by Drew Sarver
It seems like it was only yesterday that Derek Jeter was in his rookie season with the New York Yankees. I was younger then, than he is now. It’s odd enough to not see Mariano Rivera in a Yankees uniform this season, but to not see Jeter in the home pinstripes or the road greys next season is incomprehensible. Life moves fast and so has Jeter’s final season as a Major League baseball player. Tuesday night, he’ll be introduced as the starting shortstop for the American League in the 85th MLB All-Star game at Target Field in Minnesota.
The fans voted in Jeter as the starter this season, as a tribute rather than because of his play this season. They recognize the special player they have witnessed on a nightly basis for nearly 20 seasons. (The anti-Yankees/anti-Jeter sentiment among some fans, specifically those criticizing his place on the team, is more about those fans and their lack of perception of the baseball world outside of their own team.)
Jeter made his first All-Star appearance in 1998, his third full season in the Major Leagues. In an interview with former teammate, and current ESPN analyst Aaron Boone, Jeter admitted to being “scared to death” in his first mid-Summer classic. It’s hard to believe, coming from a player with the confidence that Jeter has, but newbies are newbies. Things have changed since then. (See the entire ESPN interview by clicking here.)
Jeter enjoys chatting with players he doesn’t get to talk with too often. Even those (Dee Gordon) that are the son of a former teammate (Tom “Flash” Gordon). The Yankees’ captain would certainly like to leave a lasting impression for the fans, in attendance and those at home, during Tuesday night’s game. Of course, he would never admit to that.
In that first All-Star game 16 years ago, Jeter subbed for the starter, Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez, and struck out in his lone at-bat. A year later, Nomar Garciaparra got the start and Jeter’s one at-bat again resulted in a strikeout. (A-Rod was left off the team by Yankees manager Joe Torre after a knee injury limited him to a .316 batting average, 1.045 OPS, 18 HR and 48 RBI.)
Jeter was voted in as the starter for the first time in the 2000 season. It was one of the top all-around seasons for the then 26-year old. He was the game’s MVP in the American League’s 6-3 victory, going 3-3 with two RBI, and a run scored. He then went on to capture the World Series MVP when the Yankees topped the Mets in the Subway Series that Fall.
The next two seasons Jeter again found himself on the bench as Cal Ripken Jr. had his swan song at shortstop (Ripken was actually voted as the starter at third base, but Torre and A-Rod, the winner at shortstop, orchestrated a positional switch at the start of the game.) and a year later A-Rod once again topped the vote leaderboard among the league’s shortstops.
Number 2 in pinstripes missed the ’03 game after he missed a month and a half of the regular season with a shoulder injury. But with A-Rod’s move to the Yankees and third base, and Garciaparra’s declined play, beginnnig in 2004 Jeter was voted in as the starting shortstop for the next six seasons. He lost out to the Cleveland Indians’ Asdrubel Cabrera in 2010, but was back as a starter in 2012. Last season was just the second game he missed since 1998 when a broken ankle and other injuries limited him to just 17 regular season games.
Tonight, he will hit leadoff for the AL and receive a number of rousing ovations from the Minnesota crowd, his teammates and his opponents. At some point, AL manager John Farrell will send Erick Aybar or Alexei Ramirez out to replace Jeter in the middle of an inning so that the 20-year veteran can receive one more thunderous July ovation.
And then one more “the last one” will be in the books.
Derek Jeter’s All-Star statistics
Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.