On Twitter, Jesse Lund puts up this amazing -- absolutely amazing -- screen shot from the Friday night broadcast of the Yankees and Twins. It may be the greatest thing ever produced by man, including Hamlet and The Godfather and chocolate cake with raspberry sauce.
Perfection in Jeteration is when you can so perfectly present over-the-top praise for the Derek Jeter that you would use the exact same graphic or story or take as satire. This is not as easy as it sounds. Many have tried, many have failed. But this is as close to perfection as we mere human beings can achieve. If Saturday Night Live was to do a skit about how absurd people are when it comes to their Derek Jeter love, this would be EXACTLY the graphic they would use, word-for-word. It’s very hard to get Jeteration exactly right because he is a great ballplayer, a first ballot Hall of Famer, one of the better shortstops in the history of baseball. He has more than 3,300 hits and is 11th all-time in runs scored. He has been an important man, both as a player and as a leader, in the Yankees great success the last 20 or so years. He has done well in representing baseball.
So any fair mocking of the Jeteration Phenomenon -- where people long to give Jeter Nobel Prizes for things like running out ground balls -- must begin with his excellence in mind or the joke loses its power. If you say: Ah, Jeter’s not that good a player, it doesn’t work. Has been a superb player. If you say: Ah, Jeter’s not a leader, the joke loses its force. He IS a leader. He’s just not the world’s 11th greatest leader.
THAT’s where the joke gains its strength -- that space between, “Yeah, Jeter does a good job leading his baseball teammates,” and “As a leader he ranks just behind the Dalai Lama and a little bit ahead of Gabby Giffords.”
There has been some high quality Jeteration lately -- Rick Reilly recently wrote a letter to Derek Jeter’s unborn children that had some doozies like, “He was the best player in baseball for 10 years straight,” and called him “A kind of prince in baseball cleats” and remarked, “If there was a better man in sports, I never met him.” I didn’t think that was going to be topped.
But in a simple box, I think this little scouting report roars past any story written so far. If you were doing something resembling an actual scouting report for Derek Jeter in 2014, it might look something like this:
Instead the three bits on the scouting report are:
1. Consummate pro and leader. 2. Plays the game the right way. 3. Example to players of all ages.
How fantastic is that? On a basic level: How exactly is that supposed to help you as a scouting report. Of course, I immediately imagined the catcher coming out to talk to the pitcher before Jeter’s at-bat.
CATCHER: Hey, did you get the scouting report on this guy? PITCHER: No, I had to go see my family. CATCHER: Oh, that’s bad. PITCHER: Hey, I know, he’s Derek Jeter. What’s left to know right? He’s a pro. CATCHER: No, that’s not it. He’s the consummate pro. FIRST BASEMAN: And consummate leader. PITCHER: Wait, when did you get here? FIRST BASEMAN: This is Jeter, man. I heard you missed the scouting report. PITCHER: I don’t need a scouting report, the guy’s been playing for a thousand years. I grew up watching this guy. CATCHER: Then you know ... he plays the game the right way. PITCHER: Yeah, I know that. FIRST BASE: No you don’t. You missed the scouting report. CATCHER: Believe me when I tell you ... he plays the game the right way. PITCHER: OK, he plays the game the right way. Fine. FIRST BASEMAN: And he’s a consummate pro. CATCHER: And leader. PITCHER: Right. OK, can we get back to the game? I’m going to bust him inside with a fastball. THIRD BASEMAN: I wouldn’t do that if I were you. PITCHER: You’re here too. THIRD BASEMAN: Did you guys cover the fact that he plays the game the right way? CATCHER: Yeah, just going over that. And that he’s a consummate leader. FIRST BASEMAN: And pro. PITCHER: FINE! Man, I’m sorry I missed the scouting session, all right? UMPIRE: OK, break it up guys. Let’s play ball here. PITCHER: Thank you ump. That’s what I’ve been saying. CATCHER: We can’t. He missed the scouting report on Derek Jeter. UMPIRE: Oh, that’s bad. OK then but make it quick. CATCHER: There’s one more thing you need to know before facing him. PITCHER: That he’s 40 years old and has a .318 slugging percentage? CATCHER: No. UMPIRE: That’s disrespectful. PITCHER: I apologize. FIRST BASEMAN: Derek Jeter is an example to players of all ages. PITCHER: Yeah, I know. FIRST BASEMAN: No, that’s the third part of the scouting report. He’s an example to players to all ages. PITCHER: Oh. UMPIRE: Are we clear here guys? Let’s play some ball. Mr. Jeter wants to inspire some young people.
Of course, this wasn’t actually a scouting report for the players ... it was a scouting report for those viewers who apparently were unaware that many consider Derek Jeter to be the consummate pro and leader who plays the game the right way and is an example to players of all ages. Those viewers who did not know that would be ... I have no idea.
Part of me thinks this was a joke pulled off by some very clever graphics people. And if that’s the case ... I’m raising a glass to you because nobody could have told the end story better. Derek Jeter has been a very good baseball player. He might have been the best player in baseball around 1998 or 1999 ... after that he certainly wasn’t the best -- not in the age of Bonds and Pujols and A-Rod and Utley -- but he was good. I have him as one of the four or five best shortstops of the last 100 years, which is a pretty great thing to be. He hit well and fielded ... he hit well. He managed to stay controversy free in the age of controversy. He was never caught or suspected of using steroids in the age of steroids. He played shortstop and served as captain for the dominant team of the era. It’s a career worth celebrating.
And the rest ... well, the rest is Jeteration. I can only hope the next scouting report looks like this: