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A tip of the cap to Derek Jeter

It made me a little bit sad today to hear that Derek Jeter, the best American League player of the past 20 years, announced that he would retire after the upcoming season.

It also makes me a little sad that I remember when Jeter was a hot prospect. But that's another story.

Now I am sure that my first sentence started more than a few people to grumbling because Jeter is the face of the New York Yankees. And, if you're not a Yankees fan, it is almost a patriotic duty to hate the Bronx Bombers.

But let's look beyond the NY on his cap that will surely one day grace a plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. 

Jeter was a great player not because he was the BEST home run hitter in an era where performance enhancing drugs fueled monster homer figures. He probably wasn't the BEST defensive shortstop in baseball at any point of his career. Although he's a .312 career hitter, he never won a batting title.

The reason Jeter was great is because he was the best at one thing. He was great because he was excellent at EVERYTHING.

He seemed always to get the big hit when his team counted on him. Maybe not known for his range, his signature play was a heads up move in the playoffs to put himself in position between first base and home plate to relay a throw from the outfield and cut down a pivotal run at the plate. He was never too big for the fundamentals.

Jeter was a modern day Joe DiMaggio who gave his best when he wasn't 100 percent because he was afraid he'd let down some kid in the stands who was seeing him play for the first time. 

He played in the toughest place in the world to be a professional athlete. Well, at least in the countries where the local dictator doesn't execute the soccer team for losing the big game. And he seemed to love every minute of it.

I don't care which uniform he wore. Jeter is a player who earned respect for his performance and the way he carried himself. Baseball could use a lot more guys like him.