Derek Jeter played his first game for the Yankees when I was in pre-school. I’m now two years out of college. He has been a part of my life, and every baseball fan’s life for literally as long as we can remember.
During my oldest memories of loving the Red Sox, when Pedro and Nomar and Trot Nixon had just come up, when I was in third grade, Derek Jeter was on the Yankees.
In middle school, when I really started to get into baseball, when Manny and Papi came to the Sox, Derek Jeter was on the Yankees.
In high school, when the Sox broke the curse and were contenders for a few years straight, when Jacoby Ellbury and Dustin Pedroia were drafted, played in the minors, and came up to the Sox, Derek Jeter was on the Yankees.
In college, when the Sox collapsed every year, when we had busts like Gonzalez and Crawford and chicken and beer, Derek Jeter was on the Yankees.
Today, when the Sox are once again defending World Champions who currently suck with Mike Napoli and David Ross and (still) David Ortiz, Derek Jeter is still on the Yankees.
Derek Jeter plays for the Yankees! This statement could be said before the Internet! During Bill Clinton’s first term! That is why Jeter is so special. He is the last link to the good old days. A time before even cell phones. The world changed so much in the last twenty years, but that was always the constant: Derek Jeter plays for the Yankees.
I have hated Derek Jeter for twenty years, because as a Red Sox fan that’s what I was raised to do. It’s crazy to think that Derek Jeter is actually still playing the game. Numbah 2 has gotten hits off of Pedro in ’97, off of Schilling in ’04, off of Lester in 2010, and off of whoever the hell the Sox have pitching this year.
So forget the criticism. Yeah, apparently the numbers prove that he was a bad defensive shortstop, and that a few incredible plays have made everyone think that he was good. Yeah, this whole goodbye tour is making the Yankees millions in ticket sales and merchandise. Yeah, Jeter is the most marketed and sold player in baseball history (thanks Nike and Gatorade). And yeah, maybe the Yankees might have made a post-season run this year if they benched Jeter and signed a new shortstop.
But maybe there are things more important than winning. Maybe it was more important that for one more year you could go to the ballpark and see Derek Jeter out at short. The same man who stood there when things were simpler. When life was a lot slower. Back in the good old days.
Our childhoods are finally ending with Derek Jeter retiring. He is the last link to all those (awful) Yankee championships. He is the last link to the Bronx Bombers, the Evil Empire, the bad guys. Well, for now at least. The great thing about baseball is that while the players change, the team will always be there.
Someday there will be a new face of the Yankees, and I will dutifully hate him. But I will never hate/respect another player in quite the way that I hate/revere Jeter. Because he’s been there my entire life.
So now, I have two things to say to Derek Jeter.
First, fuck you for everything you did to the Sox.
And, second, thank you for everything you did for baseball.