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Sports & Fitness // Hot Air
Steve Murray

Jeter: A Yankee Worthy Of Admiration

By every quantifiable measure, Derek Jeter should be the most hated man on Earth. He lives in a luxury New York high rise (and a 30,875-square-foot Florida mansion), plays for the Yankees, made $253 million in salary and has “dated” half of FHM’s hot 100.

Based on statistical analysis and jealousy, Jeter has accomplished everything any man could dream of. No one likes that.

Yet, somehow, after 19 years at the pinnacle of professional baseball, the Yankee shortstop is not only tolerated but celebrated – even in Boston.

Jeter announced his retirement tour a week ago, and will play one more season in the Bronx before moving on to an unknown future. He’s smart enough to manage but doesn’t seem the type. An upper office job with New York makes sense, but The Boss is gone and his heirs are a questionable leadership group. A future with some ownership group makes most sense, as does his continued climb through the previously mentioned Hot 100.

Jeter is not the greatest at his position and falls just short of reaching the pinnacle of Yankee success. (New York’s fictional mountain of greatness remains forever reserved for Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.)

He has, however, reached the even more rarified position as a cultural representative for his team.

For his athletic ability and joy of the game, Ernie Banks forever will be known as Mr. Cub. Detroit has Al Ka-line, San Diego is represented by Tony Gywnn, it’s George Brett for Kansas City and no matter what happens in the future, no one will mean more to Cardinals’ fans than Stan Musial. Every team has one. The Yankees have three.

Jeter joins Ruth and Mantle as the Yankees’ version of Banks. Unlike his power-hitting cohorts, Jeter is a line-drive hitter with more speed than power. He’s a good, not great fielder and was always more consistent then splashy – that includes his 2001 flip to Jorge Posada to nab Jason Giambi in the ALDS. That play was perfect Jeter and explains his universal appeal. Jeter always has been more intelligent than athletic with his big accomplishments coming on the biggest stage. You can’t hate that, and the Yankees are easy to hate.

Fame, wealth, arrogance and just being in New York are enough. Roger Clemens, Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, Alex Rodriguez, George Stein-brenner, it’s a verifiable list of nefarious behavior. Jeter doesn’t qualify, making him a Yankee rarity. Even if the Kalamazoo native won’t allow cell phones in his Florida home, he still appears more approachable than almost anyone else in uniform. We like guys who seem like us.

Derek Jeter would buy us a beer, play video games till midnight and let us ride his coattails as we pick off the scraps from the Somewhat Hot 100 he leaves behind. At least we hope he would.

Jeter will spend his final seven months in uniform adding to his statistical legacy. He already is the Yankees’ leader in hits, at bats and stolen bases.

If he plays a full season, Jeter should finish sixth on the all-time hit list (he needs 120 to pass Cap Anson), ninth in runs (Stan Musial 1,949), and fifth in singles (Willie Keeler 2,513). With an outstanding last season, Jeter could continue his personal assault on Anson by also overtaking him in singles and runs.

Anson wouldn’t like it. But what better way to further push aside an old-school bigot than to be replaced by a multiracial matinee idol?

That’s an ending even the Red Sox could root for.

smurray@midweek.com
Twitter:@SteveMurray84

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