Sep 25, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) in on deck circle during Jeter
I have to confess, I do not like the New York Yankees. I have always had a disdain for the Evil Empire. A lot of that probably stems from some insufferable fans that I have come across in my life. Of course I would likely be insufferable too if my team had more World Series victories than the 2nd and 3rd place teams combined. Or if my team had more World Series losses than any other team had victories. Or if my team had thousands of Hall of Famer’s (maybe a slight exaggeration).
Despite my strong feelings toward the Yankees, I have never been able to hate Derek Jeter. Don’t mistake that for rooting for him. I would never be caught cheering for him, but I can’t help respecting him. He has always been a class act. The consummate bachelor, yet never drawing negative press, in a city that loves to eviscerate their sports figures.
As I watched Jeter’s last game in front of his hometown crowd last night, a group that has cheered him for years, I can’t help but wish that Miami had a player like that. Gatorade’s latest commercial only highlights the feelings that Yankee fans have for him, and I would venture to say that commercial is not heavy on the embellishment.
I long for a player that would bring excitement as a rookie. Someone that we can watch at a young age, watch mature into a solid player, and then a good player. Someone that represents the city and all the fans. Someone that brings home a championship, or maybe even two, yet keeps pushing to be better, to make the other players around him better. Someone that becomes a superstar, a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. Someone who plays their first home game, and their last home game in the same building. Someone who retires to a packed house and fan chants.
All fans want championships, and I have been fortunate to watch the Marlins win 2 of them. Those teams had players that were certainly amazing, maybe even transcendent. Without a doubt Miguel Cabrera comes to mind. Cabrera cut his teeth as a Marlin, and has gone on to be one of the best hitters of all time. We have had other players, some even on the cusp of the Hall of Fame. Josh Beckett is one of those. He might not make it, but he was great.
Others have a chance, but a long way to go. Hanley Ramirez could get there one day, but he has a lot of work still to be done. Much of that could come in the glitz of LA, likely a team that will provide him with more exposure. The Marlins best hope took part in the 1997 World Series. Gary Sheffield has gone on record as saying he would like to go into the Hall as a Marlin, but he is no lock to get in, particularly considering his strength was in the home run ball, a stat that has been skewed due to the steroid era. Even if Sheffield makes it and is given a Marlins cap, no one would mistake him for a life-long Marlin. He was a journeyman, a gun for hire, albeit a great one.
That brings us to today. Watching the bleacher creatures chant Jeter’s name sent chills up my spine. I want to have that experience in Miami. Currently, two potential players could be transcendent. Jose Fernandez is young but shows so much promise, but pitchers often fall short of lofty expectations. Just mention Kerry Wood or Mark Prior to a Cubs fan and they will bemoan the what-ifs.
The Marlins best chance just happens to be someone who possesses all the physical tools necessary, and the mental makeup, Giancarlo Stanton. One of the interesting comparisons between Jeter and Stanton is the poise. Rarely do you see Stanton lose his cool at an umpire, something that always earned Derek respect. He has the mindset of a leader, someone who doesn’t let his emotions take over.
Of course his home run prowess is well-known by now, but he also has raised his OBP and average to MVP levels. His defense is excellent considering his size and, oh yeah, he is only 24-years-old.
At his current pace, Giancarlo could end up being a first ballot Hall of Famer. He could easily set Marlins records for hitting that could stand for a long time. Heck, he is one home run away from owning the Marlins home run record by himself, something he will likely do next year when he is 25.
I am grateful for the championships, but supporting a baseball team is more than just rooting for champions. It is rooting for players that become synonymous with your franchise. Players like Mickey Mantle, Carl Yastrzemski, Cal Ripken Jr., and now Derek Jeter never played an inning for another team. They will always be remembered as all-time greats, and only one fan base could call each of them their own.
I have been waiting 21 years for that.
I hope we have finally found him.