When I tally up my career, yesterday is going to be one of the top five or six or, certainly, 10 days I’ve had the good luck to have covered.
And I got to thinking. Derek Jeter reminds me an awful lot of some of my favorite all-time Rangers — Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves.
First, he’s the captain. Or The Captain. And you know who that is. A guy with a knack for the dramatic, a guy who responds to pressure, a guy who, at the biggest most crucial times comes up with his biggest performances.
Second, he wears No. 2, a homegrown guy who never wanted to play anywhere but New York, and who wanted to spend his whole life here, and a guy who was so instrumental in all the success his team had (although the Rangers’ No. 2 was asked to leave).
Third, he reminds me of No. 9, the guy who just appreciates all he has, all he does. A guy who will do anything to win. And a guy who, away from the arena, is the type you admire. You tell young kids watching to make sure they appreciate this guy, because these don’t come along very often. They do the right thing, say the right thing, carry themselves in the right way, and put the team ahead of themselves.
And I’ll say this about Jeter. He’s not the greatest ballplayer ever. He may not even be the best on his current team (Mariano Rivera will probably be more of a slam-dunk Hall of Famer; Don Mattingly might have been a better all-around player) but Jeter is the most meaningful Yankee since Mickey Mantle.
More, even though his stats are declining, and his range has diminished, and people think he won’t ever hit near .300 again and maybe he shouldn’t even be the leadoff hitter in the second half of this Yankees season, I say this: Pretty much any serious contender in baseball, or teams that hope to contend, would be better off this year with Jeter as their shortstop than the guys they have playing short right now.
AP Photo, above.