By Peter Schwartz
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I’ve been a sportscaster for almost 25 years, so I understand the basic premise of sports-talk radio. The hosts have opinions, which are presented on-air. Some listeners, not all, react and call in to share their takes.
They could agree with the hosts, or they could offer a differing opinion. And that leads to one of two things: a calm discussion about the subject or an always-entertaining shouting match.
Derek Jeter’s retirement announcement has certainly brought us a little bit of everything over the last week, but most of it has been hard to comprehend and digest.
I’ve always thought that the whole comparison of players at the same position can tend to be on the silly side. Throw in this latest rage of creating a sport’s “Mount Rushmore” and you just leave the door open for some flat-out ridiculous points.
The fact that fans, in New York no less, have to reach deep into their bag of idiotic thoughts to bash the Yankees captain is repulsive. Does it really matter that he never won an MVP or doesn’t have the same type of offensive stats as other players?
No, but that hasn’t stopped the Jeter and Yankee haters from spewing their venom towards a player that has been one of the great ambassadors of the game for nearly 20 years.
The only numbers you need to associate with Derek Jeter: two for his jersey and five for the World Championship rings. Otherwise, his numbers are basically afterthoughts. He has meant so much more than that to the Yankees over the years, and anyone who criticizes him for not having better power numbers or not having great range at shortstop just doesn’t get it.
This whole anti-Jeter thing started a long time ago, when he was compared to fellow American League shortstops Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra. All three players had their fans and critics. At the end of the day, Jeter had his World Series rings, A-Rod had the better stats and MVP awards, and Garciaparra was traded before the Red Sox would go on to win their first World Series since 1918.
Nomar can also hang his hat on the fact that he married Mia Hamm.
Meanwhile, Jeter can hang his hat on being one of the greatest players in franchise history. That brings me to my problem with some Yankees fans. While Jeter will go down as one of the best to don the pinstripes, let’s not get carried away and place him ahead of legends like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle.
That kind of nonsense only makes this whole comparison thing even worse. And it gives ammunition to the Yankee haters to find a needle in a haystack to rip Jeter.
Why can’t we just honor Jeter for what he’s meant to the team and cherish the fact that this great player — and he is great — played his entire career with the Yankees? Why is it a demerit that he didn’t average 30 home runs and 125 RBIs per season?
The bottom line is that Jeter came along at the right time to help the Yankees become a championship team, and his leadership earned him the honor of being named team captain. He shouldn’t have to apologize for not being the best ever at his position or not being the greatest Yankee of all time.
I mean, criticizing Jeter for not having monster numbers is like taking a look at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and saying that Kate Upton is ugly because she has a strand of hair out of place.
Both arguments are dumb — and a waste of time.
So anybody who has anything bad to say about Jeter, please do us all a favor. When you get ready to pick up the phone and call a show to foolishly rip a future first-ballot Hall of Fame shortstop, make sure you say right at the top if you root for or hate the Yankees.
This way, we’ll know if you’re an idiot or a jealous idiot.
Jeter has been a class act on and off the field. It’s been an absolute joy to watch him play. While it’s going to be weird not seeing Mariano Rivera come out of the bullpen in the ninth inning this season, it will be even stranger to see anybody but No. 2 manning shortstop on an everyday basis for the Yankees starting next year.
This is not a time for crunching numbers and compiling lists. This is a time to celebrate a wonderful career. This is a time to enjoy one final season of a great player, person and ambassador.
Thanks for the memories, Derek. You will be missed.
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