It’s a subjective argument, but Jeter’s resume speaks for itself. Even the most diehard Red Sox fan, whose blood boils at the mere sight of a navy blue pinstripe suit hanging on a Men’s Wearhouse rack, is hard-pressed to find fault with the Yankees captain.
Jeter owns a .317 lifetime batting average and four rings. Now he is one base knock away from passing Lou Gehrig as the all-time Yankees hit leader. With 2,721 career hits, Jeter has more rips than Babe Ruth (2,518), Mickey Mantle (2,415), Joe DiMaggio (2,214) and Yogi Berra (2,148). More than any player who’s ever called the Bronx home or Frank Sinatra an honorary member of the family. More than any legend in Monument Park or any Hall of Famer who’s ever paraded down the Canyon of Heroes.
Jeter is one hit away from standing all alone atop the hit chart in Yankees history. This is a remarkable achievement, and the Iron Horse no doubt would be proud to pass the torch to somebody like Jeter.
Beyond his accomplishments on the field, what Jeter has been able to do off the field might be even more impressive. In this age of 24/7 news coverage, where sensationalism sells and cell-phone journalists are salivating to capture celebrities in any and every compromising position possible, Jeter hasn’t so much as been caught speeding (if he has, we haven’t heard about it). He plays in the media capital of the world, has a black book thicker than War and Peace and his reputation is spotless. His image is impeccable. He flies under the radar like Joe Everyman and never missteps.
That’s not easy to do.
Athletes and unsavory headlines go together like money and power. Performance-enhancing drug allegations. Gambling revelations. Domestic abuse charges, driving under the influence arrests, manslaughter, gun trouble, prison terms, contract disputes, and on and on and on.
We have been conditioned to expect stars to let us down. We are more surprised now when they stay out of trouble. But that’s all Jeter does.
If being ensnared in scandal has become the rule, it’s the only rule Jeter has broken since he made his major league debut in 1995. He doesn’t get caught slipping. His name doesn’t get dragged through the mud. He transcends drama.
When Alex Rodriguez joined the Yankees, and the media sought to start a turf war and stir up a Kobe-Shaq-like controversy, Jeter showed the aplomb of a master statesman in avoiding getting tangled in a web of BS.
His personal affairs remain private, and his private life remains personal.
Jeter has no holes in his game, no skeletons in his closet. He’s more old school than even some of the Yankees’ old-timers. Mantle had his demons. DiMaggio wasn’t perfect. And Ruth partied harder than all of them.
Jeter represents all that is right in baseball. He plays the game hard. He treats everyone — from teammates to opponents to media to fans — with respect. And he makes a class act look like Bluto Blutarsky.
He is the epitome of how a 21st-century athlete should conduct himself, and is destined to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But enough with the pleasantries … back to the regularly scheduled loathing of all things Yankees.