FIRE JOE MORGAN: Meditations on a Jeter

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

 

Meditations on a Jeter

Derek Jeter. The Captain. Intangibles tangible-fied. The perfect biological specimen. God's real son. Jeter.

Most people know him as the late character actor Michael Jeter's little brother, but to me he'll always be the only baseball player whose tears cure malaria in whales. There's been a lot of talk about Jeter in the last few days. Men who deal with numbers have declared him overrated, almost to the point that many are now saying he's underrated. This discussion bores me. How can you overrate or underrate a glorious sunset? A sunset just is. That's Jeter.

Wallace Matthews agrees with me. In the span of three days he's written two paeans to Jeter, one before the American League MVP vote and one after. Here are some excerpts from the first:

He's won it clearly, cleanly

If you can give baseball's most prestigious honor to Barry Bonds six times and to Alex Rodriguez twice, don't you think it's about time the academy showed some love for Derek Jeter?


Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. I've heard of Derek Jeter. I know him. That's why he's the MVP. I've heard of Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez too, but they're bad men. I know this to be true. Bonds won it six times? Surely Jeter deserves it at least that many as well. He's nice.

I know, the MVP is not supposed to be a lifetime achievement award, but it's not supposed to be a stats competition, either.

Amen. Stats can't capture Jeter's essence. He's more than a ballplayer. If you wanted to describe the most beautiful songbird in the world singing a Mozart sonata to an innocent child, would you use numbers to do so?

Jeter has been in consideration multiple times in his 11-year career, but always there was either some guy with eye-popping numbers to go along with his forearm veins, or else there were simply too many other Yankees with legitimate claims to the award and they canceled each other out.

Jeter doesn't have veins in his forearms, just rivers of quicksilver and liquid gold that spring forth from his luminescent heart. You probably didn't hear about this because he hates publicity, but Derek Jeter saved Christmas last year.

The perception that the Yankees never quit, that the Yankees play smart baseball, that the Yankees will find any way to beat you, all come from Derek Jeter. He doesn't represent the Yankees so much as the Yankees represent him.

The Yankees are but a collection of mortal men. Derek Jeter is infinite. Eternal. Every time Derek Jeter steps on a baseball field, a town in India sees their food troughs fill with millet.

It is amazing - and in a way frightening - that a 32-year-old man with so much out there for him away from the ballpark can remain as single-mindedly focused upon baseball as Jeter has all these years.

Frightening and awesome, like seeing the face of God, but better. Sexier.

Granted, those are tickets to Cooperstown, not the MVP award, but if we are going to reward numbers, artificially enhanced or not, then for once, why not reward "intangibles," the qualities that can't be juiced?


Here Mr. Matthews is uninformed. In the late 1960's, a group of baseball players came into possession of a serum developed by Japanese scientists that exponentially increased one's intangibles to dangerous, superhuman levels. Calling themselves The IntangiBros, these players quickly left the game of baseball to pursue higher callings. Unbeknownst to the public, they fought injustice around the world and in the late 80's brought about the end of the Cold War. Derek Jeter is an honorary IntangiBro.

So what if Mauer edged him out for the batting title on the last day of the season, or if Morneau hit twice as many home runs as Jeter did? Despite what A-Rod told Esquire, I have yet to hear anyone in baseball say, "We better not let Joe Mauer beat us." I have heard plenty say it about Jeter.

This is beyond baseball. What Wallace Matthews has heard about Derek Jeter is what should determine the MVP award. It's only common sense.

Unfortunately, the villainous intangi-haters emerged victorious on election day, and the extremely mortal Justin Morneau walked away with the trophy. Never fear, though, because Wallace Matthews knows what Jeter thinks about all this:

Crowns most valuable for Jeter

If it's any consolation to Derek Jeter, in 1980 "Ordinary People" won the Oscar for Best Picture over "Raging Bull." A quarter-century later, people laugh about that one and someday, they'll laugh about this one, too, the year Ordinary Player, otherwise known as Justin Morneau, was named the American League's MVP for 2006.

In fact, Jeter's probably already laughing about it.


Ordinary Player indeed! Matthews, you know how to keep it current, my friend. If I may extend the analogy, I think you will have no argument with the proposition that Joe Mauer is The Elephant Man, Frank Thomas is Tess, and David Ortiz the beautiful Coal Miner's Daughter.

Jeter's detractors use a lot of insults to describe him: cold, condescending, aloof, bloodless, a robot programmed to play baseball.


Every time I open up the paper I see some guy saying that Derek Jeter is a robot programmed to play baseball. A condescending robot. That's why I stopped reading and started feeling. The truth that Derek Jeter is the MVP isn't out there. It's in here. (I'm pointing inside my heart.)

But Jeter doesn't exist to placate teammates or the media, or to accumulate statistics and accolades. By all available evidence, he exists to win baseball games, not awards.

That is the best summation of Derek Jeter I have ever read. Sprung forth whole like Athena from Zeus, Jeter won a game in his first minute of life, 1-0 on a beautiful squeeze play. People aren't aware of this, but on days when the Yankees lose, he actually doesn't even exist.

[Y]ou know that if Alex Rodriguez dies without a World Series ring but with his two MVPs, he will die smiling.

Wallace Matthews will test this theory at 10:30 pm Eastern time. I will not reveal how or where, but the plan is in place.

The Yankees who won four world championships in five seasons never had an MVP. and they certainly don't need another one now.

MVP? More like MV-pee-pee! More like MV-poo!

What they need is a return to the hunger and drive and resourcefulness that Jeter has embodied since he was a rookie and that he continues to bring to the park as he approaches his mid-30s. A-Rod, Giambi and Johnson have their awards, but they don't have a trace of any of that.

That's why none of them have ever won a championship. Ever. Especially Randy Johnson. I refuse to look this up, but I am 100% certain that Randy Johnson has never won a World Series because he lacks the necessary hunger and drive and resourcefulness. And he isn't performing now because he is so full and undriven and resourceless. It's not because he's old.

For Jeter, it would have only served as one more reminder of what has gone wrong with the Yankees over the past six years.

Too many MVPs. Not enough rings.


Matthews is right. Jeter isn't about the MVP. Jeter didn't want the MVP. If Jeter had won the MVP, he would have donated it to Mother Teresa, and when he found out Mother Teresa was dead, he would have buried it with Pat Tillman, because after all, he's the real MVP. Besides Jeter, that is. Because the real real MVP is the guy with the rings. Not Pat Tillman.

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posted by Junior  # 8:12 PM
Comments:
Also Barry Bonds has won 7 MVP awards.

Oh, "facts."
 
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