The 2014 Major League Baseball season has been one giant Derek Jeter celebration, and deservedly so. Jeter has continued to tear pages out of the record books, while still garnering respect from anybody that has heard of baseball. Now, as the All-Game voting comes to an end, people will cry for others to start over Jeter at shortstop based on this season’s production, but in this case the fans have done it right by voting in Jeter.
Creating a starting lineup based off of fan votes is clearly a flawed system, because much of the time the most deserving players based off stats do not start the game. In this case, I am going against my own All-Star Game belief system by saying that Jeter deserves the starting nod. Yes, the All-Star Game does give home-field advantage for the World Series for some reason, but this is an entertainment game and if you don’t believe in special cases, then go back to 2001.
The 2001 All-Star Game was played at Safeco Field in Seattle when the Mariners had a blazing rookie outfielder named Ichiro Suzuki starting in right field and batting in the leadoff spot. The lineup also had a legend starting in the No. 8 spot in the lineup and though he was now an established third basemen, he started at his original shortstop position. This mystery player was of course, Cal Ripken Jr.
At the time of that game I was only nine years old — well I did turn 10 just six days later –and I still remember that game for one reason only. I knew that season would be the last for Ripken, and when he first stepped to the plate against Chan Ho Park in the third inning, it seemed like everyone in the world was watching.
After a standing ovation, on the first pitch he saw, Ripken blasted a home run to left field and my nine-year-old arms had goosebumps standing straight up. Ripken became the oldest player to hit a home run in All-Star Game history at 40 years old, and he won his second All-Star Game MVP in his 19th Midsummer Classic.
Just like Jeter is this year, Ripken was a special case to start the game in 2001. His statistics were far from All-Star Game worthy, and Jeter’s this year trump what Ripken’s first-half stats were in 2001.
Cal Ripken Jr. 2001 first-half stats: 61 games, 54 hits, 4 home runs, 28 RBI, .240/.270/.324
Derek Jeter 2014 first-half stats (through July 6): 76 games, 84 hits, 2 home runs, 23 RBI, .273/.323/.328
Fast forward 13 years later and the 2001 All-Star Game has quite the connection. Who went on to play shortstop as a backup and hit a home run off of Jon Lieber in the sixth inning? Derek Jeter, of course. Both home runs were with no one on and no one out, both players played shortstop in that game, and now in his farewell tour, Jeter is the same age at 40 years old that Ripken was in his last All-Star Game.
Some players are born for the bright lights, and clearly both Ripken and Jeter were. In his 12 All-Star Game appearances (Jeter didn’t play in the 2011 All-Star Game), Jeter is hitting .440/.481/.600 with 11 hits and 1 home run. If anybody could have a Ripken-esque All-Star moment, it’s Derek Jeter and we should take in every last at-bat he gives us.