NOTE: So I've been trying to figure out the best way to work sports in to the blog section on a somewhat consistent basis, and I have a new plan as to how to approach it. I'm going to dedicate a sport to each day of the week and give my take on the "biggest headline" for that sport. So here's how it will look: Monday will be football talk, Tuesday baseball, Wednesday basketball, Thursday hockey, and Friday will be biggest topic in general (room for other sports like soccer, golf, olympics, jai-alai, etc.). With today being Tuesday, and Opening Day(s) having just occured, a good old Jeter story seemed to be a good start. If you don't like sports, skip this blog, if you do, get ready for some knowledge.
ESPN - Dick Groch appreciates a good story, and the scout found one in the site of the first game of Derek Jeter's final season. Once upon a time, the high school shortstop out of Kalamazoo, Mich., could have been bigger than NASA in Houston.
"How ironic," Groch said over the phone, "that the guy the Astros should've taken No. 1 in the 1992 draft will be the guy in the other dugout on the first night of his last year in a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. Only Derek Jeter can script something like that."
Of course, Jeter had no more control over Houston's decision to pass on the Kalamazoo Kid in favor of a college star, Phil Nevin, than he did on baseball's decision to unwittingly book the beginning of his New York Yankees end in Minute Maid Park, the strange scene of Mariano Rivera's official goodbye.
Only Groch, the scout who signed Jeter, wasn't retreating from a point made often by those who have watched and chronicled a career that even the pragmatic captain describes in storybook terms.
"On his 3,000th hit," Groch said, "Derek had nothing to do with hitting the ball out of the ballpark, other than swinging the bat and making contact. But it did go out of the ballpark."
Yes, it did, and for Groch, who has been scouting and coaching players for half a century, that magical 5-for-5 afternoon in 2011 is another piece of circumstantial evidence that the Yankees' retiring shortstop will be the Jeter of old, and not an old Jeter, between Tuesday night in Houston and one more postseason berth for the road.
Now a special assistant with the Milwaukee Brewers, Groch will go ahead and picture Jeter maintaining the good health that eluded him in what the captain called a "nightmare" season, a 17-game 2013 ruined by a series of leg injuries that started with the fractured ankle in the playoffs the previous fall. He is Derek Jeter, after all, the kind of charmed figure farewell tours were made for.
And with that health allowing Jeter to potentially compete in 140-150 games, Groch made the following predictions about the best player he ever signed, a player who will turn 40 in June:
"He's going to hit .302. He's going to give you 12 home runs, and he'll score 85 runs. He's going to get 175 hits, and his on-base percentage will be .349. I don't expect anything but the Derek Jeter norm."
You can read the rest of this long-winded story here, but essentially what this guy's saying is that he expects Jeter to go out this year with nothing short of one of his normally brilliant seasons. And why would we be led to believe any differently? The guy is an absolute stud and he's really never been anything short of a prolifically productive player (lot of p's there) for his entire career.
Here is a breakdown of Jeter's career statistics. If we look only at his batting average, we see that, since playing full time starting in 1996, the guy has hit UNDER .300 only 5 TIMES in 19 years (not including his injury-plagued season last year)! That's insanely consistent, and the reason for his career .312 average. His career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is 71.6, and while I won't claim to be a sabremetrics expert by any means, I can safely say that if I were a GM and you told me that this guy I drafted was going to win me about half a seasons worth of games more than anyone else who could play his position over a two decade long career, I'm pretty sure I'd feel like a genius.
Personal statistics not good enough for you? Baseball is a team game after all, one guy's contributions can't win a championship, but a good leader can raise the level of focus and, in turn, play of those around him, which is exactly what The Captain brings to the table. In fact, he is so good at bringing his squad together year after year that Forbes named him the 11th BEST LEADER IN THE WORLD. The ridiculousness of naming a professional athlete a great world leader aside, I think it's safe to argue that nobody in the game makes his team go better than Jetes.
Oh and on top of that the guy is a straight G off the field, as well. He's been linked to Scar-Jo, the two Jessica's (Biel and Alba), and Adriana Lima, just to name a few, which is certainly no list to scoff at. Add on the great stories like the infamous care package, the no cell phones in the mansion rule*, yelling out his own name in the sack, and many, many more, and it makes it really hard not to like this guy.
Look, I'm admittedly a Philly guy, and it's been difficult to stave off the desire to exclusively blog Philly sports stories, but credit needs to be given where credit is due. And while I despise the pinstripes with every ounce of my being, I've always had a soft spot for The Captain, like many other sports fans, and I will be one of those that will be sad to see him leave the game behind after this year. But I'm in the same court of opinion as this Groch guy, which says that he will undoubtedly leave on yet another all-star caliber year, and will probably in turn lead on another infuriating run for the Yankees in to the post-season. I guess I can swallow it for his last year in baseball, and just hope that the next time a guy like this comes around, he doesn't end up in the Bronx.
Oh, and while his on the field stories may end after this year, there's no way we've heard the last of this guy off the field. Jeter stories never get old, and as long as he's one of the smoothest bachelors in NYC, we'll have something good to talk about, so we got that going for us... which is nice.
* Best policy in the world of celebrity. The fact that every high profile person hasn't taken a page out of Jeter's playbook and banned cell phone usage around them is ridiculous. It just makes so much sense. Watch and learn, Biebs.
P.S. Obligatory Sportscenter Top 10 Jeter Moments. The guy has a flare for the dramatic to say the least.