Derek Sanderson Jeter took ownership of the shortstop position. After Bucky Dent, from 1982 through 1995, shortstop for the Yankees was the Achilles heel, the hole in the field and the lineup that we just could not fill with a franchise player. They were aging players who were past their primes, acquired to replace minor leaguers who never reached their potential, who replaced single-season fill-ins. Most of them hit around .250 or lower, with no power, and average defense skills.
When 1996 came along, Yankee fans were excited. Though their first postseason in 14 years did not work out the way we hoped, it was great to see them improving and on the upswing. Jeter was part of a new generation of players coming up from the minors, augmenting a set of veteran acquisitions like David Cone, Paul O'Neill, Joe Girardi, and Tino Martinez. All of them were heroes, but it was obvious that the organization was building its future around the 1996 Rookie of the Year.
From that point on, he was the face of the organization, and with good reason. He quietly posted successful season after successful season, contributing with his bat, his glove, and his demeanor in the clubhouse. For those that follow the WAR statistic, Jeter ranks fifth on the Yankees all-time list (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio are the top 4). Between 1996 and 2012, he hit .300 or better in 12 of those 17 seasons, and only hit below .290 once. He has a career .308 batting average in the postseason. In seven World Series appearances, he holds a .321 career average, has hit .345 or better in five of them, and was awarded the MVP of the Series in 2000. Other World Series accomplishments include being #4 on the all-time list for runs scored (32) and #5 for hits (50). He made the All-Star team 14 times in 17 full seasons. He was in the top 10 in the voting for A.L. MVP eight times, and won five Gold Gloves.
That is not to mention his conduct on and off the field. A notable fact is that he has never been ejected from a game. He has a calm, cool temperament that translated into a leadership style that has kept the Yankees a world-class organization. No one has even been worried about what he is going to say to a reporter. It was always measured, even-tempered, and honest. He has never actively sought to draw attention to himself, always focusing on the team and on winning. His leadership in the Yankees organization is well established, and making him Captain in 2003 was an obvious decision.
The thing I think I will miss the most is just seeing him with the team day in and day out. He was the man who most represented the organization for almost 20 years. For more than half of that time, he was the Captain of the most storied franchise in sports. More than that, as Bryce Harper eloquently put it, “Derek Jeter is not just the captain of the Yankees, but the captain of all of baseball”.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
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