Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Sellner: 2014 MLB season the last to remember Derek Jeter


If you’re like me, Derek Jeter’s announcement on Wednesday that the 2014 season will be his final go-around in what will amount to a 20-year career took you by surprise.

Jeter, the face of the New York Yankees – the most decorated franchise in sports – made the news public on, of all places, Facebook, officially launching the Derek Jeter Tribute Tour.

Sure, logically we all knew it was coming. Jeter, a lock as a first ballot Hall of Famer, gutted out just 17 games in 2013 with a lingering left ankle injury. It was frustrating for all who have followed Jeter’s career to watch his aging body hold him back as he continually occupied a spot on the disabled list instead of anchoring the New York lineup from his No. 2 hole.

But I think part of us, especially Millennials, always expected to see the gracious bat of Jeter step up to the plate every first inning of every Yankee game, just as routine as a hot dog at a ballgame.

As someone who admired the shortstop from a distance, it’ll be hard to think of the Yankees the same way in the post-Jeter era. It doesn’t matter if stitched pinstripes cover your heart, or if you’re a member of Red Sox Nation. You can’t help but respect No. 2 and all he’s done in his 19 seasons.

Jeter’s numbers speak for themselves: 3,316 career hits, good for 10th all-time and likely will pass Cap Anson’s 3,435 for sixth with an outside chance of catching Tris Speaker (3,514) for fifth all-time if he can stay healthy. Then, of course, there are the five World Series rings, 13 All-Star selections, five Silver Slugger Awards and five Gold Gloves to occupy a trophy case that guys like Alex Rodriguez – enjoy the down time, Alex – can only salivate at the thought of.

What made Jeter such a spectacle for me to watch and follow was how he made everything appear effortless, and dare I say graceful? Jeter could go with an outside fastball and rifle it down the right field line, pull up at second base and let out a deep breath as if he’d been playing a game of horseshoes in the backyard.

There will always be two plays that stick out in my mind when I think of Jeter; plays where Jeter did the unthinkable, yet made it look so easy that it made you question whether it was that difficult of a play to begin with.

The first was the famous flip play in Game 3 of the 2001 American League Division Series against the Athletics, with the Yankees facing elimination. With New York clinging to a 1-0 advantage, Oakland’s Jeremy Giambi tried to score all the way from first on a Terrence Long double. Shane Spencer’s throw from right field sailed over the cut-off man, almost surely plating Giambi. That was until Jeter came across the diamond, caught it off the bounce on the first-base line and flipped across his body to Jorge Posada on the run to beat Giambi at the plate.

Only Jeter would have the presence of mind to prepare for the overthrow, get there in the nick of time and seemingly defying all logic by not only making the flip, but putting it in perfect position for Posada to apply the tag.

Then there was a critical 2004 meeting against the Red Sox, when Jeter famously hauled in a short fly ball off the bat of Trot Nixon up the line in left field, then flew into the stands with no hesitation. Even after he got up, with cuts and bruises on his face, Jeter looked completely unfazed, almost as if he didn’t realize the magnitude of what he just did.

Luckily for Jeter, we do. He’ll leave a legacy of doing the unthinkable on a regular basis, and making it look easy in the process. For goodness sake, who else gets their 3,000 hit on a home run?

It’s to the point that it’s hard not to expect Jeter to gut out the entire 2014 season, climb up the all-time hits list and ride off into the sunset, all while making it look like a walk in the park.

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Stephen_Sellner.

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