As Derek Jeter prepares to play his last few games in Yankee pinstripes, fans of the Bronx Bombers and just New York sports fans in general are not just losing one of the greatest Yankees ever. They’re also losing the face of New York City sports as we know it. Losing Jeter is bad enough, but not having a clear cut candidate to take up where he leaves off makes it a lot worse.
Think about it. Who’s worthy enough for Jeter to pass the torch to? Certainly, no one wearing Yankee pinstripes.
We’ll have to take a look at the Big Apple’s other major sports franchises to find anyone that has a resume even close. But, even that won’t be easy.
It’s really too bad for the world’s largest city. Jeter, who has been the Yankees captain since 2003, is retiring in what has to be one of the worst eras ever for pro sports in New York.
If only, he could have played and retired in the early 1970’s when Joe Namath was still fresh off leading the Jets to an upset win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Even if there was no Namath in that era, there were Knick greats Willis Reed and Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier. There was also Mets pitcher, Tom Seaver. All of whom won at least one championship in that era and have been inducted into the Hall of Fame of their respective sport.
How about the 80’s where the likes of Lawrence Taylor, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry all won titles. But at the time, Taylor, was the only one that had everything in order on and off the field. Phil Simms, was the quarterback of both the 1987 and 1991 Super Bowl champions, but Simms wasn’t the personality ‘LT’ was. Taylor, was unquestionably the face of NYC sports at that time.
After Taylor and the Giants won Super Bowl XXV, the torch was passed to Patrick Ewing, but he and the Knicks could only make one NBA Finals appearance. Losing to the Houston Rockets in 1994. Because the Knicks could never seem to win that elusive title, Ewing was never fully embraced by the city the way others had been.
Besides, maybe Mark Messier, who led the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup Title, there has been no one else close to being as beloved by the city as Jeter.
The Yankee shortstop who came on the New York scene in 1995, has become known as ‘Mr. November’ and ‘Mr Clutch’ because of his knack for coming through in the most dramatic of situations. He definitely has a flair for the dramatic. How fitting he go out with a bang the way he did last night. His single to right field plated the winning run to give the Yankees a 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles. That was after nearly hitting a homerun in the first inning. He settled for a double and a run scored. Needless to say, the city of New York will miss that flair for the dramatic. But, Jeter has been so much more than that. He’s been the ultimate professional, who’s respected by everyone. You don’t find many Derek Jeter’s anymore. That’s why it will be so hard to fill his shoes.
So, who’s up for the task?
There are a couple of names that come to mind pretty quickly. One, being Carmelo Anthony. Down the road, Melo could be that guy. He’s probably the most popular sports figure in the city right now. But, he hasn’t been a Knick long enough, and they haven’t sniffed an NBA title as of yet. A title or two could change that. Then again, if the Knicks do win that elusive title, would Phil Jackson receive more credit than Melo? Hmm.
There is also David Wright. Third baseman for the Mets. If Wright had stayed healthy over the years, he could have made a case. However, the Mets have been even farther away from the World Series than the Knicks have been from the NBA Finals. So, no go there. There is no one that really comes to mind that wears a Jets, Nets, Islanders, or Rangers uniform. That leaves the GIants, and there is only one worthy Giant……. Eli Manning.
Eli, is not a no-brainer, but he’s the closest thing the city has. Manning, has the titles. He has two of them. Both over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. He and the Giants have just been so inconsistent over the years. Some of that falls on Manning. Some of it doesn’t.
Those inconsistencies are what makes it look very odd that Peyton’s little brother could be the new King of the New York sports scene. Eli, isn’t even looked at as being the best QB in his family. That’s the perception across country and around the NFL. Peyton, has had the better career stat wise, but so far Eli has one more ring and has had more success against Tom Brady when it’s counted the most.
Sounds a little like Jeter. He didn’t always have the best stats. He didn’t always have a 300 batting average. He did have well over 3,000 hits though. He wasn’t ever the most powerful of hitters, but he’s hit the ball out of the ballpark to win games in key situations, including World Series play. He didn’t win a Gold Glove every year, but he found a way to make sparkling plays from the shortstop position on the field. Who will ever forget his flip throw to get Jeremy Giambi at the plate as he ran across the other side of the diamond in the 2001 playoffs?
Of course, Manning has had a few magic moments of his own. A little David Tyree anyone?
The play Eli made just to get the pass off sometimes gets lost in the shuffle because of how difficult a catch it was for a guy we had virtually never heard of. Two amazing plays by two amazing players of their sport, at the most opportune of times. Manning, probably doesn’t have the star quality or the charisma Jeter has, but he too has a flair for the dramatic. It’s also very unlikely Manning will ever equal Jeter’s 5 championship rings. But, what he’s already accomplished and the fact he’s done it all as New York Giant makes him worthy to be the face of New York sports as we know it.