To focus on one face is to misunderstand the whole thing.
You have to believe that baseball says something more. It has to bring you joy; it has to seem a part of you. We still have to resist dwelling overlong in nostalgia; it’s important to be clear-headed. Baseball’s sins have been against people; it’s guilty of smaller vices like sentimentality, too. It was never so pure and it’s often addled. But we have to agree that we’re getting a little something more than setting the conditions for selling caps or shoes. That’s what makes all of this work.
Earlier this week, Jayson Stark of ESPN published a piece exploring the dearth of active baseball players whose fame transcends the sport. Since Derek Jeter’s retirement, we have been without a Face of Baseball.
Someday, somebody will suggest fixing baseball by putting a pit on the field, and we will be prepared.
With our dear Editor-in-Chief leaving Baseball Prospectus for his next chapter, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite chapters of his career here. There's an incredible number of timeless Sam Miller articles to choose from, but we whittled it down enough to not break the internet. This article originally ran on July 27, 2012.
It’s not a question of if Major League Baseball is going to add a pit to the field, but a question of where they should add a pit to the field. For maximum LOLs and so on. That’s what this is about. It’s about where the funniest place to put a pit would be, were you to decide to put a pit on the baseball field.
Retirement is a time for introspection, as Sutton learned from Randy Johnson six years ago.
Timing is everything, isn’t it? In life. In love. In baseball. I had the opportunity to be in the ballpark and sit in the ‘local’ loge level for both Derek Jeter Day on September 7th and Paul Konerko Day 20 days later. It was amazing timing to be in attendance on days that devoted fans got to say thank you to the faces of their franchise. These ‘goodbye days’ took me back to a conversation with Randy Johnson on September 27, 2008. It was on the eve of the final start of the season for Johnson; he wasn’t yet sure whether it would be the last of his career. On the day of our conversation, the left-hander already had a resume listing 585 starts, 294 wins, 4,780 strikeouts and five Cy Young Awards, but he drifted back and forth as to whether those numbers plus one more outing might be enough to call an end to the journey. It is safe to assume that the following day locked his decision to return. At 45, Johnson threw what turned out to be the final complete game of his career and beat Colorado and 24-year-old Ubaldo Jimenez.
Many documented the fact that Jeter and Konerko were more reflective than ever on, and in the days just before and after, their Days. The same can be same for Johnson on this day six years ago.
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What it's like for the players who haven't been in October--and what it's like when that changes.
Though the day was certainly scripted and carried out to honor a Yankee (and sports) icon, Derek Jeter Day also doubled as an October baseball reunion. As the Wild Card era has expanded postseason opportunities for franchises, players, and fans, a select group of major leaguers have seen their dreams of competing in the postseason come true over and over and over again. Jeter has appeared in 158 playoff games, tops in MLB history. Also on the charts and in attendance at Yankee Stadium were no. 2, 3, 6, 7, and 10 on the postseason games played list: Jorge Posada (125), Bernie Williams (121), Tino Martinez (99), Mariano Rivera (96) and Paul O’Neill (85). Reggie Jackson had played in the most postseason games (77) before the addition of the wild card; he was there. Add Michael Jordan to the invite list and you’ve tallied another 179 playoff games of experience to the group, though he would carry the nickname “Mr. June” more fittingly. As a matter of math, the 14 athletes gathered at this on-field mixer share 1,252 games of postseason experience among them, which takes into account Joe Torre’s 142 games of managerial duty.
As we all looked on, a quick glance to the Royals dugout showed that day’s opposing team taking in the festivities from the top step. This gathering of onlookers were composed almost entirely of players who know what the playoffs look and feel like based only on stories they’ve been told and televisions they have watched. Sure, James Shields has battled six games, Omar Infante 30 and Raul Ibanez 44, but nearly every starter on that squad has had nary a sniff of October’s magical scent.
Jake and Jordan take in a game at Yankee Stadium, where the ghosts of over five years of baseball history reside.
Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman, the proprietors of Cespedes Family Barbecue, are taking another baseball trip and chronicling their travels at Baseball Prospectus.
New York City is a place with lots of stuff. In fact, it probably has the most stuff, of anywhere, in the entire world. Besides the 10 Million or so people who live here, New York has lots of parks, buses, angry people, nice people, and a whole lot of smelly trash. Most importantly, New York City has baseball. From the early days of the New York Knickerbockers and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms to the current day Yankees and Mets, New York has a long and passionate baseball history. Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Willie Mays played in this city. So did Benny Agbayani and Lyle Overbay! Baseball means a lot to New York and New York means a lot to baseball, so we thought we’d do our best to mess it all up.
Putting the focus on the focus on Jeter, and other All-Star observations.
One of our writers, Craig Goldstein, had an idea for the All-Star game that we didn’t get to, though I thought it had some merit: Which All-Star games have “belonged” to which players? Last year’s “belonged” to Mariano Rivera, for instance. Cal Ripken’s final game “belonged” to Cal Ripken, and so on. This year’s belonged to Derek Jeter like nothing in baseball has ever belonged to anything else. Bud Selig’s retirement was limited to a two-question commercial-break interruption. Tony Gwynn’s death was not even mentioned, not once. Neither was the death of Ralph Kiner. There was no aside noting that Tim McCarver was enjoying retirement after calling more All-Star games with Joe Buck than any broadcast duo in history. This was all Jeter’s.
The eternal spectacle of a farewell All-Star appearance.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
On July 15, 2001, Baseball Prospectus published the following feature on the 2001 All-Star game. Derek Zumsteg wrote from the stands, where he saw another legendary, Hall of Fame-bound shortstop take a bow, doff his cap, and get a big hit against a suspiciously poorly located fastball from the opposing pitcher. Here's his account of Cal Ripken Jr.'s final All-Star game.
Thanks to the well-timed retirements of Chipper Jones, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter, we've been plagued by treated to back-to-back-to back retirement tours in 2012, 2013, and now 2014. Ostensibly, the most memorable aspect of these final laps around the league is the chance to get a last glimpse at an outgoing great, but we all know that what we really remember is each team’s choice of retirement gift. I don’t remember Jones’ ceremony in San Diego, but I do remember that the Padres gave him a surfboard. I don’t recall how the Rays recognized Rivera, but I’ll never be able to unsee the creepy golem-like sand structure they created for the occasion. And so on.
Or, would the Yankees be better off starting Derek Jeter or Brendan Ryan at shortstop?
Team captain and 39-year-old farewell tour participant Derek Jeter is currently the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees. That is the way of things and has been since I was in high school. But the Yankees also have Brendan Ryan on their roster. Ryan is a noted defensive wizard while Jeter is [must…not…make…Jeter fielding joke]. However, Ryan “hit” only .197/.255/.273 last year in 349 plate appearances. Is there a case to be made for Ryan as the starting shortstop based on his defensive prowess? Keep in mind that the Yankees could bury Ryan in the batting order to limit his exposure, move the ever-under-appreciated Brett Gardner up to the two-spot, pinch hit for Ryan late in the game, and enjoy that sweet glove for eight innings a night. Is that enough to overtake De-rekJe-ter?
What did Robinson Cano's reluctance to run hard cost the Yankees? And did his strategy make sense?
You’d think that Yankees fans, who are used to seeing their team sign other cities’ superstars, would be upset about losing a homegrown second baseman who’s coming off four straight five-win seasons. But based on a winter’s worth of conversation—and as a New Yorker who writes about baseball, I’ve had a lot of conversations about Cano—most of them don't sound too broken up about it. Partly that’s because spending hundreds of millions on other free agents eases the sting. Partly it’s because the Mariners gave Cano so many years and so much money. But another part of the reason—and I really believe this—is that Cano was known for not really running to first. If Cano couldn’t be bothered to bleed for every base hit while he was here, Yankees fans seem to say, then why would we miss him?
That familiar refrain resurfaced on Monday, when the Daily News’ John Harperpublished a piece on Cano with some critical quotes from Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long. To be fair, Long’s comments were partially based on being mindful of public perception—since Cano’s reluctance to run harder bothered the fans, Long suggests, he would’ve been wise to appease them. But Long also makes clear that he couldn’t condone Cano’s lollygagging or swallow his explanations of why he wanted to run at less than maximum speed: