-First of all, and somewhat paradoxically, I probably find myself liking Jeter more today than I ever really have before. It’s probably for more or less the same reason I’ve always liked A-Rod; I kind of feel bad for him. After all, it’s not like he’s done anything wrong, he’s just had a few birthdays too many. He’s still carrying himself the same way he always has, he just can’t do some of the things he used to. That’s not a reason to crucify him, yet some in the local media seem downright giddy about the prospect of souring the accomplishment of his 3,000th hit with this stuff.
-Speaking of the media, how pathetic are they in general? There’s a really annoying tendency in the political media for “analysts,” especially during election season, to refer to “the media” in the third person, as though they somehow aren’t a part of “the media,” and tell you what “the media” will say as though they have no control over it. There’s a healthy dose of that in local writers preening about how “the media” will react to a lineup change or how so and so will threaten to “overshadow” Jeter’s 3,000th hit. Horsepucky. The only way anything will overshadow the milestone is if the media decides it will, because at the end of the day, nothing makes it into a story unless the writer/editor of that story decides it will. This is just another example of writers trying to shirk responsibility for the more dubious aspects of writing for an MSM outlet where the main goal is to sell newspapers.
-Similarly, can we drop the “clubhouse concerns” defense for keeping Jeter at the top of the lineup? The assumption here is that Jeter will create clubhouse issues if he’s asked to move to the bottom of the lineup and seems paradoxically offensive to me. After all, for as much as I’m supposed to be the “anti-Jeter” guy, I’m the one who thinks he’s earned the right to have me assume the best of him until demonstrated otherwise, and so until there’s some actual reason to believe this, I’m just discounting it altogether. If someone wants to go on the record or one of the beat writers wants to make a straight-forward claim to this effect, then come out and say it already. Otherwise, the assumption is a baseless one that assumes the worst about Jeter for no particular reason.
-That said, the lineup change does need to happen. It just does. Even if the return will just be marginal, there’s no good reason not to do it, and absent that the team should make the decision that’s best for the team. At the end of the day I suspect it will be best for everyone, Jeter included. Just do it already.
-But while I’m saying nice things about Jeter, knock the All-Star game complaining off already. Maybe my memory is just failing me, but I really do not recall this much complaining about fading legends getting automatic spots in the game when it was Ripken, Griffey, Gwynn, etc. This seems to be a very recent, Jeter-centric phenomena to me, and the lack of self-awareness is just tiresome. I’m not interested in judging whether these spots going to Hall of Famers whose recent performances don’t justify them is right or wrong, it just is what it is. If you’re going to complain about the fans decreeing they want to see Jeter start the All-Star game instead of Asdrubal Cabrera, you either have to complain about all of the other old guys who took spots they “didn’t deserve,” or at least admit that you’re changing the social norms in question now. But please don’t act like this is some great affront against decency and the sanctity of the Midsummer Classic by Derek Jeter and the people who vote for him.
-Also, there has just been way too much truly ridiculous emotion involved in this since last autumn. It probably started with people who acted as though it was some crime against baseball that the Yankees’ front office was willing to merely overpay Jeter for the next 4 years, rather than drastically overpay him, and carried over to the implicit accusation that having him batting in the bottom of the lineup as a 37 year old would somehow be an insult or a punishment. I don’t necessarily blame Jeter himself for any of that, but this goes back to a larger point about Jeter’s so-called defenders not helping him. Rather, by pretending he’s not going to get old, or insisting that everyone should ignore that he’s getting old, they’re really just setting him up to fail, rather than letting him be eased into a role he can fill well, and in which he’ll be an asset to the Yankees of whom no one will wonder if he’s hurting the team.
There’s nothing “anti-Jeter” about that, unless you think that acknowledging Jeter will succumb to time and age just like every other Hall of Famer has at some point constitutes a negative viewpoint of him.
-Finally, in 20-30 years none of this will matter. The fact that Jeter aged, had to be put into a reduced role for the good of the team, or whatever won’t preclude him from being a first ballot Hall of Famer, and won’t alter your memories of Jeter one bit. It just doesn’t work like that. Every athlete, good, great, bad, or somewhere in between ultimately gets old, and that makes the act of getting old completely unremarkable. No one remembers the last, sad, years of guys like Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. Sure, we might be familiar with them, and we might think about them if we really choose to, but when I say “Willie Mays,” you think the Say Hey Kid, The Catch, the 660 home runs, and maybe even wonder if he wasn’t the best baseball player who ever lived. In 30 years, when someone says “Derek Jeter,” I’ll think of Mr. November, The Flip, The Dive (you stupid, stupid, man), and all of the playoff appearances, World Series titles, and that silky-smooth inside out swing.
Acknowledging that, though he’s still effective, Jeter isn’t quite the player he was when he was younger won’t take away your memories or diminish Jeter the player in any way, unless you choose to let it for some reason. Time can take a step off of your time to first-base, it can steal your bat speed or your range in the field, and it can dim your highly toned reflexes, if ever so slightly. But it can’t touch memories, and it can’t shake legends. Those are forever, even if the men they embody aren’t.
I’m sure that probably isn’t all I want to say, and ten minutes after publishing this I’ll probably think of something else, but those are the big things that have been bugging me and gnawing at the back of my brain for the past few weeks or so. Make of them what you will.