Exactly one year ago today, Derek Jeter’s average was a mere .241, more than 60 points below his career average, with nary a home run in sight.
Speculation ran rampant that the unthinkable was happening to our beloved captain.
Was he…getting old?
Is it possible, some wondered aloud, that the Yankees grossly overpaid their homegrown hero to the tune of $51 million after some much-publicized, un-Jeterian contract negotiations?
Jeter never publicly spoke out against his criticizers. That’s just not his style. He’d rather shut them up with performance.
And shut them up he has, as he has certainly been the Yankees’ most valuable player over the course of the first ten games of the 2012 season. In fact, those naysayers haven’t been heard since say, around July 9, when a little something called his 3,000th hit transpired.
Since that historic day, El Capitan has hit .331 with 47 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .383, including his .363 batting average this season punctuated by three home runs. Last year, his third home run of the season was his 3,000th hit, meaning it took him halfway through the season to reach that point.
Yes, we know it’s early in the season. But Jeter has provided a consistent presence in a Yankee lineup that, frankly, has yet to impress anyone thus far. His batting average bumps the rest of the team up to .254. He is currently the only Yankee batter with at least 20 at bats and an average over .300. Despite occupying the leadoff spot—a role not known for yielding many RBIs—he has 7, behind only Nick Swisher and Raul Ibanez for team leaders.
The feared 3-4-5 hitters (Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira)? Six between the three of them.
Critics and fans alike can view Derek Jeter’s auspicious start to the 2012 season as a microcosm of his career. Over the past 17 years, we’ve watched him grow as a player and a person, and, through it all, constant has been his middle name. He is the embodiment of a seemingly unattainable paradox: a superstar of whom Mom and Dad can still be proud.
I must say that writing about Derek Jeter has been a welcomed change of pace from scrutinizing the pitching inconsistencies the Yankees have been experiencing as of late.
Pitching issues notwithstanding, if anyone can lead the Yankees to the World Series, it’s Derek Jeter. We should know that by now.