Earlier this year, I wrote about the final season of Derek Jeter, shortstop and captain of the Yankees. He's the all-time team leader in, well, most offensive categories not already topped by Babe Ruth. This entire season has been a sort of tribute to the Captain, despite the lackluster performance of the team. There have been commercials and gifts, fan tributes and the ever-present "De-rek Jee-ter" chants wherever he's gone.
Until tonight, though, there hasn't been a moment. No flip play. No Mr. November.
This hasn't been a banner year for the Yankees. We're not making the playoffs. Injuries have kicked the hell out of the team. We score at Mets-like levels. Our saving grace is that the Red Sox suck worse. Jeter has had an especially lackluster season. But -- and I've said this in conversation with friends -- you give me a list of players to have up in a make-or-break situation, if Jeter's name is on it, he's my guy.
Take today, for instance. In his final game at Yankee Stadium, he came up in three key situations: first inning with the Yankees down 2-0, he bangs an RBI double off the left field wall, and scores one batter later, tying the game; fifth inning with the bases loaded, he slaps an RBI grounder that gets turned into a 2 run error, Yankees up 4-2.
And the big one.
Bottom of the 9th, game tied at 5. Jeter comes up with a runner on second and his a walk-off RBI single. In his final at-bat at Yankee Stadium. With the sold-out crowd expecting magic. The perfect capper to a charmed career.
That, my friends, is what it means to be clutch.
It is totally en vogue to hate the Yankees; ask any Met fan, and you will hear -- at length -- why the Yankees are an abomination, about how the fans are douchebags, about how we bought all of our championships, and mostly, how Derek Jeter is probably the most overrated player since Yogi Berea or Joe DiMaggio. But I would like to think even the most ardent of haters have to give props to what can only be described as a "Field of Dreams" moment from a guy who seems to have made a Hall of Fame career of big moments.
So I take this time to join in the "Thank You Derek" chant, and raise a glass to salute Derek Jeter for the finest 20 years of my baseball fandom.