Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What this world needs is more love letters from sportswriters to Derek Jeter

How many more years will sportswriters sit down at their keyboards, or whatever awesome brain-connected device replaces the keyboard 20 years from now, and decide that the world really desperately needs to read more drivel like this?  Don't get me wrong, I know it'll go on until he dies, so at least another 40ish years, but will it stop at some point after that?  I guess Bob Costas still blabs He Was More Important Than The Game Itself garbage about Mantle to this day, so the answer is probably no.  Christ.  It's excruciating to think about.

THE MAGIC OF baseball will always live in the storytelling --

And this is why a lot of people hate baseball.  For all the shit I shovel on the NFL for being a sport for meatheads, the assface baseball fan equivalent to the NFL fan meathead is the person who thinks the magic of baseball is in the storytelling.  It most certainly does not, not anymore than the magic of any sports is in the storytelling.  The magic of baseball is in the accessibility, the quirkiness, the way it starts with spring and dies with fall every year, and a hundred other things that are not related to constructing obnoxious and often factually incorrect narratives around dreamy-eyed True Yankees.

the grandeur of Ruth, the Midwestern identification with Musial, the unbreakable Robinson and the complex defiance and moral ambiguity of Bonds.

The magic of all those guys were that they were phenomenal players.  Reading about them (and, for example, the fact that Bonds and Ruth dominated the game in very similar ways 70ish years apart) is awesome, but it's not awesome "storytelling."  It's awesome because they were awesome at baseball.

It's what gives life to the statistics.

I'm sure you can see where this is headed.

Unfortunately, in the age of Moneyball and fantasy leagues,


the numbers have been detached from, and become more important than, the players.

This is about as phenomenal a straw man as you could hope to construct to try to tear down STAT NERDS.  Hey, I'll bet you STAT NERDS think NUMBERS are more important than BASEBALL PLAYERS, don't you?  You'd get rid of the players entirely if you could!  Don't deny it!

All but one.

You guessed it... Frank Stallone.

The Yankees' Derek Jeter has defied the impact of the two most influential elements of his time: the institutional shift toward quantitative analysis and the cynical lust for home runs, fueled by performance-enhancing drugs.

This is pure horseshit.  I'm sure you were thinking the same thing as you were reading it so I'll spare you the paragraph-long response.  Needless to say, there is nothing about a guy with a .382 career OBP and 94 oWAR that "defies" the shift towards quantitative analysis.  If you want to out yourself as a shithead, be sure to say things like YOU STAT NERDS PROBABLY DON'T EVEN THINK DEREK JETER IS GOOD.  Somewhere along the line, shitheads like Bryant have tried to drastically change the message promoted by people who say things like "Jeter is a bad defensive shortstop" and "Jeter is a first ballot HOF guy, but I'm tired of reading love letters to him from people like Howard Bryant" to JETER SUX.  It's embarrassing.  Also, sorry Howard, but it's not 1998 anymore.  No one is "lusting" for home runs.

For now, he's stuck at 3,304 hits, sidelined until after the All-Star break with an ankle injury. But with Jeter, the visual has always been better than the numerical --

Those steely, calm, steel eyes.  They look right through you.  And when Derek says "Sorry guys, no more questions, I've got to shower and go home" the eyes are saying something much naughtier than that.

and there's never been a better time to appreciate that than in his absence,

Or every March through October of every year from 1996 through 2012, which apparently were also great times to appreciate him, according to numerous baseball writers across the country.

which only underscores his longevity.

It certainly underscores that he's old as shit and about to retire.  Not sure if it underscores how long he's been playing.

For years, most stats guys never liked him as much as his All-Star rivals at shortstop: Alex Rodriguez,

They both became regulars in 1996.  Between then and 2004, when A-FRAUD joined the Yankees, there was exactly one season when Jeter was better (1999).  The other eight seasons, PAY-ROD was somewhere between "somewhat better" and "insanely better" than Steely McGiftBasket.  Jeter is one of the 20 best players of the past 20 years.  Rodriguez is one of the 20 best players of all time.

Nomar Garciaparra

He became a regular in 1997.  Between then and 2003, when he finished his run as an impact player thanks to his groin/hamstring exploding like a firework in 2004, Jeter was better in 1999 and 2001 (because NOMAH got hurt and played in only 21 games).

and Miguel Tejada.

Tejada was definitely not as good as Jeter, although I don't remember too many "stat guys" insisting on that, especially considering Tejada's weakness relative to these other three was always OBP.

Jeter, now 38, has outlasted them all at the position

Lol.  Yes, Jeter did a fantastic job of outlasting Rodriguez at the position, mostly by being the world's greatest teammate and forcing the defensively superior Rodriguez to switch positions in order to accommodate Jeter's ego.

and created a more compelling legacy. (Rodriguez and Tejada will always be drug-tainted,

Fortunately, non-idiots will still be able to appreciate how good they were anyways.  Also, $1,000 to the Red Cross if Jeter tests positive before the end of the season.

and Jeter likely will finish with twice as many hits as Garciaparra's 1,747.)

Take that, guy whose career was ended by crippling and unpredictable injuries!

Jeter most clearly defined his essence on separate occasions in the 2001 ALDS against the A's. Moment One was, of course, [LB edit: THE FLIP PLAY OMG NEED TO GO CHANGE MY PANTS]. But while the scorebook registers Jeter's play as simply an out -- albeit one that was 9-to-6-to-2 -- it demoralized the A's.

This is the kind of stuff we're going to be reading from our rocking chairs at the old folks home in 2070, and the person writing it is going to think they're shining light into darkness.

The second defining moment came two nights later, with the A's spent, wondering as the noise cascaded on them just how they were here playing a deciding Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, how they had let the series slip away. Terrence Long hit a foul ball along the third base line that Jeter chased and caught, spilling into the stands. It was, again, just another out, F6, but on the field it was a referendum of championship toughness.

A ball a faster guy might have gotten to without having to sell out and dive into the stands.  But hey, GRIT TOUGH STEELY EYES CLUTCH.  Hard to argue with that.

The Yankees had it. The A's didn't.

The ability to win three out of five games in that particular series: the Yankees had it.

That intangibles notion is murky, of course, and complicated.

Could have ended the article right there.

Jeter played in an era when everyone was suspected of PED use. For those choosing to believe the shortstop that he was, is and always has been a clean ballplayer, the monument to his fidelity and greatness lies in his old-school bona fides.

That's awesome.  "Those who assume he never used credit it to something ill-defined, the existence of which can't be proven or disproven."  And let's also point out that as of June 2011, Jeter was coming off by far his worst offensive season and was hitting .257/.321/.329 with zero home runs in the not-exactly-young season. Then he rebounded nicely to finish 2011 and had a .316/.362/.429 season with fifteen home runs in 2012.  Let's just put that out there.  Something clicked for him.  Did a nagging injury heal?  Did he change his approach?  You know what--it could have been anything.

Jeter, along with possibly Ken Griffey Jr., is the only player in the modern game whose iconic moments were generated by all five tools -- not just by standing in the batter's box and hitting another home run in a game that encouraged nothing but.

Again, if you want to out yourself as a shithead, make sure you tell everyone that Jeter is one of only two players in the last 25ish years to generate "iconic moments" with all five tools.  That will make it very clear to everyone reading your writing that you're a fucking shithead.  It will also require you to ignore the existence of Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, and about 200 other position players to play during that time.

Like Jackie Robinson, Jeter is pure baseball.

True Yankee.  Steely Eyes.  Pure Baseball.  Gift Basket.

He will be remembered for his baserunning (the clever beating of the shift by swiping third base that he made routine).

How many players don't capitalize on that?  More importantly, how many teams are like "screw it, ignore than runner on second, we're putting the full shift on?"  My guess is this happened once with Jeter in like 1997 and Bryant now wants to credit him with a) making it routine and b) inventing cars, airplanes, and computers.

He will be equally celebrated for his fielding and throwing.

He will be remembered for being an adequate to good shortstop through his 20s, and then receiving a bunch of Gold Gloves he didn't deserve during his 30s.  Not sure "celebrated" is the right term.

(Even though he doesn't rank anywhere near the top 1,000 in career defensive WAR, you can't deny the Flip, the nailing of Arizona's Danny Bautista at third in the 2001 World Series or the flying leap into the crowd against the Red Sox in the summer of '04.)

That's right.  Those three plays cannot be denied.  They really happened, they were not optical illusions that fooled everyone who saw them.  I will grant that.  He's still been a shitty defensive shortstop for a decade and running.

And his hitting consistency is close to unmatched. (His injury likely will make his quest for 4,000 hits unsuccessful, but he is in range to catch Henry Aaron at 3,771 for third all time.)

I'm not trying to overhate here, but that's not going to happen.

Not that he couldn't power the ball out of the ballpark too -- there was the first-pitch leadoff home run in Game 4 of the 2000 Series when the Mets had won the night before,

"Not that he couldn't power the ball out of the ballpark too -- remember, he hit a home run once."  Take a step back and think about this article.  What the fuck are you getting out of this?  What the fuck could Derek Jeter's closest admirers (other than Howard Bryant and his family) get out this?  Much of this can be summarized as "Jeter was great."  Holy dog balls, this is awful.  Almost over though.

and the two-out, full-count walk-off home run the following year in Game 4 against Arizona.

Why did the Yankees lose that series?  I blame A-Rod, even though he was a Ranger at the time.

As if that wasn't enough, there's also the imprint he's had on the Yankees, the first homegrown star to lead the franchise to the World Series since Mickey Mantle. (1977-78 belonged to Reggie, not Munson.) 

As Chris W put it, what a fun and worthwhile use of our time--let's argue whether Munson really "led" the Yankees to that title.  After that we can go back to debating the existence of Jeter's "old school bona fides."

He became the signature player for the game's signature team when it returned to power, and in an era of drugs and cynicism and ruined reputations, he never embarrassed the sport, his team or,

This describes 99% of all MLB players.  One of the ones it does not describe is Barry Bonds, who was still fucking awesome, way more awesome than Derek Jeter.  Neener neener neener.

most important, his family name.

Most importantly, he never embarrassed the sacred Jeter family name?  What?  Why are we giving him credit for this?  "Most importantly, he never pushed anyone off of the Statue of Liberty.  For this, he deserves a parade."

There is no metric for that. Just a magical story.

It really isn't.  This was a colossal waste of time and I apologize to you for having made you read it.


jacktotherack said...

Why do sports writers find the need to keep re-writing the same fucking Jeter article 1,000,000 times??? When half the article is spent waxing nostalgic about trademark Jeter moments that happened over a fucking decade ago, maybe Howard Bryant should have stopped himself and asked "Do I really need to write this?"

Tim N said...

"he could impregnate a b-list actress with those steely eyes, then offer to split the abortion cost while giving her that sly grin"

dan-bob said...

He has a high butt.