Derek Jeter Was a Hall of Fame Shortstop, Through and Through

When it was throughout in New York, after he singled dwelling the profitable run on his last swing, Derek Jeter ultimately turned nostalgic. For 20 years, he had been the grasp of the second, all the time pushing ahead, by no means lingering on what all of it meant. But now he had given his final efficiency on his favourite stage.

So Jeter took a last go to to his glad place, shortstop at Yankee Stadium. He had been feted with goodbye presents at different stops in that 2014 season, however all he needed from the Bronx was a psychological snapshot. He crouched on the grass, simply past the lip of the dust, mentioned a prayer of thanks, and drank it in.

“I want to take something special from Yankee Stadium,” Jeter mentioned later. “The view from shortstop here, tonight, is what I want to take from it.”

On Wednesday, in Cooperstown, N.Y., Jeter may have one other view to final a lifetime. Weather allowing, he’ll gaze out from behind a lectern on the Clark Sports Center and see a hillside full of followers desirous to witness his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Attendance will likely be decrease than normal; the ceremony was canceled final 12 months as a result of of the coronavirus, and pushed again this 12 months to a midweek afternoon, after Labor Day, to restrict the quantity of followers who could make the trek. But the 2020 class — Jeter; the previous outfielder Larry Walker; the previous catcher Ted Simmons; and the union chief, Marvin Miller, who died in 2012 — will lastly have their day.

Just as he did all through his 20 seasons because the Yankees’ shortstop, Jeter led his teammates onto the sector for the beginning of Game 6 of the 2009 World Series at Yankee Stadium.Credit…Barton Silverman/The New York Times

It is daunting for nearly anybody.

“There’s nights where I don’t go to sleep — and when I do go to sleep, it’s not for very long, because I’m waking up and it’s all going through my head,” mentioned Walker, who has rehearsed his speech many instances. “So believe me, butterflies are here right now, and there’s a lot of them.”

If Jeter is nervous, likelihood is he is not going to present it. He mentioned final week that he had nonetheless not completed his speech and wouldn’t share it with anybody earlier than delivering it. He has resisted any impulse to script out the day, he mentioned, so he can savor the moments as they occur.

But Jeter, now the chief government of the Miami Marlins, is clearly conscious of the unique ranks he’s becoming a member of. Just 333 individuals have a spot within the Hall of Fame, and solely 10 have been shortstops who performed for one crew. Somewhat surprisingly, 5 did it within the free-agent period: Jeter; the Cincinnati Reds’ Barry Larkin; the Baltimore Orioles’ Cal Ripken Jr.; the Detroit Tigers’ Alan Trammell; and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Robin Yount, who performed nearly half of his profession within the outfield.

“People identify with certain players on a team, and that core player, for the most part, is the shortstop,” mentioned Larkin, now a Reds broadcaster and senior adviser to the crew president. “I think you build your team around that position and those players and personalities that man that position.”

What Might Have Been

Shortly after he was drafted in 1992, Jeter visited with the crew to take batting apply. If a group of executives had gotten their manner, he would have been with the Cincinnati Reds as an alternative. Credit…Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Jeter and Larkin may have been teammates. The Reds held the fifth general choose within the 1992 draft, and after 4 groups — Houston, Cleveland, Montreal and Baltimore — handed on Jeter, some within the draft room at Riverfront Stadium thought they’d take Jeter, a star at Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan.

A high scout, Gene Bennett, had been instrumental in drafting amateurs from the Midwest like Larkin, Paul O’Neill and Chris Sabo, a group that helped the Reds win the 1990 World Series. Bennett badly needed Jeter, however the scouting director, Julian Mock, took a school outfielder named Chad Mottola as an alternative.

“Julian Mock’s position in the room, and I’ll never forget this, he said: ‘Mottola’s got a chance to be a 40-home run guy, he’s got a great arm, and we already have Larkin,’” mentioned Jim Bowden, who was then the Reds’ director of participant improvement.

“Larry Barton Jr. — another one of the older Reds guys who were there forever — stood up and said, ‘What do you think we did with Eric Davis? Eric Davis was a shortstop, too, and we put him in center field.’ And Gene Bennett said, ‘Exactly, we could move Jeter to center or you could have Jeter play shortstop and Larkin play center. But there’s enough middle of the diamond for everybody. Don’t let that be the reason.’”

It was a monumental mistake for the Reds, who’re nonetheless ready for his or her subsequent pennant. They would get solely 17 hits from Mottola, who batted .200 in a transient profession and is now the hitting coach for the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeter, in the meantime, collected three,465 hits for the Yankees, batted .310 and made 2,660 begins at shortstop, essentially the most in baseball historical past.

A Shortstop Is a Shortstop

Among essentially the most well-known performs of Jeter’s profession was when he dove into the stands to snag a foul ball towards the Boston Red Sox in 2004.Credit…Barton Silverman/The New York Times

In a mind-set the Yankees would come to embrace, Bowden, who was named the Reds’ normal supervisor in late 1992, mentioned he wouldn’t have moved his established star off shortstop. Larkin had extraordinary vary to his left, Bowden defined, however maybe greater than that, it might have merely been awkward to dislodge his franchise cornerstone from shortstop. The place could also be extra central to a participant’s id than another apart from catcher.

“I would agree with that,” Larkin mentioned. “I believe it’s the fixed communication. You’re concerned in each pitch of the sport, as a result of though the ball will not be hit to you, when the catcher is throwing that ball again to the pitcher, it’s your accountability to ensure the ball doesn’t float into heart discipline. So that’s half of it.

“The different factor is you’re the communicator between the bench, the infield and the outfield. You’re within the center of the sector, so that you variety of have control-tower tasks, if you’ll. So communication’s one other huge deal — and, of course, any and each crew that’s had success is robust up the center.”

So it was for the Yankees of Jeter’s period. His crew gained 5 championships, largely with Jorge Posada at catcher and Bernie Williams in heart discipline. Curiously, all three have been usually maligned for his or her protection, Jeter particularly; in keeping with Baseball Reference, he ranked higher within the discipline than a typical alternative participant in simply three of his 20 seasons.

Yet for all of that, the Yankees gained so prodigiously that Jeter performed precisely one dwelling sport in his whole profession with the crew eradicated from postseason competition: that last sport in 2014.

“I prided myself on being consistent, and when a play needed to be made, I felt as though I was going to make it,” Jeter mentioned final week, on a convention name with reporters. “And I argue that my teammates had confidence in me making the plays as well. So I don’t really put much into it, because I don’t think it’s possible to have that much success as a team if you had someone that was just so poor defensively.”

Jeter performed shortstop as a result of his father, Charles, had performed there at Fisk University in Nashville. Charles coached Derek in Little League, and performed his son at second and third base, too. A short escape from the infield didn’t go nicely.

“I remember being very young and telling my dad I thought it was easy to play outfield, and he put me in the outfield, hit me some fly balls and I wasn’t very good,” Jeter mentioned. “So that was the end of the outfield experiment.”

Jeter stayed at shortstop, and solely shortstop, till the very finish. He stayed there in his first full skilled season, with Class A Greensboro in 1993, when he made 56 errors. He stayed there in 2004, when Alex Rodriguez — the American League’s reigning Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop — joined the Yankees and switched to 3rd. Jeter broke his ankle diving at brief within the 2012 playoffs, costing him most of the following season, however he returned to play 140 video games within the discipline at age 40.

“Derek was, I think, the most confident player I ever played with,” mentioned Yankees Manager Aaron Boone, a former third baseman, who performed beside Jeter in 2003. “The guy who just said: ‘Give me the ball,’ always wanted the ball, and just played the game with a ton of confidence. It didn’t mean he was the best of the best, necessarily, but I felt like there was an underlying, real confidence in what he was doing, and that helped make him even better than he was.”

The Plays That Made the Player

Jeter’s signature transfer, a minimum of defensively, was to catch the ball on the run to his proper and then leap within the air earlier than throwing the ball to first. “He had an absolute cannon,” Andrew Velazquez mentioned.Credit…Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Regardless of any questions on his protection, some of Jeter’s most indelible highlights got here within the discipline: his balletic flip to the plate in Oakland when dealing with playoff elimination in 2001; his face-smash into the seats at Yankee Stadium to snag a fast-sinking foul towards Boston in 2004. He wore Michael Jordan’s Jumpman emblem on his cleats and took to the air for his signature transfer: When a grounder to his proper pulled Jeter into the outfield, he would scoop, elevate and fireplace a strike to first.

“To jump, full-speed, in the opposite direction and turn and throw it on the money, it’s crazy,” mentioned Yankees infielder Andrew Velazquez, who grew up within the Bronx idolizing Jeter. “He had an absolute cannon. I tried it in the minor leagues a few times and I think I three-hopped it.”

Velazquez was 10 months previous when Jeter made his debut in May 1995, on the Kingdome in Seattle, batting ninth and going zero for five. Jeter completed that season in the identical park, watching from the bench — he was not on the energetic roster — because the Mariners eradicated the Yankees in a thrilling division collection.

The subsequent season would finish a lot in another way for Jeter: at shortstop in Yankee Stadium, celebrating his crew’s first World Series title in 18 years. It would ingrain in Jeter a demanding however matter-of-fact normal, that a season is simply profitable if it ends in a championship.

Jeter’s followers liked him for that mentality, and extra.

“He was very consistent about who he was and what he wanted to be as far as winning, and I think that attitude carries over into every aspect of life,” Velazquez mentioned. “To my generation, he’s a role model. Even players that are still coming up, guys born in the 2000s, they look up to him. The way he handled his business on and off the field, and now what he’s doing after the game — he’s like everybody’s favorite player. Your favorite player’s favorite player, you know?”

Jeter had an uncanny means to shake off defeat whereas noticing and internalizing the whole lot. Early in his profession, a pitcher stole a strike from him with a fast pitch; from then on, each time he dug into the batter’s field, Jeter would increase his proper arm to ask the umpire for time. When Bob Sheppard, the venerable public-address announcer, mispronounced Posada’s title in these 1995 playoffs — “Posado,” he mentioned — Jeter heard it and caught the nickname “Sado” on his pal for the remaining of their careers.

He additionally discovered to by no means make excuses, a lesson embedded within the Yankee expertise. With every passing championship, Jeter mentioned, Yogi Berra would remind him that he had gained a document 10 as a participant. It is more durable to win now, Jeter would protest, citing trendy playoff rounds, however Berra would reduce him off.

“His response was: ‘You can come over to my house and count the rings anytime you want,’” Jeter mentioned. “So I always felt as though you’re trying to chase something.”

Jeter, now 47, has not given up the chase. He continues to be competing, attempting to construct a franchise in his picture. But the primary chase is over, and the lengthy street has led him, ultimately, to the one stage grander than shortstop within the Bronx.