the 12th inning in a game in May against the Red Sox… he makes the catch but his moment sends him crashing into the crowd leaving him with a bloody face. It was a game in May people… and it doesn’t matter, the legend continues.
2006: have I ever mentioned how ticked off I am that he didn’t win the AL MVP award that year? Led the AL in average and runs, had 214 hits, hit .381 with runners in scoring position… and finished second to Justin Morneau. Morneau had a nice year but didn’t finish in the top 5 of any statistical category except RBI where he finished second. He wasn’t as consistent as Jeter was for that entire season and still won MVP.
(did I mention that in the voting there were three Minnesota Twins in the top 6 of ? How can a guy win MVP when people think there are 3 guys that were MVP on the same team? Also I still want to pimp slap Joe Cowley for voting him 6th in the MVP ballot because “you could plug another guy in that lineup and that guy would still have his numbers.”
Precisely… just like the Twins did last year when Michael Cuddyer batted in Morneau’s spot and had a monster year… idiot.)
2009: Jeter hits in the leadoff spot for the first time in his career and bats .334, leads the AL with a .406 on-base percentage and is second in the majors with 212 hits. He also became the Yankees all-time hits leader with 2722 passing Lou Gehrig and leads the Yankees to their 27th title and garners the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the year.
(This was the year when it hit me that Derek Jeter was slowly becoming the greatest Yankee of all-time. He was approaching the hit record, games played record, stolen bases record and there was a chance that he could be the only Yankee in the history of the franchise to collect 3000 hits…chew on that for a second.
Not Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, not any of them had 3000 hits all with the Yankees… Jeter would be the only one.
By the end of this year Jeter will have played more games in Pinstripes than any other man in history. By the end of his career he may score more runs, have more doubles and total bases too.
That’s why the contract talks this offseason were so important and disheartening to Jeter. The Yankees knew how much he means to the organization, what his place in history is and where he stands in the fans eyes. He needed to finish his career here and if it took a few extra dollars then so be it. When it kept dragging on and sports talk radio and the ESPN talking heads put in their two cents about Jeter’s worth it became a question as to whether or not an aging shortstop coming off of his worst season in 2010 was worth $17 million per season.
Note, you didn’t hear the same talk about Jayson Werth receiving $126 million for two good seasons in Philadelphia but I digress.
Who cares that he will never bat .330 again, or be as good of a defender or any of that. Jeter personified the Yankees in each of his previous 16 years and he deserved what ever he wanted. If he would’ve gotten his 3000th hit as a Kansas City Royal it wouldn’t have meant squat.
Jeter is a Yankee. He is the greatest Yankee of my time and possibly ever. Isn’t that worth $17 million a year?)
2010: Jeter wins his 4th gold glove. Everyone whines and complains about zone efficiency, range, blah blah blah… sorry had to put that in for the haters.
2011: bottom of the third inning on a 3-2 count Derek Jeter takes a David Price slider and crushes it over the wall for his third homerun of the season and his 3000th hit. As he rounded the bases I thought back to every great moment I’ve witnessed from him and smiled from ear to ear.
Jeter is probably my favorite athlete of all-time. He is the man’s man whether he’s hustle out a slow grounder, jumping off of his back foot to through a cross body dart to first base, diving in the stands for a foul ball, or picking up Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba or any other babe that he’s had in his dating circle.
Throughout his career he’s been bashed in books for his defense, ridiculed by Gary Sheffield for not being black enough, and through it all he’s come through for the Yankees and their fans over and over again.
He’s been the quintessential leader, one of the game’s best winners, and has provided me with too many memories for me to even count. Today was more than just another day in the eyes of baseball insiders and announcers and television stations.
For us it was just another day in the amazing life of Derek Sanderson Jeter who has made the fans of New York happy as can be from the first time he took the field on May 29th 1995. The best thing that we have three more years of great memories left.
And if any of them are like a 5 hit day with a game-winning hit on the same day as your 3000th hit, then all of those $60 million dollars will be worth it.