clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Re-living Derek Jeter’s sopping wet 2014 tongue bath

New, 45 comments

Come with us as we discover that in the infinite medium of the internet, some people have found a way to waste space.

Just a kid out there.
Just a kid out there.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Jeter had an awful 2014 season; so awful that his announced exit from the game was celebrated by one and all.

Writing about Derek Jeter this season became not a cliche, but its own sub genre of sports writing. Flowery prose and childlike awe flowed from the keyboards of old white men who, on other days, would come down on players like Yasiel Puig or Bryce Harper for playing with too much brashness.

Puig_wag_medium

Whatever the intersection is of qualities in a baseball player that would make an analyst want to buy and wear matching jackets with him, Jeter found it. No one else has. No one else in the history of the sport in its modern age - other than Mariano Rivera - has received such ludicrous universal appeal and lavish, juvenile praise from "objective" industry professionals.

Let's just look at the quintessential example of Jeter-love from this season: Rick Reilly's bizarre, poorly written letter to Jeter's unborn children*. There is no better evidence that this had branched into its own area. A trend emerged, Rick Reilly saw it, and, as is his formula, decided he was going to out-crazy everybody. And he did, with gusto:

"He was a kind of prince in baseball cleats, George Clooney in pinstripes, the guy every woman wanted to bring home to mom, and very few did. He was humble and handsome and yet hard to hate."

Let's ignore how little this legendary column has to do with baseball - More people probably now hate Derek Jeter because of this column specifically. It did the complete opposite of what Reilly intended, which was, presumably, to lodge himself so deep into Jeter's colon that he could become part of his posse by proxy.

I mean, it's not sports writing. It's not good writing. It's just stupid... dumb... crap. Who would read this, let alone enjoy it? It isn't even a column about a man's sperm - it is a column to a man's sperm, about the man whose sperm it is. Think about that. Think about Rick Reilly leaning down and speaking to Derek Jeter's balls about Derek Jeter while Jeter reads a magazine.

Jeter's impending retirement stretched the baseball writing industry so far out of baseball, people lost what loose grip they had on reality, and it made for a season of some of the best terrible writing we've ever seen.

*Think about reading that sentence as someone just learning of this phenomenon decades from now. Think about then discovering that it is in no way an exaggeration. This happened to us. Rick Reilly's Love Letter to Derek Jeter's Sperm HAPPENED TO US.

Jon Morosi, February 12:

The only way Jon Morosi could have been more gleeful in his celebrations of Jeter was if Jeter had been a Detroit Tiger.

Once Ken Griffey Jr. began to age, Jeter became the closest thing baseball had to Michael Jordan or LeBron James - a bona-fide celebrity, recognizable to people who did not follow the sport. Yes, part of it was that the Yankees drafted him.

In Jeter columns, you get paid by the noun. But this isn't some greenhorn's scrawl on how Jeter's talent is eclipsed only by his respect for the game. This is Jon Freaking Morosi, and he's going to ball up all the traditional terms reserved for Jeter and roll it through this column - talent! Integrity! Leadership! Charisma! Durability!

But that was where the luck stopped and talent, integrity, leadership, charisma and durability took over. Some 1,000 young men since Jeter in 1992 have had the same privilege of calling themselves a Yankees draft pick. Not one has outshone The Captain.

"In closing please, please can I come to your birthday party Derek? Please."

Ken Rosenthal, February 13:

Once Jeter decided to retire after the 2014 season, it would be one form of distraction or another. And rather than live a lie, continually telling reporters that he had not made a decision, Jeter chose to embrace the concept of a grand finale and all that it entailed.

Goodness me, poor Jeter, having to spend an entire baseball season living with the information that come the year's end, he'd be off to enjoy a life of unlimited money and free time. The burden. No, better play it safe and get peons to bow at his feet for eight months.

That, however, is a concern for another day; Jeter, more than ever, will live in the moment. Some will note that his send-off will dovetail nicely with Alex Rodriguez's season-long suspension; never again will Jeter need to face that distraction.

Bad, A-Rod! How dare you try to take this from Jeter! Terrorist!

Jeter never was one for hypotheticals, never one to focus on anything but the next game. Now, at times, he will take a deep breath, reflect upon his Hall of Fame career, even expose his softer side. But as long as he is healthy -- a big assumption, to be sure -- does anyone seriously expect he will be a lesser Derek Jeter?

One thing that did eventually die off during the season were the A-Rod references, even from noted A-rod shamer Jon Heyman, who we'll get to soon. But it was honestly kind of a bummer.

What's also interesting is that the answer to Rosenthal's rhetorical question here is "yes." Ken Rosenthal considered Jeter might be "a lesser Jeter," just a week later:

Ken Rosenthal, February 20:

I could think of only one thing Wednesday as Derek Jeter displayed the playful edge that he rarely shows publicly, but that his teammates adore:

Man, I hope he can still play.

Jon Heyman, February 12 and February 19:

Heyman is interesting because he can't talk about Jeter without also talking about Alex Rodriguez. Heyman adopted a bizarre, "shaming father" dynamic with A-Rod that needs very little to be triggered.

This was going to be a long year of Jeter-stroking from the outset, we knew that. But some writers felt like our preparedness was a challenge; that no matter how braced we were, they would find a way to get our eyes to roll so hard we'd all get migraines.

Heyman was the early leader, citing Jeter not for his talent or heroism or sexiness, but for the fact that he always managed to keep a low profile - a profile impregnated by the very media reporting on him nonstop, every day. His headline here even has the phrase "without a fuss," as if Heyman and the gang would ever miss a chance to make a fuss over Derek Jeter.

"Yankees great goes out his way - without a fuss."

Yankees great Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter is on the Yankees and great... I must figure out a way to convey this to the people,' Jon Heyman thought as the barista sighed and shook her head at the huge line forming behind him.

"held his retirement press conference in the free standing hall adjacent to George M. Steinbrenner Field that will likely forever be known, at least to the writers, as "The A-Rod Pavilion." It's where the great Jeter's frenemy Alex Rodriguez first told us about "Boli," the "loosey goosey days" of Texas and his cousin the culprit.

...

The Yankee employee who whispered to me afterward, "Man, wasn't that boring?" misses the point. That is practically the goal!"

"Hey Derek, that one guy said you were boring, but not me! Look I wrote a column all about how little you want attention! Derek! DEREK!! DEREK YOU CAN BE MY SURROGATE SON OR FATHER I DON'T CARE WHICH."

In keeping with secondary goal to winning of not creating a fuss, he staged a press conference to upstage no one, including A-Rod, who, by the way, couldn't make it this time.

"Because he's grounded."

MLB.com, April 2:

The meaning of this was not lost on Bo Porter's Astros, most of whom popped out of the dugout -- and the bullpen, all the way down in center field -- to stand and applaud the iconic shortstop. Appreciative fans added to the moment, prompting Jeter to tip his helmet in acknowledgement, a nice gesture for No. 2, poetically, on Game No. 2 of the season.

Clearly, all along, Jeter planned to play in the second game of the season, since it corresponds with his number. What a brilliant, perfect man.

New York Daily News, April 2:

Jeter finished the night 1-for-3 with a run scored. He clocked a trademark opposite-field single in the eighth inning, sparking a late rally that came up well short.

In these two lines, Jeter is credited with starting a rally brought the Yankees within five runs of victory. Five! That's a helluva spark!

Richard Justice, April 7:

For Jeter, though, it has been a 20-year love affair. He's the guy who did every single thing right from the beginning, representing the franchise better than arguably anyone ever.

"...better than arguably anyone ever," the adult man wrote, finishing his third grade book report.

MLB.com, April 7:

Derek Jeter took a few loping steps out of the batter's box, seeming to allow himself a little extra time to take in his final home opener at Yankee Stadium. Why not? The sweet crack of barrel meeting ball had provided the captain with that luxury.

For me, this is it. This is the most awful, obnoxious form of Jetery to come out of the season. I thought so at the time it, then remembered it was not only April, but early April. But here we are at the end of September and Bryan Hoch of MLB.com has not been topped.

  • "Derek Jeter took a few loping steps out of the batter's box, seeming to allow himself a little extra time to take in his final home opener at Yankee Stadium"
  • "Why not?"
  • "the sweet crack of barrel meeting ball"

This one really sticks out as it was written within days of Yasiel Puig getting chastised by every insulted old man for not hustling out of the box on what Puig had believed to be a home run ball that bounced off the fence instead of going over it. Oh, how they blistering hot takes flowed - Puig was everything that was wrong with the game. All he needed was a sabermetrics reference to be Baseball Satan.

Then, Jeter does it, and waddya know, the guy was just giving himself another memory to have as he sunbathed on a private yacht floating on a sea of Gatorade. What a talented, integral, charismatic, durable man.

CBS New York, April 7:

Derek Jeter will be reunited with the other three members of the iconic "Core Four" - Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera - when he opens up Yankee Stadium for the final time in his career on Monday.

In other words, get the tissues ready.

Eww.

Business Week, April 18:

Jeter's longevity is remarkable in the world of pro sports, but his loyalty to a single franchise is even more unusual in the modern era. As far as active Major League Baseball players go, nobody comes close to Jeter in his tenure with a single team.

You can't imagine the challenge that comes with not leaving the richest team in the league while it throws infinite money at you from a bottomless purse.

"I think I'll test the waters of free agency," said many free agents during Jeter's career, in hopes that the Yankees will sign them.

Jeter was old in 2014, his actual baseball play wasn't good, he couldn't get to the ball, etc. So somebody found a way to make not moving into a stunning personal trait. Well done.

NJ.com, April 25:

Jeter said he was in the dark through most of the process before Pineda was thrown out. He didn't know why Red Sox manager John Farrell was conferring with umpire Gerry Davis. Didn't know why Davis began to approach the mound.

"I didn't know what was happening at first," said Jeter, who went 2-for-5 as the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 14-5, Thursday night. "I was at (shortstop). I couldn't see anything. When the umpires started to come out, I thought they were checking the count or something. I really had no clue."

But after walking to the mound and seeing Pineda's pine-tar stained neck up close, it all started to make sense, Jeter said.

Imagine the chaos in the Yankees dugout as Jeter raced from coach to coach, tugging on their sleeves, tears streaming down his face. "Coach, coach! What's goin' on?! Is Michael okay?!"

The world had turned upside down. One minute, Michael Pineda was just a normal pitcher with a weird splotch on his arm. The next, he was calmly walking off the field for having pine tar on his arm. And all Derek Jeter could do was watch.

What if I told you... a Hall of Fame career doesn't always get you answers.

ESPN presents... 30 for 30: Derek Jeter Didn't Know Why Michael Pineda was Getting Thrown Out of a Game at First, but Then Figured it Out Like Everyone Else.

Richard Justice, April 25:

As we focused on Jeter, Beltran, McCann, etc., we are allowed to fit into the clubhouse and get comfortable in their new setting.

...

Jeter reminded reporters that there's a long way to go and that there might be some more strange stuff happen.

"But don't worry, I'll protect you every step of the way. No strange stuff is going to hurt my beat wri-no. My friends."

The Seattle TimesJune 10:

"The last thing Derek Jeter needs is another flowery tribute from me, or anyone else.

...

...

...

...

Buuuuuuuuuuttttt...

But that doesn't mean he's not worthy of bountiful respect, admiration and, heck, even a little gushing as he takes his farewell tour around the majors. Because Jeter was indeed a spectacular ballplayer even without embellishment. And he has been a towering figure of grace and dignity for 20 years.

Aaaaaahhh

Wall Street Journal, June 26

This didn't need to exist, and you know that, photo editor of the Wall Street Journal. You know that.

Ny-db698_sp_yan_dv_20140626214934_medium

via si.wsj.net

FOX SportsJuly 9

"It might be his final Major-League season, but as 40-year-old Derek Jeter continues his retirement tour, the cagey captain wants everyone to know that he's still got a few tricks up his sleeve.

Unfortunately for Jason Kipnis, Monday night's Indians-Yankees game provided the perfect opportunity for Jeter to school the young Tribe second baseman."

Hey, young rapscallion, how dare you have the audacity to think you can outrun Derek Jeter's highly touted defense, which is never cited as one of his oft-ignored or excused glaring weaknesses!

Truly, this was another example of the veteran Jeter, using that crafty, wily side that only he, in his final season, has.

MLB.com, September 6

Finally, on the sixth of September the day arrived on which he could finally honor Derek Jeter. The Yankees scheduled Derek Jeter Day on a Sunday in September, weeks away from his final home game at Yankee Stadium and his final game ever at Fenway Park, probably so those could be turned into two different national holidays as well.

But wait! What if Jeter, a man who would never do so, chose to take himself out of his final games?!?

Jeter plans to play in final games at Fenway Park

Sitting out after conclusion of home schedule goes against captain's persona

Oh, thank goodness.

Headline in an alternate dimension:

Jeter to sit out final games at Fenway Park

Fans agree, best shortstop ever has earned a break, also has a nice smile

Jamal Collier, MLB.com, September 5:

Jeter said he will likely not allow himself to think about the ceremony until he is driving toward the stadium on Sunday. He does not plan to speak to any of his old teammates or manager Joe Torre, who was honored a few weeks ago at Yankee Stadium, about what to expect.

Jeter hasn't been answering his phone, just in case greatness is calling. Jeter is so humble that he refuses to look his family and friends in the eye when he talks to them on the off chance that they are trying to honor him in some way. Jeter doesn't check his email because there's far too great a risk that his inbox will be full of a few new chapter of Rick Reilly-penned fan fiction about two best friends going on an adventure. Jeter has been living up in the mountains, living on squirreled-away dry goods and whatever meat he can catch with his hands, driving an eight-hour nightly commute to Yankee Stadium.

Lindsay Berra, Sports on Earth, September 6:

I don't know much of Berra's work, but I do know that she insinuated that baseball writers don't love Derek Jeter, a thought so incorrect that it probably brought Jon Heyman to tears - after all this time, what if Jeter doesn't know that they love him?

Writers like players who are accessible, who open their lives to them and become their pals. But Jeter has stayed above the fray by keeping to himself.

I know this is a little "risque" to suggest, but I think that writers like Derek Jeter just fine. How dare you suggest otherwise. This is a very sensitive time for everyone - We're about to lose Derek Jeter forever. It's like a family member dying, but worse.

NJ.com, August 5:

Derek Jeter had a facial reaction to Ezequiel Carrera's catch on a Jacoby Ellsbury fly ball.

The cameras, as they hadn't left him all year, were on Jeter. Actually, we're lucky one of them was on Carrera because it was a spectacular catch.

New York Post, August 10:

Wtf_medium

And we're just going off the rails here. The Post made a story out of Jeter doing what he - and countless players, better and worse than him - have done probably since baseball's inception. But Jeter is Jeter. So instead of just "hey, that was nice," we get a story about a baby receiving a baseball from Jeter and becoming the chosen one, with a weird left turn into a narrative of a young boy's heart being broken.

The captain spotted a baby clad in a Yankees T-shirt, and much to the dismay of a young boy who believed the intangibles-made-sentient legend was angling in his direction, Jeter handed the ball to the slighty confused but happy tot.

You have to feel for the young fella, whose mood must have taken the same course as a 12-to-six curve - from sheer ecstasy as his hero approaches to utter heartbreak as Jeter never meets his gaze.

Seriously this article exists on the off chance that that baby grows up and one day does a stupid little flip move to nail somebody at the plate in the MLB playoffs and they can link back to this post and use the phrase "touched by greatness."

KISS, the band, September 12:

Things were obviously going to intensify as those put off by Reilly's centerpoint of the Jeter-bating universe began penning their own offerings to orbit it. As they did, Jeter got a message from a '70s rock band that hasn't been a relevant rock band during Jeter's career, at all.

"Hey, Derek, congratulations on 20 great years in pinstripes. You're a powerful and attractive man!"

MLB.com, September 22:

This

MLB.com, September 23:

John Sterling has called some of Jeter's most amazing moments, and you know how he feels about it? Miserable, bitter, and unfullfilled. He stares up at the ceiling at night, clenching his fists and worrying his wife. He fantasizes about the earth opening up at shortstop in Yankee Stadium and the baseball icon being swallowed by demon hands. Ha ha ha - yes, that would be splendid. Then Joe Girardi would scratch his head.

"Well now I need a gosh dang shortstop!" he'd exclaim. Slowly, he'd crane his head up to the booth to a waiting John Sterling.

"And I think I know just where to look," Girardi would finish in a rascal's whisper.

Sterling would reach down for the glove he kept under his desk for just this occasion. "I won't let you down, skip!"

"No more than Jeter did by getting taken by underworldlings!" Giradi would say, and they'd share a laugh.

Just kidding. Sterling feels "fortunate."

Bill Madden, New York Daily News, September 27:

"HOW DARE," this headline actually begins, "THE SABERMETRICS CROWD," it hilariously continues, "AND OTHERS," it goes on, insinuating that people in the sabermetrics crowd have friends, which is the highest compliment a stats-decryer has ever accidentally given the SABR crowd, "TRY TO DIMINISH YANKEES CAPTAIN DEREK JETER'S GREATNESS."

"There are always going to be the contrarians eager to tear down and diminish our sports icons because that's what these people love to do..."

Just as there will always be grumpy-puss sports writers to act like there is some kind of secret war going on that poses an actual threat to anything that really matters. Because some people look at a different set of numbers than others when talking about baseball, a game that children play.

Jon Morosi, September 28:

Guys, I forgot I had Morosi blocked and muted on Twitter until this somehow came across my path. I don't know how it did. We're complete strangers and I have a barrier between us in the only forum in which we could interact.

And yet, when Morosi feels like he has a thought like this too good for his own brain, it still finds a way to get to me.

And as the ewoks danced, Jeter looked to his right and saw the ghosts of Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and Hayden Christensen all nodding in silent approval.

CHILLS.

Epilogue

Look, there were more entries. Worse ones. I may have missed a few. This was an exhausting, completely thankless, purposeless field study. I may add a few. But the point is this: With Jeter retiring, the next great player to announce his final season and then go on a season-long orgy across our great nation won't likely be a Yankee, or at least not a Yankee lifer.

Maybe if they steal Trout in free agency, and we'll get to see all these same writers finally giving him MVP votes and swearing that it wasn't until the Yankees saved him from the Angels that his career really started. I can honestly see that.

Enjoy your offseason. Unlike Jeter's, it won't last forever.