Jeter's past accomplishments worthy of All-Star nod
Stats might not justify selection, but Yankees captain has earned level of respect
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter grounded into a double play in his second at-bat at Yankee Stadium this season. As he decelerated beyond first base and peeled off to his to return to the dugout, he was saluted. Folks down the right-field line stood and applauded, folks farther from the field whistled and cheered. Jeter acknowledged none of it; not that he should have done otherwise.
After the Yankees had completed their unremarkable 4-2 victory against the Orioles, Jeter was asked how he felt about being hailed after a strikeout (in his first at-bat) and the double-play ground ball. He paused before he answered, searching, no doubt, for one of his characteristically benign responses. Finally, he spoke. "I don't know how to answer that."
No he didn't. And that was an honest reply.
And he wasn't quite sure how to react to his election to the All-Star team either. He's a .272 shortstop elected off what he has been for nearly two decades -- a star of the highest magnitude -- rather than what he has achieved this season. The votes that have put him on the American League roster are tantamount to the cheers that followed that double-play ground ball.
Even his lesser performances are embraced. Jeter has earned that level of respect.
The All-Star Game electorate ought to be proud of the mandate it afforded the Yankees captain. Electing him was the proper thing to do, something akin to Mickey Mantle being named to the All-Star team in 1968. He pinch-hit and struck out against Tom Seaver in the Astrodome and was cheered for minutes.
"I was asked how I felt about that -- being cheered for striking out," Mantle said years later. "I didn't know how to answer that. What I should have said was, 'With all my strikeouts, they should have cheered me a lot more than I was.'"
Jeter certainly knows how he feels now about his latest election -- grateful, proud and self-satisfied. He just doesn't want to say the words for public consumption. His modesty ought to be hailed as well.
Jeter's been a pleasure to watch play since his first day in the big leagues in 1995. He has been as special a player as these parts -- or any parts -- have seen in the last 100 years. He prompts accolades and no complaints here or anywhere else. Witness the gifts bestowed on him by opposing clubs when the Yankees visit. Rare is the retiring player so widely respected. Witness the sincere applause prompted by his introduction.
If Jeter falls short in any facet of big league baseball in the 21st century, it is that he has little of genuine substance to say about himself. He keeps the door closed and sealed and shoves a chair under the doorknob inside the room that is his sense of self.
"He doesn't let most people see inside," Joe Torre said at the Yankees' Old Timer's Day program last month. "It's a little funny. He's such a good player … great player, that people want to know all there is to know about him. And he's not comfortable sharing much of it. I used to tell, 'Just don't play so well. They'll stop asking.'"
Does Jeter deserve to be an All-Star in 2014? There is no one-word answer to that question. A .272 shortstop without an extraordinary resume for this calendar year? Of course he doesn't. But try to find a soul who objects to his place on the roster and the place he will in the AL roster. It would be easier to find a young shortstop who, in 20 years, will have produced a career comparable to Jeter's.
The assembly line that produced Nomar Garciaparra, Cal Ripken Jr., Barry Larkin, Alan Trammel, Robin Yount, Jeter and, yes, Alex Rodriguez has slowed dramatically. We have Troy Tulowitzki who fits the mold. We have Andrelton Simmons, who doesn't. He's been cut from the Ozzie Smith-Omar Vizquel cloth. Jeter was cut from a cloth different from all others.
Daniel Murphy was an All-Star father before his first child was born. Noah Murphy joined the world late in the morning March 30 with his dad there and waiting to count toes, fingers and blessings. Now, the senior Murphy is an All-Star of a different sort, one that will have the Mets' second baseman in Minneapolis next Monday and Tuesday, counting all the career firsts his star status will afford him.
Murphy could have been home to spend three days of quality time with Noah and wife Tori, three days free of baseball. Ah, but this All-Star business popped up. Why couldn't it have come last summer when there was no Noah, when baseball could stand as the No. 1 priority? Is there some irony here?
"None at all," he said Monday. "We're going to be together, all of us, for all three days anyway. It works out."
The Murphys' plan had been to spend the All-Star break in San Diego, the site of the Mets' first, post-break series. Just rent a place near the beach and relax. But now a welcome detour. Minnesota doesn't have an ocean nearby, but it has lakes, 10,000 of them, according to the license plates of the citizenry. Close enough. They'll take it.
"It'll work out fine," Murphy said. "We'll fly to San Diego right after the game and still have a lot of time together."
Three adult sons ushered the father into Citi Field on Monday night. The sons wore three different Braves jerseys with the names Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz on them. The father was similarly dressed. His jersey, slightly yellowed, had a name on it too -- Spahn.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.