Let me first say, I have never liked the Yankees. And, I know I am not alone. If you are a baseball fan, from outside of New York, you might not like the Yankees either.
The Yankees have more money than the other teams. They can try to go out and buy a championship year after year. They have the power of the YES Sports Network. The baseball team is one part of a multi-billion dollar Yankee industry.
Many players that excel on other teams get swallowed up by The Yankees. Here are just a few notable examples: C.C. Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Dave Winfield, and Reggie Jackson. It is not a level economic playing field in baseball. The big market teams have a big time edge.
With that said, this past week, Derek Jeter transcended what I feel about the Yankees. In fact, most, including me, love Derek Jeter – to the Yankees, “The Captain.” Case in point, Yankee archrival, Boston Red Sox fans, gave Jeter a standing ovation in one of his final at bats.
He is a model ball player. He is a model citizen. He loves his parents and thanks them. He is 180 degrees from the latest escapades in the NFL. In fact, many of us sit in disgust of the current rulings of the NFL and its dysfunction as an example for society. For example, who would want to be recognized for excellence by Roger Goodell, the tarnished commissioner of the NFL? (More on Commission awards later)
Conversely, Derek Jeter is a model to look up to in sports, life and business. There are very few people who have risen above their team, or their profession, to capture the hearts and minds of the public and stay there.
Derek Jeter’s ability to transcend his team, to be a person most of us cheer for, is remarkable.
He is in a rare stratosphere of a person like Cal Ripken, Jr. Both represent loyalty – each having dedicated themselves to one team – rare in the modern era of money-takes-all sports.
I think a recent article by Ian O’Connor of ESPN entitled, “Jeter pitched perfect game with the umps,” said it well. O’Connor noted Jeter’s consistency on the field. He wrote, “Yes, the adults in the stands have dressed their kids in jersey No. 2 because of the five championships, the 3,461 hits and the commitment to approaching every game the way Joe DiMaggio did — as if someone out there was watching him play for the very first time.”
Jeter approached every at bat, and every game the same way. There was a calm, quiet confidence. A belief that his work and results will do the talking.
And O’Connor’s article noted how Jeter always kept his cool. He wrote: “In more than 20 years Jeter never once lost it with an umpire, a remarkable feat considering how verbal abuse of umps has long been accepted as part of the game, just like Cracker Jack, ballpark franks and the seventh-inning stretch.”
O’Connor noted that even the most esteemed players like Cal Ripken, Jr., Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn, and Wade Boggs eventually lost it with the umps at least once.
So, Derek Jeter transcended, not only the Yankees, but also the game itself. He not only played within the rules, but also was an example of how to communicate with, rather than argue with, the rule enforcers, the umps.
One point in O’Connor’s article was that when Jeter was recently called out on strikes, he approached the ump in a nonthreatening way. Jeter contained the discussion as much as possible to a private one between himself and the ump. He knew when, where and how to have conversations – something we must all learn to manage in business.
In the past week, Commissioner Bud Selig awarded Derek Jeter the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award.
Selig said, “When I was kid, as I reminisced the other day, my favorite player was Joe DiMaggio. What Joe D meant to my generation, Derek has meant to his.” The award, created in 1998, has been given to 15 recipients.
In a recent post, I wrote, “Once you take a job, honor it by doing it as well as you can.”
Derek Jeter honored his job every day. In retrospect, he transcended his team, profession and industry.