A place in the pantheon for Jeter

You have to wonder how ancient people ever made it through a miserable February without baseball.

We now have Derek Jeter to thank for providing a major distraction from our winter woes. The Yankee captain announced a day before Thursday’s blizzard that the 2014 season would be his last, giving us the opportunity to ponder something other than digging out while we were busy digging out.

If you live in New England you have to like winter, at least to some degree. There’s not much point otherwise. This is the threshold of one of those remarkable transition periods available to those who live in a four-season part of the world. There’s not much difference between June and August, when you think about it, but the difference between February and April, also a three-month period, is seemingly a world apart.

Last February, after 30 or so inches fell on top of me in a single day I thought, wow, that was interesting. But when it was followed a few days later by another four inches or so of snow I felt I’d reached some kind of limit. My reaction was to buy tickets to a baseball game, a sort of investment in a brighter future, one where there would be blue skies and green grass and nothing but a distant memory of shoveling snow.

That was an April game at Yankee Stadium and Jeter was not on the field that day. He missed most of last season due to the ankle injury suffered in the playoffs the season before, and it did not seem right that they could be playing a game at Yankee Stadium without him.

It’s going to take a lot of getting used to to get used to being without Jeter. You get the feeling that the days of players like him, great players who stick with one team throughout a career, are going the way of the dinosaur.

When you’re an avowed, long-time Yankee fan people ask you questions. The other day, after Jeter announced his retirement, somebody asked me where I placed Jeter in the pantheon of Yankee greats. This subject has also been getting a lot of attention on sports talk radio.

First, you have to separate the pitchers. Mariano Rivera is the greatest relief pitcher ever, but there’s no point trying to compare him to somebody like, say Joe DiMaggio. It just doesn’t compute.

Now if Jeter were with the Red Sox you could place him behind Ted Williams, even though Jeter had five world championships and Williams had none (you just don’t get ahead of the last player to hit .400). If he’d played for the Cardinals you could put him by Stan Musial.

But Jeter plays for the Yankees, so he hasn’t got much chance of being any closer than fifth. There’s Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle, and those are names you’re just not going to step in front of.

Is he fifth? I’d like to think so, though there’s Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra to consider. Berra appeared in 14 World Series and won 10, both records.

It’s a good debate, at least — something you appreciate in the middle of February.

jkurz@record-journal.com (203) 317-2213 Twitter: @jefferykurz



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