You do not need to explain yourself to me. You do not need to answer to the internet. You are doing what comes naturally, and you will not be judged. When you saw that Major League Baseball was running a promotion titled #JeterWeek, your eyes rolled back so far, you saw a crayon that you shoved up your nose when you were 3.
Derek Jeter is having a retirement ceremony on Sunday, but why limit the fun to one day, when you can have a full week, said Mephistopheles, stroking his chin whiskers?
This is sure a headline, too:
ESPN will air hours of Derek Jeter coverage in honor of his jersey-retirement ceremony.
I guess technically, I watched hours of Nick Hundley coverage last night, so maybe I shouldn’t be too offended. But I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around hours of Derek Jeter coverage.
9:00 - 9:59: Birth and early years
10:00 - 10:59: Interview with high school coach (assistant)
11:00 - 11:59: Interview with high school coach (head)
12:00 - 12:10: Intermission (performance by Jeterettes)
12:11 - 12:59: The Dive (part 1)
1:00 - 1:59: The Dive (part 2)
2:00 - 2:59: The Flip (part 1)
3:00 - 3:59: The Flip (part 2)
4:00 - 4:59: The Flip (part 3)
5:00 - 5:59: Remarks from President Obama on The Flip
HOURS OF DEREK JETER COVERAGE. It boggles the mind and makes me shiver at the same time.
I’m not saying you have to watch the HOURS OF DEREK JETER COVERAGE. I’m not saying that you need to leave your DVR plugged in, lest the hours of coverage crawl up the wires and embed themselves onto the hard drive. What I’m saying is that there’s probably a way we can appreciate this in our little corner of the non-Yankees internet.
First, focus on the Yankees. And, yes, the only reason this is a big deal is that it’s the Yankees. You do not remember where you were when the Brewers retired Robin Yount’s number. The only differences between those two players were the spotlight, era, sweet mustache, and caliber of teammates, really.
Otherwise, both of them were shortstops who played 20 seasons for the same team. One of them was worth 77 wins above replacement, and one of them was worth 71. They both had a career OPS+ of 115. They both peaked around the same time, and they both suffered a decline around the same time.
Derek Jeter is Robin Yount with the backing of a major studio, in other words. He is the summer blockbuster, and it’s why people can still quote lines from Derek Jeter 20 years from now.
Yes, it’s the Yankees. That’s the point. I’ve decided you have to re2pect the hell out of the Yankees for a couple of paragraphs because it is unimpeachably badass for a franchise to have every single-digit number retired. Going through the list:
1 - Billy Martin, two pennants and one championship. This is admittedly the weakest of the bunch (he managed the Yankees five times ... but for a total of eight seasons), and it seems like a way for the Yankees to remind the world they existed in the ‘80s, too.
2 - Those eyes, though.
3 - Perhaps the greatest player of all-time.
4 - One of the greatest players of all-time.
5 - One of the greatest players of all-time.
6 - One of the most successful managers of all-time.
7 - One of the greatest players of all-time.
8 - One of the greatest catchers and baseball personalities of all-time, and, oh, there’s another Hall of Fame catcher with the same number that’s retired, too.
9 - Roger Maris, another borderline one, considering he played just seven years for them. But I think everyone needs to appreciate just how revered his single-season record was before Mark McGwire came along. It’s a big reason why the McGwire-Sosa chase was so compelling.
So that’s six of the inner, inner circle Hall of Famers, bookended by a couple of nods to specific eras and accomplishments. Jeter fits right in there with them, and now that the single digits have been closed out, we can place the Yankees into a little better perspective.
The Dallas Cowboys were a year old when Maris broke the home run record. The Pittsburgh Steelers were around for longer, but they didn’t do anything until the ‘70s. The Boston Celtics didn’t win their first championship until the Yankees had won 17. The Minneapolis Lakers won five championships in their first six seasons, but they came a decade after Babe Ruth retired, and they happened in a different city. The Montreal Canadiens are a professional ice hockey team based in Montreal, Quebec.
All of these teams have a rich, storied history, but the sheer number of seasons the Yankees can wave at you is extra impressive in the context of these other teams. It forces you to remember that they’ve been around for so long, they’re out of single-digit numbers.
And then when you’ve begrudgingly focused on how impressive the Yankees are, now you can begrudgingly focus on how impressive Jeter is. A 20-year career for anyone, all the way down to lefty specialists, is automatically cool. The 3,465 hits are cool. The 14 All-Star Games are cool. The timing is unassailably cool, showing up after the lost decade, right when there’s some danger of losing the current decade, and helping that rich, storied franchise get back to their championship ways is absolutely gross, which is how you can also tell how special it is. It’s proportional. The more annoyed you are at a single player’s contributions to the Yankees’ success, the more impressive it actually is.
And, hell, The Dive is cool. The Flip is absolutely magnificent, even if I was rooting for the other team and even if I don’t necessarily need to see it again. This is the portfolio of a player we would be celebrating if he were on the Padres or Brewers — maybe without the same HOURS OF DEREK JETER COVERAGE, but somewhere in that Tony Gwynn sweet spot, where everyone can appreciate him on several different levels.
I think I was making fun of his jump throws to fit in, mostly. If we’re being honest here.
But he is on the Yankees, who like to suffocate you with the odor of their own history, and that’s where the eye-rolling comes in. My suggestion to you, then, is to separate them so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Put the Yankees over here, realize they’re going to run out of every number below 100 in the year 2531 if this pace holds, and marvel at their absurd history.
Then put Jeter over here and admire him for being an institution: someone excellent at what he does for years and years and years, succeeding wildly with the help of his teammates. There are franchises in Major League Baseball right now who don’t have anyone who compares in their history.
And once you slap those two segments back together, it makes sense. This really is special. This really is cool. One of the all-time greats is getting honored by his historically impressive/oppressive team, and you’ll forgive them if they’re a little excited. You don’t need to watch the HOURS OF DEREK JETER COVERAGE, but you should probably carve out a few minutes to think about how it really was one of the best baseball careers you’ll ever watch.
Here, I’ll start: That was one of the best baseball careers I’ll ever watch.
It had the team, the timing, the right amount of drama, the memorable plays, the visibility, the consistency, the longevity, the highs, the lows. It was a career that had everything for the team that had everything. And you can still roll your eyes. But only if you sigh afterward and say, OK, fine, that was one of the best baseball careers I’ll ever watch. It’s only fair.
After this weekend, you can resume your baseball routine and let the nostalgia attack your brain and rewire what you really thought about him while it was happening. Until then, here’s one more weekend where you have to face Derek Jeter and the stupidly successful Yankees. Divide and conquer, and it won’t be that hard. I promise.