I understand all of the arguments against Derek Jeter being in this year’s All-Star game. I understand that other shortstops have better numbers, that he’s not the American League’s best leadoff hitter, and that in a three-month vacuum* Jeter might not belong in Minneapolis this week.
But read some of the stories that came out of Target Field yesterday. Look at some of the comments from other players. Check out Dee Gordon’s face in that picture at the top of this post.
Saying Jeter doesn’t belong isn’t making too much of the All-Star Game. It’s making too little of it.
Jeter belongs because the All-Star Game can be about more than the players who put up the best numbers in the first half of the season. It can be a real celebration of the game and its history, and that begins with players like Jeter.
No question, it’s great when the All-Star Game can recognize relatively unknown guys like Pat Neshek and Josh Harrison. It’s worthwhile when the game can introduce emerging stars like Jose Abreu, Tyson Ross and Dellin Betances. It’s essential that the game showcase Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw and the rest of today’s true superstars.
But when the All-Star Game celebrates a guy like Jeter, it proves that this event can be bigger than all that.
Think back to last season when Mariano Rivera had his iconic All-Star moment alone on the mound at Citi Field. That ovation from the crowd and from both dugouts didn’t happen because Rivera had been an effective closer for three months. It was a celebration of an entire career. It was about a true icon — an All-Star if there ever was one — saying goodbye.
And that’s what Jeter will do tonight. That’s why it’s OK that he’s playing shortstop and batting leadoff. It’s OK that he’ll get the largest ovation of the night. It’s OK that the pregame television coverage and a mid-game commercial and any number of postgame newspaper stories will be about one player who’s not having a particularly great season.
Remember, it wasn’t only the fans who voted for Jeter to be an All-Star this season. He was the top American League shortstop on the players’ ballot as well. They recognize who he is and what he’s means.
It’s only right that baseball use one of its biggest stages to do the same.
* On the topic of whether Jeter belongs based on this year’s numbers — he doesn’t, but go check out the shortstop statistics in the American League. Jeter’s actually getting on base at a better pace than almost all of the alternatives. His power and defense knock him out of contention if you’re choosing strictly on this year’s performances, but even then, Jeter’s might not be as far out of the mix as you’d expect. Just aren’t a ton of American League shortstops having great seasons.
Associated Press photo