I have been very harsh on Derek Jeter in the past, or to the casual observer it may certainly seem that way. I have mocked his fielding ability, and seemingly rejoiced at the fact he did not win a Gold Glove in '08. I feel I should clarify things a little.
Derek Jeter is pretty super awesome.
I know, I know, I am a Red Sox fan, I am probably one of the biggest Red Sox 'homers' in the entire universe, and that's simply not behaviour fitting a man of such alleged ilk. That's how it is though, hey, he will never be a great defensive short-stop, but there are many, many things the kid does better than most.
So much so, he is going to the Hall of Fame, no questions asked.
I say this entirely lucid, Jeter is a class act. Jeter has spent his entire career with the Yankees, starting in 1995 when he was 20 years old. You just don't get that anymore, in this age of disgusting contracts, disgusting Scott Boras and disgusting, money fuelled player decisions. Jeter has an entirely non-disgusting loyalty that has glued him to the one team for his whole career. That's almost non-existent in the here and now.
Statistically, his achievements speak for themselves. Jeter has won the American League Rookie of the Year Award, a Silver Slugger Award, and three Gold Glove Awards. In 2000, he became the only player to win both the All-Star Game MVP Award and the World Series MVP Award in the same year. His .317 career batting average through the 2007 season ranks him with the 5th-highest lifetime batting average of all active baseball players. He has been in the top seven in the American League in both hits and runs scored for nine of the past ten years. The kid can rake. Fact.
Everyone remembers Jeter diving into the stands at Fenway, the night that Nomar sulked, but perhaps his memorable play took place in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS vs. the Oakland Athletics. With Jeremy Giambi on first base, Oakland right fielder Terrence Long hit a double off Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina into the right-field corner. Giambi should have scored. Instead, Jeter came out of nowhere to grab the ball and flip it to Posada, who tagged Giambi on the leg just before he crossed home plate for the out. Facing elimination, the Yankees went on to win the game, as well as the series.
Even the way that Jeter responds to the inane postings, bleatings and drivel on his defensive frailties (like mine, for example) oozes class like Lindsay Lohan oozes the crazy gene. When asked what Jeter thought about everyone and their mother saying he was not a good fielder, his response was;
"I play in New York, man. Criticism is part of the game, you take criticism as a challenge."
Touché, mon frere, touché.
Just to quantify the whole 'Jeter can't field' slant, it's not that he can't pick a baseball off the ground and throw to first, of course he can. Jeter is, at the end of the day, probably an above average but not spectacular fielder. The thing is, he did not deserve those Gold Gloves that came his way the last few years, end of story. There were many less high profile shortstops that should have got it before him. When most people talk about Jeter being a poor fielder, what they actually mean is, he's not as good as some people hold him up to be.
As a Red Sox fan, of course I hope Jeter strikes out a billion and ten times in his next billion and eleven at bats against the Red Sox, however apart from that, keep on truckin Jeter, one of the easiest players to root for in Major League baseball. The crazy thing is, even Red Sox fans the world over will miss him when he is gone. It simply won't be the same without the Yankee Captain.
Seriously though, he still can't field a scratch.