August 21, 2012
If a shortstop can do it, Derek Jeter has done it.
Well, with one exception. He never has received the honor that was bestowed on his teammate Alex Rodriguez back in 2003, when Rodriguez was with the last-place Rangers.
That's the same honor that went to Jimmy Rollins in 2007, Miguel Tejada in '02, Barry Larkin in 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. in '83 and Robin Yount in '82.
Jeter has never been named the Most Valuable Player of his league.
You'd figure it's too late in his career for it to happen now, but you might be wrong. If I had a ballot in front of me today, with both the Tigers and the Angels outside the playoffs, I would vote for Jeter. He's the best player on the American League's winningest team.
Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera have been the most productive players in the AL, no question about that. But I can't bring myself to vote for a guy who doesn't do something to get his team into the playoffs, not in an era when one-third of the teams go to the postseason.
The Rangers' Josh Hamilton has piled up stats in a streaky fashion, but his value largely stops when anyone else is in the batter's box. The beauty of Jeter is what he gives you just by showing up. He and Curtis Granderson carry DNA that makes everyone around them better, and that has been a key to the Yankees thriving despite a run of adversity that began before they left spring training.
Freddy Garcia, the sweaty one who started against the White Sox in Monday night's series opener, was a sympathetic figure in spring training. He seemed to be there more as a mentor to the just-arrived Michael Pineda than someone to lean on for important innings.
Things seldom go according to plan in baseball, however. A look around the Yankees' clubhouse proves that.
CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez all were in the visiting clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field, but the most action they'll get this weekend will be Sabathia's bullpen session Tuesday, which will determine if he's activated Friday in Cleveland. Rodriguez (left hand) and Pettitte (left ankle) are progressing in their recoveries from broken bones but are still a long way from returning.
It's good to have something to count on.
Granderson, the Illinois-Chicago grad in his third season with the Yankees, is a known quantity. He could be an MVP candidate himself if he was hitting 40 points higher than the .241 average he carried with him on his return to his hometown. But the guy who has made the Yankees go all season is their leadoff hitter.
"He's been real important,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's been a presence at the top of the lineup. I don't know where we'd be without him at leadoff. He's so consistent. (We've) gotten a big contribution from him.''
It didn't take long for the White Sox to see for themselves. He timed Gavin Floyd's first pitch just right, hitting a 93-mph fastball into right field for a single. He advanced around the bases like a tourist in Times Square, seeing the sights before scoring on Mark Teixeira's liner into center. His fourth hit of the night was No. 3,255 in Jeter's career and tied him with Eddie Murray for 11th place on the all-time list.
Jeter entered the game hitting .321 with 10 home runs, 40 RBIs and 74 runs scored. Those don't look like MVP numbers. But the numbers that count most are the ones in the standings.
Things have somehow run smoothly around Jeter despite a makeshift lineup that often has included guys like Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Chris Stewart and newcomers Ichiro Suzuki and Casey McGehee (not to mention Dewayne Wise, released in late July).
Jeter has played 152 postseason games with the Yankees, including 38 in the World Series. He has been in the top 10 in MVP voting seven times, with only one near-miss. Justin Morneau nipped him in 2006, getting 15 first-place votes to Jeter's 12.
What can I say? That Midwest bias is a killer, isn't it?
Cabrera will be an easy choice this year, if the Tigers ever get it together. You can say the same thing about Trout and the Angels. But let's say they don't.
Well, you could give Jeter the benefit of the doubt. He certainly has earned it.
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