You either LOVE’ EM or you HATE’ EM, right?
That’s how we judge our athletes, actors/actresses, musicians; just about anyone can fall into one of those two columns.
However, there can be a bit of a grey area when sorting who you love, from who you hate.
What about people you “love to hate?” or the ones that you “hate that you love?”
When it comes to the world of professional sports, you can take it a step further. So much so that we created a category just for those lucky few who qualify.
This is a category for those athletes that you hate with every moral fibre of your being… BUT YOU GOD DAMN RESPECT!
It doesn’t matter what sport they play, which jersey they wear, or if they’ve ever played for your team. What matters is how they carry/carried themselves both on and off the field, how their desire to win set them apart from everybody else, and how much of you envy/wish you could either BE them, or have them on your team.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present the Wes Mantooth All-Stars
#1 Derek Jeter
“Now batting for the New York Yankees, number two, Derek Jeter, number two”
Those immortal words by PA announcer Bob Sheppard have brought Yankees fans sheer joy, as well as five World Series titles, for the better part of two decades. As a Blue Jays fan, they have brought me pain, sorrow, and frustration for the better part of those same two decades.
Why We Hate Jeter:
• He’s the CAPTAIN and FACE of the New York Yankees – aka the Evil Empire
• He’s been the most overhyped and overrated player of the past 20 years – keep in mind this is not necessarily a bad thing.
• He took #2 upon arriving with the Yankees… not a HUGE deal, except for the fact that single digits are reserved for Yankee greats – ballsy move as a rookie but it seemed to have worked out in his favour.
• Guaranteed All-Star starter despite season numbers… thank you Yankee fans.
• 5x Gold Glove winner – yet not even close to being the best defensive SS… in any season.
• Jeter has only missed the playoffs ONCE in his entire career (2008)
• Charter member of the “Core Four” – Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera.
• The most marketed baseball player in the game – I could care less which razor he uses.
• The way that he has somehow become the apparent FACE of MLB.
• The way his name sounds when yelled with a Bronx accent – JEEEEE – TAH.
• YESN Broadcast team…. SEEE YAH.
• The travelling hordes of Yankee fans that clog up the 100 level at the Skydome (Rogers Centre) and shower praise upon every little thing he does – they’d cheer him wiping his ass.
• You know he’s going the other way with a single with 2 outs and a runner on – damn that inside-out swing of his!
• The fact that Yankees fans will riot if they remove from as the everyday SS, even if he has the range of Frankenstein’s monster – mind you they’ll riot if they don’t remove him too.
• His roll call of gorgeous celebrities that he’s dated – Mariah, Minka Kelly, Jessica Biel…
• The rumoured “gift basket” that he bestows upon one night stands – includes an autographed baseball – okay I must admit, that is pretty awesome.
So why do we respect him now?
A few years back, a good friend and I were talking baseball one night over a few pints. We were discussing the type of player that you would want to be, if you were in the majors. Both of us immediately brought up Jeter. Although both of us were die hard and loyal Jays fans, and both HATED the Yankees, we both decided that Jeter was the perfect example of a player that you would want to emulate. This led to the following interaction:
Me: “I gotta tell you something buddy, and it’s really hard for me to say…”
Friend: “It’s all good man… go ahead… what’s up?” (Thinking I must be coming out of the closet)
Me: “Wow… I never thought I would say this… but… I think I respect Derek Jeter…” (Shudders)
Friend: “Jesus… I don’t know what to say”
Me: “Tell me about it.”
Friend: “Crazy thing is… I feel the same way”
Those were words I never thought I would say. How could I respect someone I hated for so long? I mean this was a man that I had cheered when a Ken Huckaby slide led to a separated shoulder on Opening Day 2003. When the Yankees blew the 2004 ALCS to the Red Sox, I couldn’t have been happier. When he smashed his face diving into the 3B seats trying to catch a foul ball… I cheered.
So What Changed?!
Well to start the guy is everything you dream of being when dreaming of being a professional athlete. He’s the leader of the best, and most storied franchise in history. He plays in the biggest baseball market, in the most hallowed stadium of all time (until 2009). He’s a consummate professional. I think that is an overused term, but Jeter definitely fits the title. He’s an ideal team guy (apparently) and has turned into a sage in his waning years, offering advice to young players entering the game. He doesn’t understand what it means to take an inning or a play off. He makes plays that he has NO BUSINESS making. Don’t believe me?! Check out the infamous flip to Jorge Posada at home that gunned Jeremy Giambi out at home. What was he doing at home? Oh just backing up the relay throw from RF, that overshot the cut-off man/1B and would have been wide of home… you know just another routine play that a SS makes…
Do I love Derek Jeter as a ballplayer? Hardly, you can count on me not owning any Jeter merchandise, nor will I draft him on a fantasy roster. Does that mean that I hate him? Not at all. Would I take him on the Blue Jays? Hell yes!! Any day of the week!!! I would take him today as a banged up 39 year old just to say you have Derek Jeter on your lineup, and you know that he would still hit.270 on name recognition alone. After years of hating on #2, I’m just glad that I came to my senses and realized that I was watching a once in a generation type of ballplayer. No matter how much I hate the Bronx Bombers, I will continue to hold Derek Jeter in higher regard.
“I have the greatest job in the world. Only one person can have it. You have shortstops on other teams-I’m not knocking other teams-but there’s only one shortstop on the Yankees.” – Derek Jeter