MLB – WHAT DEREK JETER’S LEGACY MEANS TO ME

It’s easy to gush about Derek Jeter, especially if you’re a lifelong Yankees fan like me.

Over the course of his 19 years in MLB, Jeter has amassed an incredible statistical record so far:

  • 3,316 Hits (1st Active; 10th Career);
  • 2,470 Singles (1st Active; 6th Career);
  • 4,527 Times on Base (1st Active; 16th Career);
  • 7,808 Outs Made (1st Active; 18th Career);
  • 6,349 Assists (1st Active; 29th Career);
  • 3,676 Putouts as SS (1st Active; 20th Career);
  • 1,360 Double Plays Turned as SS (1st Active; 6th Career);
  • American League Rookie of the Year Award (1996);
  • MVP of both the All-Star Game & World Series (2000) – Only time in history of MLB;
  • 5 World Series Championships;
  • 5 Gold Gloves;
  • 5 Silver Sluggers;
  • 13 All-Star Games.

Additionally, he holds Yankees career records for hits, games played, stolen bases, at-bats and singles. And, by the end of the 2014 season (and his last) he’ll likely add to those statistics and go down as one of the greatest short stops in the history of Major League Baseball.

Still, what’s so great about Jeter, to me, is not just what he accomplished on the field.

The most fascinating thing about him and which I think will be his lasting legacy is that he is/was the whole package.  He’s the kind of player that we, as a society, want from our athletic heroes.

Essentially, Jeter did everything right.

For one thing, beyond being a talented ball player, Jeter had a consistency and durability that is unrivaled in the history of baseball, or any sport for that matter.

In all but 2 of his 19 years in MLB, Jeter played in almost every game.  He averaged 151 games per year from 1996 through 2012, not including the 158 games he played in the post season over the course of 16 years or 33 series.

And, he only played with the Yankees during the course of his entire career.

Also, Jeter was incredibly productive year after year.  In 13 separate seasons, for example, he brought in over 100 runs (1996-2002, 2005-07, 2009, & 2012).  He also accumulated 200+ hits in 8 separate years (1998-2000, 2005-7, 2009 & 2012) and his BA was .300+ in 12 separate years (1996, 1998-01, 2003, 2005-09 & 2012).

And, this consistency has become an example for other players to follow. Former Yankees catcher Russell Martin said of Jeter in 2012, “He’s so consistent, day in and day out, same personality, same guy, in his approach to the game and approach to people. That’s why he’s a good leader.”

This natural born leadership quality of Jeter’s was evidenced in the clubhouse right from the start.  It’s what helped him get the appointment of Yankees Captain in 2003.

George Steinbrenner said about Jeter: “I’m a great believer in history, and I look at all the other leaders down through Yankee history, and Jeter is right there with them…. He is a great leader by the way he performs and plays.”

Further, his fellow players say its Jeter’s ability to be simple, stay focused & still produce despite all of the distractions the Big Apple has to offer that help contribute to his leadership.

Andy Pettitte said in 2012, “We play in a city where a whole lot of stuff is made out of what’s going on around us. The reason why Derek has thrived is because he keeps it simple. He doesn’t let everything clutter his mind. He’s got his focus on one thing — and that’s to take care of business. Then to convey that to everyone around you, and always continue to push everyone around you, especially during the difficult times. He says what our focus is going to be on and to not let this whole thing engulf or swallow you.”

Jeter was also the epitome of clutch even in the biggest of moments.  For example, he has a .308 BA in the post season with a .321 BA in the World Series. He is also listed as #13 statistically in the history of MLB for knocking in the most runs when at bat with two outs and runners in scoring position (RISP).  There’s even websites counting down his “Top 10 Clutch Moments” in his career and others that rank him in the Top 5 most Clutch Athletes in Sports.  He didn’t get the nickname “Captain Clutch” for nothing.

Other qualities Jeter was known for was his tremendous work ethic and positive outlook.

Jeter has said: “There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”  Apparently, this hard-working M.O. came from his family who instilled upon him the benefits of arriving early & staying late.  And, he apparently followed this model all through his childhood when he reportedly continually practiced his baseball skills through high school and beyond.

Gary Denbo, an organizational hitting coach and scout for the Yankees, said about Jeter in 2012 when he was 38 years old & arrived to training camp first, “Things haven’t changed that much in 20 years, he was the first guy out here today.  He still prepares himself as well as anyone I’ve ever worked with, and he still has that drive to improve and get better.”

Jeter also always had a way of checking his ego at the door and being the ultimate team member.  Even after racking up personal accolades, he still came to the mic time and again to discuss winning for the team.  Who can forget when he took one for the team in 2004 and dove into the seats to make a catch?  Amazing: http://mlb.si.com/2014/02/12/derek-jeter-greatest-moments-yankees-retire/

Jeter also managed his personal life so well with the media that there does not exist one blemish on his record in this regard.  Not a one.

Can’t say that about many superstar athletes in the spotlight.

But, Jeter has a very smart approach to his private life.  He does not engage in social media and instills certain rules at home like having all guests put down their camera phones before entering.

How Jeter has been able to stay focused, be consistent and play well to lead his team to multiple victories reportedly comes from the tremendous support and guidance from his family. His father, Dr. Charles Jeter, has had a profound effect on him.

According to a 2010 article on MLB.com, Dr. Jeter made Derek sign a contract every August when he was a kid that was drawn up on a legal pad and which permitted him to play sports, only if he adhered to the items listed including achieving high grades, participating in extracurricular activities and avoiding illegal drugs or alcohol.

Jeter apparently never violated any of the clauses and looking back, he admitted the experience helped to shape him as a human being and become the player he is today.

“I think who you are as a person — your personality, your characteristics — those are things that you learned at home,” Jeter said. “So I was always taught to respect other people, respect opponents and treat people how you want to be treated.”

It’s easy to see, then, that this well-balanced, disciplined background helped to shape Jeter’s personality and it came through to his game in a positive way and effected those around him.

These special qualities will be hard to reproduce.  We may never again see another athlete who’s handled himself so well on the field and off.  Certainly, if we do, I’ll bet they used one of the best role model’s in the history of baseball as their example:  Derek Jeter.


Sources :

Jeter Bio: http://mlb.mlb.com/players/jeter_derek/about/bio.jsp
Baseball-Reference: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jeterde01.shtml

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