Walk-off RBIs may have to start being referred to as Jeters.
In 40-year old shortstop Derek Jeter’s last game donning the pinstripes in front of a packed Yankee Stadium, he stroked a single between first and second base in the bottom of the ninth to score the winning run and give meaning to a meaningless victory.
The New York win portended no hope of the playoffs — for the Yankees at least.
The Yankees were five games back from the second AL Wildcard spot with three games left in the regular season to be played, as fate would ironically have it, in Fenway Park. It’s over.
So on Friday, a 6-5 win over the Baltimore Oriels marked the inevitable end of Derek Jeter’s 20-year career in baseball. His walkoff RBI allows him to leave the game doing what he did best — but are his accolades what we should remember him for?
The captain, No.2, 14-time All-Star, fivetime World Series champion, World Series MVP, five Golden Glove Awards, five Silver Slugger Awards, two AL Hank Aaron Awards, a Roberto Clemente Award and the list goes on. We know the stats: career batting average of .309, 260 home runs and 1,307 runs batted in.
But accomplishments are hollow without character. And Jeter’s character on and off the baseball field has earned him a title many athletes boast in having by way of only a paycheck — and that title is a professional.
More important to the game than any of his numerous awards and wins, Jeter will leave Major League Baseball a better place because of the way he conducted himself in every situation he encountered during his eminent career.
Despite a rather morose season — the Yankee’s lineup has been plagued with injuries all year and the nearly half billion dollars they spent on acquiring players in the winter has come to naught resulting in a mediocre record — it’s important to remember the statistics that reflect his character, which is the true reason why not only every New Yorker, but every fan of baseball, feels affinity of pride while watching him play the game.
In 2,745 professional baseball games, he never once has been ejected. This speaks volumes in a league that gets off on players and coaches erupting on an ump after a blown call — cite Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella and John McGraw.
The home crowd will cheer if you get thrown out red in the face supporting your team. They’ll respect you as a person if you walk back to the dugout and get ready to take the field — just as Jeter has always done.
Here is another stat that shouldn’t go unwarranted in today’s game: While seemingly every great player’s name was getting drug through the mud of steroid scandals and other performance enhancing drug accusations, no one ever pointed a finger at Jeter.
Character trumps accomplishments every time. In Jeter’s case, it just so happened that his professionalism and strength of character led to his on-the-field accomplishments and well-earned RE2PECT.