Saturday, January 3, 2015

New York Yankees- Derek Jeter Side Patch (2014)




Where did the time go? As crazy as it sounds, it’s been 381 days since my last blog post, and to be honest, I feel like I’ve cheated a lot of you for it. Over the last year my life took some incredible turns, all of which were certainly for the better. For starters, I’m back where I belong in Oakland, California. The last time I had been fortunate enough to call this city (area) home was when back in 1985 at the ripe age of two-years-old. And as unbelievable as this may sound, I still remember the mornings waking up to the sound of traffic rolling by on I-580 and the cool crispness of the air wafting through the open window of my bedroom. Anytime I came back to visit my grandparents, roll through on a family vacation or even just drove down on a random weekend while I was attending the University of Oregon, a feeling of unexplainable joy always washed over me as if I had just returned home from a long journey. To those of you who I have become closer friends with over the last year, I am truly grateful. You have all made Angie and my important decision to truly start our lives together the best we could have made. And for that, this is probably the biggest reason why I needed to restart my blog. Thank you.

As candid as I was throughout the first 225 or so posts speckled throughout 2013, I feel this is as good of any time to be perfectly frank and explain why it’s taken me so long to get back to this thing that I love to do so much. I guess for starters I should point out what I actually accomplished in 2013 with my blog and the articles I compiled for eDraft Sports. First the blog. I know I’ve pointed this out in a few of my posts, but my overall mission was to form a habit of writing every single day. When I had started my posts they were roughly 2-3 pages long and they primarily comprised of just the history of the hat and the numbers I marked them up with. As time wore on I felt more and more comfortable opening up and telling a bit of my own personal history of my relationship with baseball and the caps and players I was paying tribute to. As soon as that kicked in my stories became 8-10 page biopics. Therefore, if you break down he numbers to, let’s say, seven pages per post times 225 posts you’ll get 1,575 pages. Now, let’s say that the average book is about 275-300 pages and then divide that into what I wrote and you can essentially say that I wrote the equivalent of a little over five books. Crazy, right!? But we’re not done yet. Like I said, I also write for eDraft, which came out to be 125 articles at roughly 2-3 pages in length. So, do the math again, three pages times 125 articles equals 375 pages, or another book to boot. The fact of the matter is that I burned out. I’m willing to bet that I had written more in that year than in all of my other years combined. As selfish as it was for me to take a break, I really needed it.

One thing that I should also point out is that around the time when I stopped writing a post every single day (June 13, 2013), I had a bit of an “oh shit!” moment when I realized that I didn’t have neatly enough hats to complete the year. Even though I was doing my best to increase my numbers with what little money I had, I knew there wasn’t going to be any possible way for me to hit that mark unless I elected to start blowing dudes on the streets of Portland for the cash. This was not going to be my legacy. Instead, I tried pacing and spacing my stories out a bit more until life became a bit too crazy and I need to focus more on the move and finding a stable job. Long story short (too late), I have three great jobs, two of which are with my favorite baseball team, the Oakland Athletics, the other is with one of my favorite hat retailers, Hat Club; and most importantly, I’m in the city I love with all of my friends and the woman I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. And now, you get to read more about all the crazy shit that led up to this moment and every adventure that comes next. Y’all are in for treat.

It was a bit of a struggle to figure out which hat I was going to write about, as I obviously have a pretty decent score of stories and caps to shuffle through now. However, there is one problem that arose a few months ago which my affect things a bit. The phone that I had won in the MLB Fan Cave and toured around the country with, taking every photo over the last two years, died and I can’t quite figure out how to get the photos off. So, until I can find/hire someone with the appropriate nerdery levels, we’re all a bit screwed on that one. So, I decided to roll with one of my most recent cap purchases which also carries along one of my favorite moments of the 2014 season. At this moment I don’t even know why I threw in a bit of build up, you obviously knew which cap I was going to write about based on the photo and title above. Gaaaaahhhhh!!!

Anyway, back on September 7, 2014 the New York Yankees debuted this cap during the final day of a three-game series against the eventual American League champion Kansas City Royals, a contest the team would lose 0-2 with Jeter going 1-3 with a walk. Not exactly the best of days; however, the real victory on the day was the cap itself. For those who don’t remember, September 22, 2013 was the first time a patch commemorating the career of a player had been worn on a New Era Cap, and that honor was bestowed upon Yankee closer, and future Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera. 


Back then the Yankees wore this patch for the final four games of their home stand against the San Francisco Giants and the Tampa Bay Rays. Being the ardent oppositionist of side patches (at the time), I declined to purchase this cap, and believe me, it’s been biting me in the ass ever since. The one downside of this occasion was that the Yankees never maintained a lead for Rivera to get one final save with this on his head. Instead, the Yankees brought him out of the bullpen in the seventh inning of their final home game (September 26th) with one out and let him go 1 1/3 before Jeter and Andy Pettitte came in to take him out of the game, one the finer moments in the history of the organization. 



So presumably, not wanting to face the same issue as with Rivera, the Yankees elected to use the Jeter patch for their final home games of the season.

From a business aspect I really can’t blame the Yankees or New Era for doing this. As simple of a tribute as it is, it’s also an incredibly ingenious marketing campaign for die hard Yankees fans, cap collectors or even casual baseball fans. Hell, I broke down and bought it, and it wasn’t exactly easy. For starters, Hat Club started carrying it in the middle of September, so I of course requested one for myself and a few of my co-workers. The one thing I didn’t really expect was that so many of the customers (non-Yankees fans) would come in asking for one. Being the good guy that I am I offered the one I had on hold to anyone who came in looking for that size, something I do for any cap that I put on hold. There are two reasons that I do this: it’s good for business and it’s the right thing to do, both have the same end result in that I can easily get another one. What I wasn’t expecting when I sold it is that I would have to wait an additional two months for the store to get more in. But, here we are.

Now, there are two stories that I need to tell with this, one of which I already did back on June 16, 2014 for eDraft. As much as I feel it would be more appropriate for my blog to just hammer something out, the reality is that I am incredibly proud of what I already wrote. I rarely take pride in my own work, but this once was especially important to me to do a great job at. The second story is about the marking I put on the cap, something I will never forget for as long as I continue to follow this amazing game.

 It almost seems fitting to start with this moment as it took place 25 years and two-and-a-half weeks ago. It was May 29, 1989; a six-year-old boy from California watched one of his baseball heroes sobbingly announce his retirement from the game he loved during a press conference in San Diego. That player was Philadelphia Phillies’ Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt, a player who I had grown a great affinity for through my older brother Adam who had been following and idolizing Schmidt since before I was born. I didn’t really know it or understand it at the time, but that was the first moment I can pinpoint when I witnessed one of the game’s greatest players call it quits. As the years wore on and my love for baseball grew, I saw more of my heroes (Gary Carter, Eddie Murray, Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, etc.) lose the magic they once exemplified as their time to walk away from the game came to fruition. Looking back on all of those names and dates, it almost feels like a dream as the majority of these guys had their best years long before I was old enough to comprehend what I was watching or before I was even a thought in my parents’ minds. For the time that I was lucky enough to be given, even to see most of the greats in their broken down years, I am truly grateful to say that some time somewhere, I saw them play.

1995 was an especially trying year for baseball fans. An overwhelming majority felt jilted by the players, owners, the powers that be for Major League Baseball and especially former executive director of the MLB Player’s Association Donald Fehr after the player’s strike of 1994 cancelled the remaining two months of that season as well as the playoffs which potentially could have pitted the lowly and now defunct Montreal Expos against the New York Yankees for what could have been longtime Bronx favorite Don Mattingly’s first trip to the postseason. As disheartening as it was to most fans to finally feel and see the dollar sign pressed into their faces, there were a few memorable moments to take away from the ’95 season: Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Yankee legend Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played record on September 6th, the Atlanta Braves won their only World Series title with the likes of soon-to-be Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones, and on May 29th, six years to the date after Schmidt gave his tearful goodbye to the game he loved, a 20-year-old kid from Kalamazoo, Michigan donned the Yankee pinstripes for his first game in the Majors.

##Derek Jeter## was born in Pequannock Township, New Jersey but was later moved to Michigan where he played his high school ball at Kalamazoo Central High School. Between his sophomore and senior years Jeter hit .524. During his senior year he clubbed four home runs, drove in 23 runs, swiped 12 bags in 12 attempts and only struck out once. The folks at the University of Michigan didn’t hesitate to offer Jeter a full ride scholarship. Nor should they have. That season (1992) Jeter went on to win the Kalamazoo Area B'nai B'rith Award for Scholar Athlete, the 1992 High School Player of the Year Award from the American Baseball Coaches Association, the 1992 Gatorade High School Player of the Year award, and USA Today's High School Player of the Year. The only thing keeping Jeter from moving on to the college ranks was the lure of making big bucks in the Majors, something two teams, the Yankees and the Houston Astros, were willing to shell out if they were able to draft and sign him.

As a scout for the Houston Astros, Hal Newhouser, a Hall of Famer in 1992 and Michigan native, evaluated Jeter extensively prior to the 1992 Draft. The Astros held the first overall pick and Newhouser, convinced that Jeter would anchor a winning team, lobbied team management to select Jeter. However, the Astros feared that Jeter would insist on a salary bonus of at least $1 million to forgo his college scholarship for a professional contract. Consequently, the Astros passed on him in the draft, instead choosing Cal-State Fullerton outfielder Phil Nevin, who signed with Houston for $700,000. Newhouser felt so strongly about Jeter's potential that he quit his job with the Astros in protest after they ignored his drafting advice. The Yankees, who selected sixth, also rated Jeter highly. Yankees scout Dick Groch, assigned to scout in the Midwest, watched Jeter participate in an all-star camp held at Western Michigan University. Though Yankees officials were concerned that Jeter would attend college and forgo the opportunity to sign a professional contract, Groch convinced them to select him. Regarding the possibility that Jeter would attend Michigan, Groch said "the only place Derek Jeter's going is to Cooperstown.” The second through fifth picks were Paul Shuey, B. J. Wallace (who never played in the majors), Jeffrey Hammonds, and Chad Mottola (125 career MLB at-bats and over 5,000 at-bats at AAA); those five would combine for a grand total of 2 All-Star Game appearances (Nevin and Hammonds). The Yankees drafted Jeter, who chose to turn professional, signing for $800,000. And the rest, as they say is history. Well, there’s a little more to it than that.

When Jeter made his debut in 1995 he only played in a total of 15 games as an occasional replacement for Tony Fernandez. Despite hitting .250 (12 hits in 48 at-bats) and knocking in seven runs, the Yankees left him off of their postseason roster. The three things to note from the Yankees making the playoffs this year with their 79-65 record are these: the Yankees were the first American League team to win a Wild Card spot, this was Mattingly’s first and only trip to the playoffs and the Yankees upended by the Seattle Mariners in Game Five which is still considered one of the most memorable playoff games in MLB history. But what happened for the Yankees after the American League Division Series ended is truly what makes Jeter… well, Jeter and the Yankees the most hated team in North American sports.

In 1996 the Yankees stopped “fooling around” by firing then-manager Buck Showalter and replacing him with Joe Torre. George “The Boss” Steinbrenner and his General Manager Bob Watson began making key signings to the likes of eventual Hall of Famer Wade Boggs and Cecil Fielder, but most important they made sure Jeter stayed up at the top level. That season Jeter easily won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with a .314 average, 183 total hits, 78 RBI, 10 home runs and 104 runs scored. And then of course that was that whole winning the World Series thing, the team’s first since 1978, but that really wasn’t that big of a deal. What was a big deal was when Jeter and the Yankees went on to win the Series every year from 1998-2000, becoming the first three-peat champions since the Oakland Athletics (1972-1974). Unfortunately for Jeter and the Yankees, the new millennium wasn’t as prosperous as the previous as they would only go on to win one World Series title (2009) in the three trips they made (2001, 2003 and 2009). Regardless, a five-ringed Jeter in his 20 years of service is still pretty remarkable, and I haven’t even really scratched the surface of the individual feats he accomplished.

In 20 seasons, including his 15 games in 1995, Jeter’s lifetime average currently sits at .312, which based on the math and at-bats means that the only way he’ll finish with a sub-.300 average is if he goes hitless in his next 430 at-bats. Do you have any idea how hard that would be for a player of his caliber? Moving on; from 2004-2010 Jeter won five Gold Glove Awards. It could have been more had it not been for the likes of Omar Vizquel owning the 1990s when it came to superb infield defense. As of now Jeter has been an All-Star 13 times, but it is more than likely that he will make his 14th appearance this next month in Minnesota. As trivial as the All-Star Game may seem in regard to stats, Jeter actually has/had a distinctive mark in the record books. Even though the All-Star Game has been played since the 1933 season, the MVP Award didn’t become a thing until 1962. Even stranger, until Jeter won the MVP Award at the 2000 All-Star Game behind his three hits and two RBI, no Yankee had won the award previously. On top of that, no player had won the All-Star Game MVP and the World Series MVP in the same season until Jeter did it that season, and no player has done it since. But I think the most remarkable accolade that Jeter has not yet gotten his mitts on has to be his lack of a season MVP Award, the closest of which he came in 2006 with a career-high .343 average, 214 total hits, 118 runs scored, 14 home runs, 39 doubles and 97 RBI. Who did he lose to? Justin Morneau, by the thinnest of margins (three first place votes). Jeter also holds the Yankee record for most games played at 2,661 as of June 15, 2014, which is 260 games more than the next closest, Mickey Mantle.

You know, in all of this Jeter talk I feel like I’m forgetting something… Oh yah!.. that whole 3,000-hit thing. I saved this for last on purpose because it carries a lot more weight than most fans realize. In the history of Major League Baseball there have been only 28 players of the scores who have played the game to reach this milestone. Of the 28, only four remain out of the Hall of Fame: Jeter, Peter Rose (of course), Rafael Palmeiro (a self-inflicted tragedy) and Craig Biggio (which makes absolutely no sense). Of those 28 players only Boggs and Jeter have notched their 3,000th hit on a home run. Of the 28, I’ve been lucky enough to watch 12 of them hit number 3,000. Of the 28, Jeter is the only member of the Yankees to accomplish this feat. This stat in particular is truly the most mind-boggling especially when you look back on all of the great hitters who have donned the pinstripes since they were first added to the uniform in 1912. The next closest Yankee, and when I say this I mean they played their entire career with the Yankees, is Gehrig at 2,721. Even though ##Ichiro Suzuki## is only 219 hits away from 3,000 himself, his number would not count in the Yankee record books in the same light of what Jeter has accomplished and is still adding to.

Despite all of the awards, the accomplishments and the fruit baskets he’s dished out over the years, the one thing (maybe two) that comes to mind when one has to think of a defining moment throughout his career that future generations can get a rough understanding of his greatness came on the night of October 13, 2001 in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game Three of the ALDS. At this point I’d really like to break the fourth wall and establish something that is very important to what has been read and what will continue to be read: I’m and Athletics fans, just in case you didn’t know that already. I bring this up because up until this point I feel I’ve done a fair job of capturing and presenting an unbiased retrospect on Jeter’s career. Had a Yankee fan written this, there may be a bit more embellishment. Had a Boston Red Sox fan written this you’d probably see a lot more blathering; however, the one thing that is FOR CERTAIN is that with the exception of the Baltimore Orioles, there is not a single fan base that has a legitimate reason to hate Jeter, let alone the Yankees, as much as Athletics fans do. Red Sox fans, you have three World Series title in the last ten years, shut it. Orioles fans, your real beef should be with Jeffery Maier and the shoddy right field umpiring work of Richie Garcia. But for this moment, the moment that defines Jeter as “The Captain,” Athletics fans will always have a sour taste in their mouths. “The flip,” as it’s come to be known occurred with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning with Jeremy Giambi on first base, Terrence Long at bat and the Yankees holding on to a 1-0 lead which came via solo home run by Jorge Posada in the top of the fifth inning. The other important thing to know is that the Athletics were up 2-0 in the best of five series having beaten the Yankees in New York. Anyway, with a 2-2 count Long ripped a sure double down the right field line and Giambi did what he could to peddle around the bases. Off of a whim, then-third base coach Ron Washington decided to send Giambi home. Then-right fielder Shane Spencer tossed the ball from deep-right field into the infield, which barely made it beyond first base. At some point Jeter took quick note that the ball wasn’t going to make it home to Posada so he took action into his own hands by running over to the first base line to retrieve it and flip it to Posada. Giambi, for whatever reason, opted to keep running as opposed to sliding. In the end, Posada got the ball from Jeter, made a swipe tag and home plate umpire Kerwin Danley made the punch out call. Most Athletics fans you talk to are still convinced Posada didn’t apply the tag. Regardless, the out call was made, the Yankees won that game 1-0 and eventually came back to win the series in five games. The aftermath was then made into a book and eventual film called Moneyball, you may have heard of them. From that moment on, like a lot of my fellows Athletics fans, I hated Jeter (as a player).

As a now employee of the Athletics I am lucky enough to have access to certain facilities and section of the Oakland Coliseum. While I cannot and will not discuss what my actual job is, the one thing I can tell you is that I found myself face-to-face with Jeter before his final game in Oakland. It’s been almost 13 years since that damn play and I have long since gotten over it, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still think about it. After he took some swings in the batting cage my co-worker and I were fortunate enough to be able to say a few words with him before he headed out into the field. The only thing that I could muster out; really, the only thing that mattered was to tell him, “thank you for a brilliant career.” In response, he looked me in the eye with those deep-blue, lady killing eyes, shook my hand and said, “I truly appreciate that.”

I can honestly say that it’s going to be a sad day when the final day comes for Jeter, much like the highly emotional goodbye that I witnessed of Schmidt’s 25 years ago. There are very few who have played the game with the determination, leadership and class that Jeter has displayed for almost a quarter century. In this age of speculation and vendettas I am truly happy to look back on the 27 years of being a baseball fan and be able to say, “I saw a legend from beginning to end.” I can only hope the next generation of fans will be so lucky to say the same thing.

Clearly there are a few stats that need to be updated: Jeter ended up playing in his 14th All-Star Game, at which he probably should have won the MVP Award for, his 3,465 career hits are not only still the most in Yankees history, but he is now sixth all-time for career hits in MLB history, just 49 away from Hall of Famer Tris Speaker. Realistically, if Jeter played one more full season he could easily surpass Speaker. Pretty wild to think about.



9/25/14: This was a pretty easy decision. Despite all the accomplishments Jeter racked up throughout his career, his final game at Yankee Stadium was too amazing of a night to pass up and not say anything about. To be honest, I really didn’t have any intention of watching the game and I really can’t think of what I was flipping back-and-forth to in between Jeter’s at-bats, but what I really remember started when he took the field in the first inning.

In some way Jeter had always come off as a bit robotic to me, in that his mind was always in the game. Whether he made an amazing catch, turned a great double play or even biffed a ball off of his glove, Jeter went immediately back into the zone, awaiting the next play. At the moment when all the fans started chanting his name over and over and over, the reality clearly set in upon Jeter’s face. You could clearly tell that he was fighting back some serious emotions, and of course, like with a lot of you, a tear or two welled up in my eyes. But Jeter, tough as nails, fought through it and put on a display that truly defined his character.

Every at-bat the man saw was spectacular, knocking in Brett Gardner is his first plate appearance of the game to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead over the Orioles, and even the seventh inning bases loaded two-run error he forced. However, it was his final curtain call in the bottom of the ninth inning with the game now tied up at five each thanks to David Robertson’s blown save at the top of the inning which made the baseball world explode. Hell, my words can’t even do it justice, just watch it.

As I mentioned in my eDraft article, it’s kind of weird to think that this generation and those that follow may never experience a player of Jeter’s caliber accumulate a Hall of Fame career having played for the same team who drafted them. Only time and money will tell, I suppose.


4 comments:

  1. You can go ahead and now make an addendum about biggio being elected to the HOF in the 3000 hits paragraph! Hellz yeah!

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  2. One thing almost no one knows about. WIN METHOD talked the YANKEES into signing Jeter. Just google WIN METHOD.

    ReplyDelete