Nine Innings: Derek Jeter Deserved Tribute, But How Was Tony Gwynn Forgotten Already?

Playing an All-Star version of Nine Innings while appreciating this legend …


… without inexplicably ignoring this one …


1. Hey, I did warn you that Fox was going to turn this into the Derek Jeter Living Memorial Featuring Some Other Random Baseball Players Who Better Get Out Of The Way And Worship Derek Jeter Or Else.

Not that you expected anything different — Fox habitually feted Jeter every postseason, at least back in the days when Jeter was a constant deep into the postseason. His trademark fist-pump has shown up in more Fox promos than Cleatus the Robot.

Because of Jeter — who handled the players’ ovation with typical stoic grace and went out of his way to acknowledge everyone in the dugout when he came out of the game — it all came off well. It was as classy as he is said to be, even if Fox’s coverage made me wonder if he was going to exit by walking out to a cornfield. Hell, I was almost bummed the guy is retiring.


But then I remembered all the times he tormented the Sox, and all the times we were told he tormented the Sox when he really didn’t, and suddenly I wished John Farrell hadn’t removed him from the game, but instead had forced him over to third base 10 years after he should have made the move.

2. The whole Jeter-is-this-generation’s-face-of-the-game baloney. It’s one more reason why some of us have groaned for years about how the electronic media exaggerates his many strengths as a player and a person until the truth is stretched beyond recognition.

No, he is not the face of a generation to me. He’s the face of the New York generation, which makes him the face of network television — hell, his rookie season was the first year Fox carried Major League Baseball. Of course they love him. He’s helped make the network millions.

3. But the face of my generation? Well, I saw it again earlier yesterday, on that channel where Fox hides its Tony Gwynn tributes.

Fox Sports 1 replayed the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Tuesday afternoon. The face of my generation was a composite from that unforgettable evening — the cold-eyed stare of Pedro, Nomar’s beak, Junior’s smile, Sammy Sosa’s expanding forehead.


You can throw Jeter’s smirk in there as well if you want. Just spare me the rest of it, especially the calm-eyes nonsense.

He’s the apple of the Big Apple’s eye. The rest of us recognize so much more worthy of celebration and enjoyment. I think that played into the frustration with the Gwynn oversight, as Jon Couture expressed perfectly:

4. If Fox is going to continue with the Face of Baseball nonsense after Jeter goes — and didn’t you get the impression they’ll treat last night as the passing of the torch to Mike Trout? — might I suggest they go plural and have a few players share the crown?

Trout is awesome. We’re lucky to watch this kid to the point that I worry that he’s too good to last, that he’ll get hurt. But isn’t Andrew McCutchen just as talented and charismatic and fun? The Home Run Derby and some of the All-Star festivities also revealed Giancarlo Stanton to have a personality as good-natured as his home runs are long. I think the Red Sox should try to acquire him.

And how can you not get a kick out of Yasiel Puig? He’s the closest thing to Bo Jackson I’ve ever seen.

The All-Star ratings might just be blah. They are stagnant and mediocre. But the sport itself is in remarkable shape if this new generation of stars — faces, if you must — is any indication.

5. I’ll always wonder — and we’ll never know — how Jeter would be perceived had the Houston Astros called his bluff about attending college and drafted him No. 1 overall in 1992.


Would he be perceived as better than Barry Larkin? Craig Biggio?

Jeter’s career adjusted OPS is 116 — the same as Larkin’s, and four points higher than Biggio’s. Jeter has obviously more than earned his status as an all-time great, but that he landed in New York surrounded by that cast of teammates is one of the reasons that he, not Lou Gehrig, should be the Yankee associated with the phrase “Luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

I’m not sure the Astros’ orange would have had the same effect as the New York pinstripes on the ol’ image, you know?

6. If the insistence on comparing Mike Trout to a Yankee is going to continue, please eliminate Jeter from that conversation. Trout’s lowest adjusted OPS in two full seasons is 168 in 2012. Jeter’s best in 20 seasons was his 153 in 1999, which was the same as Nomar Garciaparra’s that season. Trout isn’t Jeter. He’s Mickey Mantle without the damage.

7. From this Boston (and Maine) perch, I’ll admit some envy regarding Jeter’s longevity, especially because he’s remained a high-caliber player for one team the entire time. Watching that ’99 game yesterday, and seeing the genuine warmth with which Nomar and Ted Williams conversed, it remains a bummer that it ended as abruptly as it did.

In some alternate universe, Nomar was feted at last night’s All-Star game after a 19-year run with the Red Sox, while Jeter’s career ended years ago and he was off broadcasting Mariners games while married to Hope Solo.

8. The only reason there’s an uproar about Adam Wainwright’s “pipe shots” to Jeter is because this game, designed as an exhibition, foolishly counts for something meaningful. I don’t blame Wainwright, who was gracious and respectful of Jeter. I blame Bud Selig and his overreaction to being embarrassed on his home field 12 years ago. This time it counted, again. But it never should.

9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:


This is Don Reynolds. He has a brother named Harold. Don Reynolds played in the Padres system a few years before Tony Gwynn, and played against him in the Pacific Coast League. If Don Reynolds, and not his brother Harold, made an inexplicably successful living as Fox’s high-profile baseball analyst, I bet he would have thought to share a warm anecdote of appreciation about Tony Gwynn last night. What’s particularly odd is that Harold Reynolds did play with Tony Gwynn, if only for a moment during spring training 1994. You’d think he’d have a good story to tell. Tony Gwynn seemed to leave everyone with a good story to tell. At least if they were paying attention.

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