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updated: 4/8/2014 9:57 PM

Jeter a player to celebrate, not hate

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  • Enjoy New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, right, while you can as he closes his Hall of Fame career this season.

    Enjoy New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, right, while you can as he closes his Hall of Fame career this season.
    Associated Press


The Derek Jeter Farewell Tour is under way and the East Coast coverage that smothers the country is enough to make a baseball fan sick.

But it shouldn't be reason enough to dislike Jeter.

In fact, you could make a case for Jeter being as admirable a player as we've seen in a generation, and one network's infatuation shouldn't obscure his greatness.

Yes, Jeter is a great player, like it or not. He has been for most of his 20 years, during which time he's been the best player on a team that's won five World Series.

On those five title teams, Jeter led the Yankees in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) three times, was second once and on the other -- the first one -- he was A.L. Rookie of the Year and hit .361 in the postseason.

Jeter is 87th in baseball history in WAR, 96th in walks and 112th in stolen bases, which is all pretty impressive, until you realize he's 13th all time in runs scored and ninth on the all-time hits list, with a real chance to finish seventh if he stays healthy for a decent portion of this season.

Think about that. If he records another 100 hits, the only names ahead of him on that list will be Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker and Cap Anson.

And he has five rings. And he's done it in New York. And he rarely makes mental mistakes. And he runs the team. And he fields his position well.

Did I mention the five rings?

If you want to hate him because he doesn't have great range at short or because he's overhyped by a network that can't play it straight under the best of circumstances, you're simply missing an opportunity to enjoy one of the great careers in baseball history.

Jeter will be in Chicago for a week, first with two games at Wrigley Field (May 20-21) and then four more on the South Side (May 22-25), and when he's here you might want to contemplate what he's accomplished and how he's done it.

Watch Starlin Castro dress like he slept in his uniform, and concentrate like he's still asleep, and then watch Jeter look, act and play like a professional athlete interested only in winning.

Watch Alexei Ramirez -- with so much more athletic ability and range than Jeter -- look confused on relays, rundowns and throws from the catcher, and then watch Jeter control the Yankees' infield and make certain that every player knows exactly what he's supposed to do before the ball is in play.

The guy has done nothing but play the game with respect, represent his team in fine fashion and win titles while generally being his team's best player.

"It's a lot of responsibility to be the face of a franchise, especially this franchise," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who's been with Jeter as a player or manager for all but one of those titles. "That's not easy. You have to work hard in the winter, work hard in the spring, practice hard every day and be prepared every day.

"Derek has done that. He knew early on that there was a responsibility. He embraced it. He sets the example. Dress like a pro on and off the field. He prepares properly. He works properly. He leads by example. He wants to win. Everything he does is about winning."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jeter has played one game in his career when the Yankees were mathematically eliminated from the playoff race. More than 2,600 games played, and all but one with a chance to play in October.

In October, by the way, Jeter has played another full season of baseball. In 158 postseason games and 650 official at-bats, he's batted .308 with an .838 OPS, 20 homers, 61 RBI, 18 stolen bases and 111 runs scored.

That's a pretty good season. In the playoffs. Against No. 1 and 2 starters. Top setup men. Closers.

Pretty good season.

"He's always known how to keep a team loose before the game but always played the game the right way once the game started," Girardi said. "He never took anything for granted, not the uniform, not his job, not any of it.

"It's never about him. It's all about team, all about championships. He's the poster boy for winning."

That's a pretty good poster.

Hey, I get it. Hype can infuriate and turn you against a player. But Jeter is the wrong guy to dislike.

He's one of the greatest ever. Plain and simple, one of the greatest of all time.

He won with class and he won with respect. He played the right way.

Sounds to me like Derek Jeter should be celebrated.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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