Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Over the past 20 years, there have been so many good things said about Derek Jeter, but none of them summed up his career quite like the recent Jordan commercial. It only runs one minute and 40 seconds, but #RE2PECT shows the admiration from the sports world for a player that has personified the latest generation of Yankee greatness.

From Carmelo Anthony to Phil Jackson to Tiger Woods to two indifferent Red Sox fans to Michael Jordan himself tipped their caps to Jeter and the home crowd at Yankee Stadium chanting his name, the clever spot showed the respect that Jeter has amassed over his long career.

With over 3,400 hits, 500 doubles, 250 home runs, 350 stolen bases and a career .311 batting average, those are accolades that would put any player into the Hall of Fame, but Jeter's career has always come down to those big moments in October and sometimes November.

As much as he is praised for his consistency, one thing is taken for granted -- Jeter can flat out hit. Jeter has 1,000 multi-hit games -- only the fourth player in MLB history to do so -- joining Pete Rose, Hank Aaron and Stan Musial.

Everybody has their personal favorite Jeter moment; from the flip against Oakland in the 2001 Division Series to the head-first crash into the stands against the Red Sox in the Bronx in 2004 to becoming only the second player to reach 3,000 hits with a home run in 2011 off David Price and of course, the walk-off home run against Arizona in the 2001 World Series to usher in November baseball and earn the now famous nickname, Mr. November.

All but one of those moments came in the postseason where Jeter's Yankees came out on top more often than not. Jeter helped the Yankees win four World Series in five years and came within two outs of winning four straight and five out of six.  Jeter also showed staying power with the Yankees as he was able to win a fifth championship with future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera in 2009 to come full circle.

Over the years there have been many opinions about if Jeter is one of the best clutch performers in baseball history, but when it comes down to it, he's just himself in the biggest moments. So often the game's greatest players struggle on baseball's biggest stage, but Jeter was able to do what he normally does and that's always been about getting on base with a hit.

In 158 postseason games, Jeter hit for a slash line of .308/.374/.465 with an OPS of .838 to go along with 111 runs scored, 200 hits, 32 doubles, five triples, 20 homers and 61 RBIs. When you look at those numbers, that's basically a regular season for The Captain.

Baseball is the ultimate team sport, but year after year, Jeter was there in the two-hole producing with the type of consistency not often seen by hitters in the game today. As pitching has begun to dominate and Jeter's started to reach the ages when he was supposed to decline, he refused to give in.

In 2010, a contract year, Jeter hit just .270 and the talk was that Jeter was getting too old. He responded by flying past the 3,000-hit milestone with a blast off Rays ace David Price and in 2012 he led all of baseball with 212 hits. The thought of No. 2 reaching 4,000 hits didn't seem so far-fetched, but when he suffered a broken ankle in the postseason, his career was suddenly back on a timer.

The 2013 season was lost and Jeter announced before this season that his 20th season would be his last. His power might be gone, but once again in the All Star Game when the game's greatest players shine, he showed he's still got a little bit left in the tank.

After a standing ovation from the capacity crowd at Target Field and every player on the field and in both dugouts, Jeter laced a leadoff double to the right field corner to start a three-run inning for the American League. A bloop single in the third capped another memorable All Start Game for Jeter, who finishes his career with a .481 batting average in the Midsummer Classic.

At the end of this season, Jeter will hang up his cleats for the final time and walk away from the game that has made him a household name. Once you cut through all the accolades and statistics for which there are many, you have a man who earned the respect of his peers in a game that exposes even the greatest athletes, and that is the most impressive part of Derek Sanderson Jeter.



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