Farwell Captain, Champion, Icon & Legend

(Photo by NationalPost.com)

In a time when many sports stars publicly acknowledged that they’re not interested in being looked at as role models for fans and aspiring athletes, Jeter was always standing there as a beacon of virtue for all to idolize. Growing up I watched too many Yankee games to count and was a Jeter fan first, a Yankee fan second. To me (and I’m sure to many fans my age and younger), Jeter was the Yankees. He embodied and symbolized the greatness that the franchise had always been known for.

Some believe athletes have a responsibility to be role models for young fans and others don’t. It’s been my belief that it’s a parents responsibility to instill values and morals in their children; but there’s no harm in a child looking up to and/or idolizing an athlete that does it the right way. Let’s be honest, there has never been an athlete that defined “doing it the right way” more than Jeter. From the commercials to his interviews, there was never a moment where he seemed disingenuous or disengaged from the moment. He held himself to a moral and ethical standard that not many public figures (let alone athletes) will ever reach. He’s not just a transcendent athlete, but a true role model for fans both young and old.

Jeter treated his private life the same as his public life, with grace and humility. In the most eccentric and volatile market in all of sports, there was never a bad word printed or said about him. An eligible bachelor his entire career, there was never a scandal or a tabloid headline about any of his relationships. Even as social media hit its peak, Jeter stayed away from that world and kept himself accessible on the other platform that mattered, the field. There was never an autograph he didn’t sign or a picture he wouldn’t take. He’s always said that Yankee fans are the greatest fans in sports; his actions towards them showed the sincerity of his words.

Last night was his last game at Yankee Stadium, and possibly his career. Never shying away from the moment, he hit the game winning single in the bottom of the ninth. Jeter has always been considered clutch, and that moment was the icing on the cake of a hall-of-fame career. Hollywood couldn’t write up a better script and yet, I don’t think anyone was surprised.

As Jeter was standing on the field hearing a congregation of over 40,000 fans chanting “THANK YOU DEREK” he interjected a reporter (who had been asking the same question four different ways) and responded to the fans saying, “What are you thanking me for? I’m just here doing my job. Thank YOU.” (ESPN)

That quote embodied the humility and class that this man has shown every game of his career. For everything that Jeter has been, the one thing he wasn’t was selfish. For the first time in his career, the always stoic and humble shortstop couldn’t deflect the attention away from himself. Finally, The Captain had to soak in the moment and realize that 40,000 men, women, and children were thanking him for being an icon that they never knew personally, but a legend they would never forget.

Number 2, Derek Jeter, Number 2.

(Photo from Lou Capozzola- Sports Illustrated)

The Captain, Captain Clutch, Mr. November, DJ, number two. All of these names can be used to describe one man, and that one man is Derek Jeter. To many people Derek Jeter is more than just a baseball player, he’s an icon. To me, Derek Jeter is baseball. I say that because Jeter made his MLB debut in May of 1995 and I made my debut to the world six months later.

Jeter’s final season as not only a Yankee, but as a player, has been nothing short of bittersweet. During his farewell tour, Jeter has received a kayak, cowboy boots, a guitar, numerous number two memorabilia, a large amount of money for his turn two foundation, and many other gifts from teams across the league. In his final game at Yankee Stadium, Derek started the game off with a huge double that was inches away from being a home run. He went 2-5 with a walk-off RBI in the bottom half of the ninth inning. To set the scene a little better for you, it’s the top of the ninth, the Yankees are winning 5-2 when David Robertson gave up a two run shot to Adam Jones, then a solo shot to Steve Pearce to knot the game up at 5. It’s the bottom of the ninth, Jose Pirela singles to left, Brett Gardner lays a solid bunt down to advance Antoan Richardson (who was pinch running for Pirela) to second base, the captain steps up to the plate and swings on the first pitch for a base hit to right field, winning the game for the Yankees. Ball game over, the Yankees win, the Yankees win! This is what Jeter has done throughout his whole career. These are the moments he lives for.

Derek Jeter has been in the Yankees organization since 1992 when they drafted him straight out of high school. To say his career has been anything but phenomenal is definitely an understatement. He’s a 14x all star, 5x World Series champion, 5x silver slugger, 5x gold glove winner, amongst other awards throughout his career. Jeter also holds the record for all time hits by a New York Yankee, predominately one of the best teams in history.Derek Jeter’s defense has generally been top notch. He has had so many memorable plays ranging from “the flip” and “the dive” to just the way he throws the ball as he’s jumping. All of these plays will go down in history as some of the most athletic plays by a shortstop of all time. With a career fielding average of .976%, his errors were few and far between. Jeter has never been known for being a power hitter, he’s more of a get on base and help the team win at all costs kind of guy. Arguably one of the most consistent players of all time, Jeter hates missing games. As the years fly by, his body is slowly deteriorating. These last few years, Derek hasn’t been able to stay as healthy as he was 10 years ago, which sadly happens to everyone. He has had to battle calf, ankle, and other injuries which is something he hasn’t been accustomed to. Even if Jeter only plays sixty games in a season, his presence will still be felt on and off the field, that’s just the kind of player he is.

Off the field, Derek Jeter is a stand up guy. He has a very successful foundation that helps kids choose the right path in life by teaching them the importance of staying away from drugs and alcohol. Jeter is endorsed by many major brands such as Nike, Gatorade, and even his buddy Michael Jordan. You will rarely catch Jeter in the tabloids like some other athletes these days. Derek has shown us time and time again that his primary focus is the game he loves.

Watching Derek Jeter’s last season unfold as not only a Yankee, but as a baseball player has been an emotional roller coaster for myself and baseball fans across the globe. Jeter took this league by storm 20 years ago and it sure is going to be different without him in the seasons to come. It’s going to take some adjustments to get used to watching the Yankees play without their “face” but I know Yankees fans everywhere will still support the team through thick and thin. What’s truly indescribable is the fact that Jeter has managed to gain the respect from fans around the league. Derek Jeter is one of the few players that no one, not even Red Sox fans, have anything but respect for. Derek Jeter has forever evolved the game of baseball. With that being said I have nothing but an immense amount of gratitude for Jeter and the way he makes me proud to be a Yankees fan. I will forever be tipping my cap to the one and only, Derek Jeter. RE2PECT.

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Dodgers Are NL West Champs!

The Los Angeles Dodgers are NL West Champs.. Again!! They beat the Giants Wednesday at Dodger Stadium with a score of 9-1.

Clayton Kershaw picked up his 21st win, making his record now 21-3. He pitched 8 innings, struck out 11 and gave up 1 run. I wrote previously about how fitting it would be to clinch Wednesday with Kershaw on the mound; it truly does make his season just that much sweeter.

Brian Wilson pitched the 9th inning, which makes sense as he is a former Giants pitcher and how sweet it is to close out such an important game against your former team.

Kershaw hit his first career triple which drove in the first run of the game. He also made a great defensive backhanded behind-the-back play on the mound.

Yasiel Puig homered to break the tie. He also threw out a runner on third with an amazing throw that only he can make. I’m not sure why runners continue to run on his arm but as long as they do, we get to enjoy watching Puig make those great throws!

Carl Crawford, Juan Uribe and AJ Ellis also drove in runs.

Photo credit: Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News

Photo credit: Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News

A few different times throughout the game, “MVP” chants could be heard very loud in Dodger Stadium. Those chants were directed at Clayton Kershaw who most definitely deserves NL MVP. Not only is he an amazing pitcher, he also drives in runs and makes great plays. Kershaw for Cy Young and NL MVP!!

The Dodgers will end their regular season at home against the Rockies on September 28th.

 

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Dodgers Could Clinch Against Rivals

The Los Angeles Dodgers are currently 3.5 games up in the NL West and their magic number to win the division is 3.

Yesterday began a very important series at Dodger Stadium against the Giants.

Dan Haren was on the mound for Los Angeles last night. After Dan pitched a great game, the Dodgers went on to lose in the 13th inning with a score of 5-2.

Zack Greinke is on the mound for Los Angeles today. He is 15-8 with a 2.76 ERA.

Clayton Kershaw is on the mound for Los Angeles tomorrow. He is 20-3 with a 1.80 ERA.

The games will be televised today and tomorrow on ESPN with no blackouts. This is especially great for fans as the Dodgers could clinch the division against their rivals from up North during this series, with wins both today and tomorrow.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

It seems only fitting that the Dodgers could clinch tomorrow with Kershaw, making his season just that much sweeter.

Don’t forget Dodgers fans attending the games against San Francisco, wear blue! It is requested that fans wear blue for the Dodger Blue Out. There will be different blue festivities going on at the ballpark, as well as 20% off merchandise for fans in attendance.

 

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Second Time’s the Charm: Kershaw Campaign

Maybe I’ll get it right this time around.

For our regular readers, you’ll remember my case for Kershaw for both the NL MVP and Cy Young awards. 

Last season, Kershaw finished with a 16-9 record with a 1.83 ERA and 232 K’s.

He was BY FAR the most valuable player in the National League. They gave it to Andrew McCutchen, who wouldn’t have finished in the lead in any AL offensive categories.

Anyway, who would’ve thought he’d come out and perform better than last season?

Well, the guy is the real deal.

This year, despite missing time due to injuries, he has posted a dominating 19-3 record, with an unworldly 1.70 ERA and 219 K’s. Oh, and that no hitter.

But Ryan, his strikeout total is down. How does that make him better than last year?

Well, because of his missed time, is strikeout total is actually UP from last year, and significantly.

Last season, Kershaw had a K/9 rate of 8.8.

This season, it’s up to 10.6.

He has posted a career-high six complete games and a career-low walks of 28. To put how his improvement into perspective, his previous two Cy Young-esc seasons, he posted 63 (2012) and 52 (2013) walks.

For you advanced stat gurus, the guy holds a 7.6 WAR compared to a 7.8 WAR for pitchers in 2013 (according to baseball-reference.com), but that’s because he has made eight less starts than last season. Two more quality starts, and he may eclipse last season’s WAR.

Baseball-reference.com also has him in first place — listed above Mike Trout — with a 8.0 WAR overall, the highest in the MLB.

Last year, Kershaw was the most valuable player in the National League. This season, he is the most valuable player in the entire major leagues. Get it right this year, voters. He deserves ALL the hardware.

Jonathan Papelbon Suspended 7 Games for Lewd Gesture

According to ESPN, Jonathan Papelbon has been suspended 7 games for this lewd gesture above and all I have to say about it is: YIKES, how the mighty have fallen. In what has been a roller coaster year for Pap, getting into arguments with his teammates, constantly insulting Phillies fans and now this. During Philadelphia’s 5-4 loss to Miami Papelbon was ejected and proceeded to get Boo’d by the Phillies phaithful when this occurred. Not only did he make this  gesture, grabbing his crotch in an emphatic manner, he then bumped into umpire Joe West, which will also call for a fine of an undisclosed amount at this time.

“While I completely understand how the fans would perceive my gesture while being booed, it was not my intent whatsoever to insult the fans of Philadelphia,” Papelbon said. “If it was perceived in that manner, I sincerely apologize.”

How else would the fans perceive it there Pap? You’re leaving the mound after getting boo’d and tell the whole crowd to suck it. Unless you had an INSANE itch, which I – and every man in the history of ever – would understand, there’s really no defending your actions here. Plus, I’m not entirely sure that’s a viable excuse for the executives up in Major League Baseball.

In fairness, Papelbon has converted 37 saves in 41 attempts this year which is very admirable. However, after the year Papelbon has had off the field it is hard to see him in a Phillies’ uniform next year. Papelbon is due to make $13 million next year and has 2 years remaining on his contract. The only two teams I could realistically see giving Papelbon a shot next year would be the cliche New York Yankees and LA Dodgers. This would have to be via a trade and if you are the GM for either teams, who would you give up for Jonathan Papelbon? Not a whole lot. Otherwise, I don’t see anyone willing to pay up for this guy. So, you might be stuck with him for a little while longer Philadelphia.

Obscene gestures to the crowd…so hot right now…obscene gestures.

 

 

photo credit: thebiglead.com

Side note: New nickname idea for Papelbon: Johnny Baseball?

UPDATE: I just thought of Papelbon’s fool proof defense: “If I have an itch, I must then pinch (my groin).” You’re welcome, dude. Good thing I can edit these posts.

Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw: Ace On And Off The Field

Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers is the best in the game. He’s extremely talented, an awesome teammate (he’s always the first to celebrate and always has his team’s back) and he is an even better man off the field.

In yesterday’s game against the Diamondbacks, Andre Ethier was hit by a pitch after homeruns were hit by Adrian Gonzalez, followed by Matt Kemp. Both benches were warned which caused Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to come out of the dugout and speak his mind on the situation. He didn’t think either bench should have been warned since they didn’t think Ethier being hit was intentional.

Mattingly was ejected right away and so was Clayton Kershaw, who was yelling from the dugout. I’m not a good lip reader so I don’t know what was said but I absolutely love that Kershaw is always so passionate, always in the game even if he isn’t pitching and the definition of a great teammate.

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

This was Don’s fifteenth career ejection and Clayton’s third career ejection.

Just to mention one of the things that makes Kersh a great man, Clayton and his wife Ellen founded Kershaw’s Challenge which you can read about here . They are really such amazing people and I truly admire all of the good they do for others.

Clayton Kershaw is 17-3 and leads the MLB with a brilliant 1.70 ERA. He is on the mound tonight against the Padres, looking for win number 18!

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Yankees to Wear Derek Jeter Patches for Rest of Season

I know this is somewhat old news, but my duty as a “journalist” is to make sure everyone here in the sportsrants community is fully aware of the latest move in baseball’s most prestigious franchise. According to ESPN New York, “The New York Yankees  announced Tuesday that the team will wear a patch of Derek Jeter ‘s final-season logo on all player hats and uniforms from Sunday, the day that the shortstop will be honored at Yankee Stadium, through the end of the season. The baseballs with Jeter logos that will be put in play on Sunday, and the uniforms used in the game and throughout the rest of the season will be sold by Steiner Sports, company president Brandon Steiner said.” This move is the biggest slap in the face to fans, history and baseball since I’ve been alive. This move is not to honor Derek Jeter in the slightest, it is simply for money. While I know that Jeter’s retirement has been 80% of the news in baseball this season I could not be more ashamed of what this franchise is doing. No one, I repeat no one, is bigger than baseball. Not Derek Jeter, not Barry Bonds, not Mariano Rivera. This is merely a poor attempt for a franchise that has become mediocre at best to cash in for delusional fans who need even more Derek Jeter apparel because this time it’s “special”.

I’ll be the first to admit I am a Red Sox fan and the Yankees have made my life miserable since I was 5 years old, but I love the game of baseball and there is not a franchise that I’ve had more respect for than the Yankees. Everyone wishes their team was even half as successful as the Bronx Bombers. This is a franchise that has had the most historic figures in the game’s history: Micky Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Babe Ruth, I’ll even throw Derek Jeter in there for the sake of argument. The Yankees pretty much invented class in baseball with their clean shaven “Yankee Rules”, which, by the way, I’ve always liked to an extent. This patch, however, has pushed me over the edge, making me write this article. How can a franchise who claims to be the most prestigious make a player patch to a man who hasn’t even retired yet? In fairness, I am aware the Yankees did a similar patch for Mariano Rivera last year, but I didn’t like it last year either and I didn’t have a website to rant (see what I did there?) on last year.

I’ll conclude with this, a franchise that has many enemies (no one roots for Goliath) has just gained sympathy from baseball fans everywhere. There’s no other reason to do this patch other than three reasons: money, money and money. If that wasn’t the case, they’d wait until he actually retires or at the start of next season. However, the Yankees, like many baseball fans, are aware that they virtually have no shot at that second wild card spot and Jeter’s season will most likely end at Fenway Park, September 28th. In my life as a baseball fan I would never expect a move like this from a team I held so highly. Here’s to another decade of mediocrity New York.

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Ok. I get it. Some love March Madness. Others would say The Masters, or Super Bowl Sunday.

Wrong.

The Christmas of sports happens from September-October. And no, it doesn’t involve NFL kickoff.

MLB playoff races are the most exciting events in sports.

Every game holds weight. Every pitch matters. Don’t make a mistake, because dropping a game in the standings is tough to make up when everyone has the same goal in mind.

This year, Christmas in sports seems a little more…I don’t know…Christmasy.

There’s more Christmas music playing during the day, snow is falling and you’re not spending Christmas with your grandparents in Florida with a fake Christmas tree this year.

Here’s why the MLB playoff race is simply incredible:

Four of the eight divisions in baseball have a five game or less separation between first and second place. Two are separated by two or less.

And then there’s the Wild Card…

Four teams in the AL Wild Card race are four and a half games back from the second spot, and Atlanta and Pittsburgh are giving each other no room in the NL race, as both are within two games of the final spot.

Baseball is its most exciting this time of year. We will see some big stories and moments within these next few weeks. Tensions will be high. Every pitch matters.

Races to watch:

AL Central: Don’t think the Tigers are going to let the Royals take their crown without a fight. Kansas City has a one and a half game lead over Detroit, and the two square off six more times this month. Keep an eye out. Experience vs. Heart.

AL West: This has been the story of the year in the American League (besides Jeter). The A’s and Angels have been neck and neck all year. The two teams are explosive, and deserve playoff spots. The second place finisher in this division will undoubtably snag a Wild card spot.

NL Central: St. Louis and Milwaukee have both had terriffic seasons. This is another example of two teams that will end up in the playoffs, and Pittsburgh will also contend for the second WC spot.

NL West: Here we go. The Dodgers and Giants. The two best teams in the league get to race to the finish side by side. Can’t wait.

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Worst to First to Worst

Photo Credit: CBSsports.com/MLB

Labor Day weekend is upon us which means the end of summer. The last outdoor grills have been lighted, pools have been covered (no, seriously I just covered my pool it was super depressing), and for some it means playoff baseball is right around the corner.  However, for others it means the start of the NFL season. Unfortunately, for fans of the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox, playoff hopes have been diminished, like the fun of a child when his pool has been covered. The Red Sox have now went from worst-to-first-to-worst and fans have the right to be upset and question the organizational moves this season. Entering September 1st the Sox are 16 games below .500 and 19.5 games behind the first place Baltimore Orioles. Last year at this time Boston was 26 games above .500 and 5.5 games ahead of the second place Tampa Bay Rays. Some blame a “World Series hangover” and others blame not giving Jacoby Ellsbury enough money to resign him. While these are big factors in the lack of success for the Red Sox, the main reason this season have Red Sox fans repressing memories is the young prospects on this team not panning out. Mainly, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and short stop Xander Bogaerts.

Xander Bogaerts had Red Sox nation swooning for their short stop of the future in last year’s Fall Classic. He even changed his number to 2 in honor of his child-hood hero Derek Jeter. Sadly, he played like Jeter at age 40. Not what Boston expected. Bogaerts in 119 games is batting .221 in an already abysmal Red Sox offense. This is a guy who was supposed to be a threat at the top of the line up, possibly the 2 spot, and has only scored 47 runs. He has a wins above replacement (WAR) of -0.4. He’s in the negatives!  Don’t get me wrong there is no way the Red Sox should give up on this guy anytime soon he is only 21 years old (younger than me even. What have I done with my life?) Bogaerts was considered “can’t miss talent” and if he doesn’t turn it around next year the Red Sox will be hurting again.

Bogaerts has not been the only problem. His rookie counter part in center field Jackie Bradley Jr. has been that much worse. Not merely statistically, but also because he was supposed to replace Ellsbury. Red Sox fans were not expecting nearly the same numbers offensively, but Bradley was considered a much better defensive player.Therefore, his offense just had to be average. However, JBJ has been looking up at average all year. His play has been terrible. The hopeful leadoff man for the Sox has batted .216 in 112 games.  Very similar to Bogaerts, JBJ has only scored 45 runs and has a WAR of -0.2. He is also in the negatives. The two top prospects in the organization have showed they are not ready for Major League level just yet. Bradley was even demoted to the minors almost two weeks ago. When a player gets optioned down to AAA this late in the season — especially a player with JBJ’s hype and caliber —  it is never a good sign.

With all this in mind it is not time to wave the proverbial white flag just yet in Red Sox nation (on the season absolutely just not the future). Assuming these kids can turn things around (can’t get much worse right?) and their defense remains the same the Red Sox still have a very bright future. Defense has never been a problem for the Red Sox. Next year’s projected starting pitching rotation should be one of the best in the American League East with, you guessed it, a plethora of prospects. As long as these two players can get their batting average to around .250 and score about 80 runseach they give me every reason to believe the Red Sox will be right back in the playoff race come September of 2015.

 

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