When I read this morning’s guest post, my reaction sequence went something like this:
Jeter the best Yankee ever? No way!
Well, maybe ….
That said, I think the Brothers Kaftan (no relation to the Brothers Molina) make some interesting points, particularly with regard to the depth of the talent in baseball these days and the off-field challenges that players like Jeter have to face. The truth is, though, that in much the same way it’s difficult (if not impossible) to compare Hall of Famers across different generations, it’s also difficult to figure out which Yankee had it tougher/overcame more/got the most out of their talent as you try to determine who was the best. That’s usually why I don’t bother trying; it’s just a futile pursuit.
Ultimately, I’ll say this: Derek Jeter may not be the “best” Yankee ever but he’s certainly one of the most important, and he’s also provided some incredible highlights over the years. Since we can’t seem to agree on where, exactly, he fits in the Yankee pantheon, I thought it’d be nice if we could also disagree on what his most memorable plays are. Here, in reverse order, are one man’s thoughts on the Captain’s most memorable on-field moments:
3. The Face Plant: I vividly remember walking into the cramped and dingy visitors clubhouse at Shea Stadium the day after this play and seeing Jeter gingerly getting dressed with a face the color of a mailbox. He took seven stitches in his chin and had bruises that A-Rod described as “like he got knocked out by Mike Tyson.”
One of the more telling quotes about Jeter’s play came from teammate Gary Sheffield, who was asked if he thought other players would have put their bodies at risk the way Jeter did. “Guys at the end of the roster, maybe,” Sheffield said. “Guys who are trying to stay on the team.”
How about legends?
“Not many I know,” Sheffield said.
2. Mr. November: Jeter’s reputation as one of the most “clutch” players ever is one of those things that can be almost impossible to live up to all the time. Does Jeter hit well in every postseason series? Certainly not. But he does have a .321 average in the World Series and he has delivered some of the biggest hits in Yankees playoff history.
This one, in particular, sometimes get lost (if that’s possible) in the Tino/Brosius magic, as well as the fact that the Yankees went on to lose the 2001 World Series. If you were to ask Jeter, he’d absolutely say it meant nothing since they didn’t win in the end. But either way, it was one of those moments. And the camera shot of Curt Schilling as Jeter rounds the bases is absolutely priceless.
1. The Flip Play: A few things I like about this play:
• It’s a fielding play, which is rare in baseball’s catalog of “greatest plays ever.”
• It happened on the road, which means that instead of a huge Stadium ovation, it was met by the sounds of a) half the crowd going absolutely silent; and b) the other half saying to each other, “Did that really just happen?”
• It involved so many “ifs.” Think about it: Jeter being in that spot only means something IF Shane Spencer overthrows every cutoff man in the area code and IF Jeremy Giambi isn’t exactly speeding and IF he’s able to make an on-target flip and IF Jorge Posada makes a perfect swipe tag (an often overlooked element of the play) and IF Giambi doesn’t slide (something most of us still can’t believe) and IF plate umpire Kerwin Danley sees the bang-bang play correctly.
In other words, there were at least six contingencies – if not several more – that needed to go a certain way for Jeter’s positioning to be valuable. A guy could go his whole career and never be needed there, but Jeter was there anyway. And on that one day, in that one game, at that one time and for that one moment, it all broke just the way it needed to break.
And Jeter made the most memorable play of his career.