In case you haven’t heard, Derek Jeter has retired from baseball. Thank God. I have been a Jeter Hater for most of the last 20 years. The past six months have been really rough. One of the worst things about it has been the way I’m immediately attacked for the fact that I don’t like Jeter. He’s just an athlete. My not liking him is kind of like my hating The Matrix, it doesn’t matter. I can hate Derek Jeter and it in no way affects anyone else’s love or hate of Jeter. There’s no need to feel threatened. I have my reasons just like other people have their reasons for loving Derek Jeter. But, since I’m always having to defend myself for my Jeter hatred, I thought I’d go over the reasons here. This way, whenever anyone expresses disbelief at my feelings, I can just direct them here and forget about it.
A whole lot of my Jeter hatred comes from the whole New York thing. I’ve said this many times, but New York City should have a real shot at being the greatest city in the world. It’s not, though. The single biggest reason why it’s not the greatest city in the world is because New Yorkers are constantly reminding the rest of us that it is the greatest city in the world. Their excessive pride comes off as annoying insecurity. Frankly, even though it has far less to offer, I’d rather visit Philly. For the past 20 years, people have been telling me, “You gotta love Jeter.” Well, this may come as a shock, but no, I don’t. He was the shortstop for my least favorite sports franchise. Why would I have to love him? Every single time someone said it to me, it made me like him a little less. Over the course of a 20 year career, I heard it more times than I could count. It was probably sometime in 2001 when the constant barrage of, “You gotta love Jeter,” tipped me over into hatred.
My next biggest reason for hating Jeter is at least baseball related. I’ve been watching baseball for most of my life. I recognize that Jeter is a Hall of Famer. If I had a vote, despite my hatred, I would vote for him. However, he is not the greatest shortstop ever. For his last ten years, he was the second or third best shortstop on his own team. When I look at other great players like Cal Ripken, Carl Yaztremski, Jackie Robinson, Craig Biggio, and Chipper Jones, they were all willing to switch positions to help the team. Not Captain Jetes, though. He was going to play shortstop every day, no matter how bad his range got. That’s not a quality I like in a player.
Then there is the off the field issues. He’s a great role model! I can tell you, I wouldn’t want my daughter dating Derek Jeter. Someday she’ll turn 25 and get traded in for a newer model (get it?). I may be weird, but I don’t like the fact that he keeps getting older, but his girlfriends never do. He’s a player (or playa). That’s not a problem as long as the girls know what they’re getting in to. It’s just not what I think of when I think of a role model.
He’s also a terrible interview and unbelievably boring. He went to the Crash Davis school of baseball and never deviated from the text. I watch baseball to be entertained, so I want my players to be entertaining. A PR professional couldn’t have delivered better talking points. It would be nice if, once or twice in 20 years, he expressed an actual opinion. Give me Johnny Damon or Nick Swisher or Rickey Henderson any day.
I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m also annoyed by the way the baseball press covered him. His most famous home run was really a fly ball to the warning track. If anyone else hit it, we would have had non-stop talk of the need for instant replay. He would not have been dubbed a hero. The flip was unspeakably bad base running by Jeremy Giambi. Hear the press talk about it, though, and you’d think it was Vince Coleman in his prime running the bases. Even the home run that got him the title Mr. November came in a series he lost. Would Reggie Jackson be known as Mr. October if his teams lost the world series?
And there’s also the whole class thing. This isn’t really Jeter’s fault, but he’s constantly described as classy. There are two reasons why this bothers me. The first is I don’t want my baseball players to be classy. If you offered my team 25 Yasiel Puigs, I would be the happiest fan on the planet. I want more flair, not less. It annoys me the same way as when the music press can’t stop talking about a musician’s outfits. I don’t listen to the outfits. Who cares if Jeter is classy? How does he play baseball? The second reason it bugs me is that you can’t do a year long farewell tour, making yourself the center of attention, and shilling for Nike and Gatorade and still be considered classy.
Finally, there’s an old trick I try to use to tell if I should be bothered by something or not. Basically, I imagine someone else did the action to see if I would have the same reaction. If my boss says something that bothers me, I imagine my wife saying the same thing. If I still find it annoying, I’m justified. If I no longer find it annoying, I’m being unfair to my boss. Jeter doesn’t do well with this technique. If anyone else dated the girls he dates, the New York press would tear him apart. Arod caught constant grief for dating Cameron Diaz. At least they’re the same age. When Bob Sheppard died, Jeter chose to use a recording of Bob Sheppard for his at bats. Everyone ate it up; what a touching tribute. All I can see is that Jeter is obviously too good for the new guy. I can’t help but think if any other player had tried it, the team would have said no. And if, by some weird oversight, the team didn’t say no, the press would have killed that person for drawing attention to himself rather than honoring the deceased.
Now, I hope everyone understands that I’m talking about Derek Jeter, the baseball player and media persona. At the beginning I mentioned that hating Jeter is like hating The Matrix. As a movie, it failed to entertain me. At the end of it, I was out ten bucks and got nothing for it. I’ve never met Jeter. He’s probably nice, smart, funny, and engaging. As a baseball player, though, Derek Jeter was never my type, but that never stopped half the world from trying to fix us up. He’s out of baseball now. Hopefully, I can go most of the next five years without hearing about him.