The Derek Jeter Aura

So I see that Derek Jeter is hanging it up at the end of this season. That’s both good and bad. It’s, frankly, time for him to go, but it will cost MLB its face (which isn’t really David Wright, despite the recent poll) and the most recognizable player of his generation. He’ll get to make a grand tour, get lots of gifts (but try to top Rivera’s broken bat rocking chair), a ton of applause and adulation. Then he’ll ride off toward Cooperstown, making it in five years. It’s really a fitting way for him to leave us.

Ever notice how some players just have an aura about them? Ruth had one, so did Mantle. Koufax has it to a lesser degree. Well, Jeter has one too. He is “The Captain” the rock around which the Yankees built their latest dynasty. He’s the man with “The Flip” (which is still probably the best fielding play I ever saw). He is “one of the five greatest Yankees ever.” You hear all that don’t you?

Well, hang on a minute. Without trying to diminish Jeter’s legacy, which is formidable, let’s not get too carried away here. It’s not like he’s the first captain the team ever had. Gehrig was team captain too and Gehrig was a better player. If Jeter was the rock on which the latest Yankees dynasty was built, then he had a lot of other rocks around to hold up part of that foundation. There was Pettitte, Rivera, Posada (the so-called “Core Four”), and there was Clemens, and O’Neill, and Knoblauch, and Martinez too.

Jeter reminds me of Joe DiMaggio. He has the same aura about him. Both are great players, but both seem to be remembered as being somehow greater than they were in actuality. It took twenty-five years for fans to realize that Mantle was a greater player than DiMaggio and Jeter has that kind of aura too. I don’t mean to imply that somehow the Yanks have a greater shortstop in their history, only to point out that Jeter is revered in much the same way as DiMaggio. There’s a reverence about them that is different from the awe that surrounds either Mantle or Gehrig, or for that matter, Ruth. For the latter three it seems that “awe” is more appropriate and with Jeter and DiMaggio the word is “reverence.”

As for being “one of the five greatest Yankees ever” I suppose you could make that case for Jeter, although I’d rank him in the six through eight range, behind Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, and Berra and in line with Ford and Rivera. That’s not a bad place to be, all things considered. He’s probably a top five to ten shortstop (certainly behind Wagner and Ripken) depending on how you categorize Banks and Yount. He was never Ozzie Smith in the field, but then neither was much of anyone else.

Then it’s good-bye to Derek Jeter. The Yankees will miss him. I think a greater tribute is that baseball will miss him.

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8 Responses to “The Derek Jeter Aura”

  1. William Miller Says:

    One man’s opinion of the ten greatest Yankees of All-Time:
    1) Ruth
    2) Mantle
    3) Gehrig
    4) DiMaggio
    5) Berra
    6) Jeter
    7) Mo Rivera
    8) W. Ford
    9) J. Gordon
    10) D. Mattingly

    As for Jeter, baseball will miss his class, talent, and aura.
    -Bill

  2. Gary Trujillo Says:

    Never really felt that “aura.” I think people forget, he was the 3rd best SS in the A,.L. during his prime behind A Rod and Miguel Tejada. He’s a Yankee, I get it. If he was K.C. Royal lifer we aren’t even talking about him.

    • wkkortas Says:

      So if he was a KC Royal we wouldn’t be talking about a shortstop with 3,000 hits? I grant you that Jeter benefits from the exposure of being a Yankee, but I think V’s comparison to DiMaggio is an apt one, and the notion that Jeter is somehow solely or even primarily the product of Yankee residue is a bit ridiculous.

  3. Gary Trujillo Says:

    No, what is ridiculous is calling him “one of the greats.” Did Paul Molitor get half of the ink that Jeter gets!? No. Residue is exactly right, Yankee fans need to get the residue off their noses after being up Jeter’s a** his whole career.

    • verdun2 Says:

      Did a little editing here. My wife insists I keep this a family site.
      v

    • wkkortas Says:

      Not “one of the greats”? Seriously? B-R has him 12th in terms of JAWS, which may be underselling him a little bit (and I say this as a lifelong Pirates fan, incidentally) but certainly suggests he is more a deserving Hall-of-Famer than a product of the brown-nosing of Yankee fans.

  4. steve Says:

    The Jeter topic provokes some of the more spicy debates on line. They usually revolve around the metric UZR for fielding and this notion of Yankee aura.

    I just learned the other night while listening to the Astros and Yankees that in 1992….Hal Newhouser-then a scout for the Astros insisted the Astros select Jeter in the draft. The Astros picked Phil Nevin instead and despite Newhouser’s plans to retire, he quit out of disgust anyway.

    The Yankees generate lots of money for baseball and that in itself makes me grateful to them. Jeter was a perfect poster boy fit for the Yankees; the charm and good looks, class act. I think that term you use “aura” is an accurate one. It seems like a neutral term. It just is. Some players embrace that Yankees aura and some don’t. Jeter did. It’s maybe out of player’s control. It’s just who they are.

    Playing in New York and all that must entail….it is something.

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