Saturday, July 19, 2014

Why The Derek Jeter Retirement Party is Out of Control

Breaking News: Derek Jeter is retiring. If you have been hiding under a rock, or, if you've just landed from another planet, you would be in a strong minority, because for the past five months we have been saying good-bye to the Yankees shortstop with no end in sight.

In fact the Jeter retirement party has gotten so stretched out that it no longer carries any real resonance anymore.

Don't get me wrong, I am not here to bash Derek Jeter. I am not here to call the Yankees the Evil Empire. I am here to call a balk on the mainstream media for taking the career of one player (a very good player), and making into the Greatest Retirement of All Time!

Jeter has been one of the greatest players of his generation. With the smokescreen of steroids overshadowing the game, it was players like Jeter; his teammate Mariano Rivera, and even Ken Griffey Jr., who cut through the fog to give fans some indelible moments that will never be forgotten.

Jeter had plenty of monumental moments in his career: from the flip play; to big time home runs in the playoffs and world series; diving into the stands against the Red Sox; his 3,000 hit and much more in between. Yet it does not give the baseball, and, baseball media world a pass to stop what its doing, and fall over themselves in celebrating his career.

I've never liked this new "tradition" of MLB teams to celebrate the careers of opposing players. It started with Chipper Jones in 2012, continued to the point of silliness by September of 2013 with Mariano Rivera, and, now, it follows Jeter with every step. And I mean every step.

The reason I never liked this tradition, has more to do with my old school belief that no team should celebrate the career of an opposing player while he is still actively playing. I fell it throws the players in the host dugout under the bus. Most of all, these forms of celebration feel forced, insincere and plain ridiculous.

I have found it more appalling and ridiculous to see teams that have been victimized by the honoree, shower him with gifts many years later. The Mets, for example, who had watched players like Jones, Jeter and Rivera destroy them in the playoffs in the late 90s/early 00s, honored those same players to the point of overdoing it. Imagine if the Mets actually cared about honoring people who actually wore their uniform?

The Oakland A's, who are the biggest Jeter moment victims in history, honored Jeter, but were not thrilled about doing it because of what happened in the 2000 ALDS with the "Flip." 

If teams like the A's are this upset about honoring opposing players, why do it? If I owned the team, I would tell the commissioner's office well before hand that my organization will not participate in any ceremony to honor a player in the other dugout.

Maybe that is the problem. Maybe the commissioner's office threatens teams to do it or else? Maybe draft picks get put on the line? Only the people in the baseball boiler room really know.

The only place Major League Baseball should honor it's retiring heroes is the All Star Game. In 2000, MLB got it right with Cal Ripkin Jr. and Tony Gwynn. 14 years later on Tuesday in Minnesota the excess of the Jeter-parade made the All Star Game impossible to stomach. 

There wasn't a moment without hearing that the 85th Mid-Summer Classic would be Jeter's last. Pregame interviews, pregame analysis, talk that he should win the All Star MVP because, well, he's retiring, and then a truly ridiculous 100 sec commercial spot where everyone, including invisible Mets, reluctant Red Sox fans, and, yes, Phil Jackson tipping their cap to the Yankee Captain.

Diehard Yankees' fans probably loved it. For the rest of us, I will refrain and roll my eyes. And what was with the tragic music in that commercial? He's just retiring people.

Then there is this golden gem that will become the topic of debate for a while. Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright told reporters after he left the game that he grooved pitches to Jeter so he could get a base hit. Wainwright tried to back out of it with Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews, but the damage was done.

Let's take Wainwright's words for face value. What if he really did groove pitches to Jeter? In a game that is supposed to determine home field advantage, Wainwright may have cost his team a chance at hosting Games 1, 2, 6 & 7 of the world series, if, his team gets there. The Jeter hit was the start of a three-run rally for the AL, a rally that the NL never could come back from on Tuesday.  Wainwright basically said, whether he meant to or not, that he didn't care about doing the number one thing a pitcher should do, and that's establish the inside part of the pate no matter who is batting.

In years past, no pitcher would have wanted to become the answer to a trivia question, and would have tried to establish the inside part of the plate, even in the All Star game. Yes, folks there was a day where players actually took pride in beating the other league, and meant it. If Jeter played his final All Star Game 20 years ago, he would have seen a 95 mph fastball come right for him, high and inside.

But that was the game then, this is the game now. Baseball has gotten soft. Instead of privately walking up to retiring players after the game has been played, and saying, "Mr. Jeter it was a pleasure," we now have players falling over themselves through the media to show their appreciation before and during the contest. 

This may sound like sour grapes, but it really isn't. By the time the Yankees play their final home series of the year against the Orioles in late September, the Jeter-ceremony will be so prolonged and played out, that any true power and emotion that will come from the real "final day" will feel watered down.

Call it the wild bachelor party that took place before the real bachelor party ever happens.

The Yankees and the only the Yankees should have been the team to honor Jeter in their way. He played his entire career for them; is as valuable to them as Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantel. Some would say he's the DiMaggio of this generation of Yankee fans. When the Yankees honor him, it will STILL be special, but because of the overflow of congratulations that has taken place in every ball park it will never carry the same emotion for everyone else watching.

In a lot of ways when he tips his cap to the crowd for the ceremony at Yankee Stadium in September, it will feel more like "thank goodness this party is over," rather than, "wow, this is truly the end."

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