“The Captain,” ESPN’s documentary about Derek Jeter, isn’t going to have the impact Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance” did when it premiered. We were in the middle of COVID at the time and we were starved for sports, so throughout that series it felt like Michael and his Bulls were suddenly the national pastime.
And in the middle of it all was Michael, the star of it all again. There he was smiling, making faces, still talking trash, drinking tequila from time to time, taking us back to his glory days in Chicago, lifting the curtain to show even his humanity and his sorrow and pain after the death of his father, all fueled by his anger at Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Jerry Krause destroying the Bulls.
One last time, this last dance, Michael was something to see.
But also Derek Jeter is something to see and hear in what we’ve seen of “El Capitan” so far.
People always wanted Jeter to talk. People wanted him to pull back the curtain after a run when even Yankees fans remember him saying almost nothing memorable. He now he does. And what we see, just in the first two episodes, is who he is and why Torre’s Yankees cared so much; why it will always be so important to Yankees fans like him.
Was he as good at baseball as Michael was at basketball? he wasn’t he It didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now. He played the role of Derek Jeter as well as Babe Ruth played his when he came to New York, as well as Joe DiMaggio did, as well as Mickey Mantle did in the ’50s and ’60s, when Mickey was the baseball player from All the Yankee kids. he wanted to be
It doesn’t matter where you want to rank him on the list of great Yankees after Ruth. Did they have better all-around players? They did it. But Derek Jeter was great at being Derek Jeter, and that is what mattered. Joe Torre was a star on those Yankee teams, Mo Rivera was a star. There were other guys who could hit the ball over the fence and the field and throw perfect games. But everything that happened from the time Jeter ran to shortstop in 1996 as a kid started with him. The number one story on a Yankees team that really was this close to maybe winning seven World Series in a row, and playing nine Series in a row, it was the kid from Kalamazoo who eventually became the captain.
And now he’s finally letting his guard down, about his former friend Alex Rodriguez (whose lack of sincerity about what happened with that friendship is almost impressive) and how he hasn’t forgotten what was said about him in their first arbitration meeting. One of my favorite moments, at least so far, is when he talks about Jeffrey Maier jumping the wall and gloved a ball that Jeter had hit against the Orioles that will go down in the books as his first big home run of October forever.
“Tony (Tarasco, the Orioles right fielder) should have jumped,” says Jeter, smiling directly at the camera.
And when you watch the replay again, all this time later, guess what? Jetter is right.
The guy who went to great lengths not to appear in a single headline with anything he said is now not afraid to let his guard down and let you know that he truly remembers every negative comment or snub. In that sense, he’s exactly like Michael, who went out of his way to find motivation, even if he occasionally had to invent slights.
“Loyalty one way is stupid,” says Jeter.
I don’t expect “The Captain” to get the kind of audience that “The Last Dance” did, or anything close to attention. Remarkable as Jeter’s career was, the five World Series the Yankees won with him at shortstop, he was never the figure in America, certainly the world, that Michael was. As many magical moments as Jeter provided, standing tall in the stands to catch a foul ball one night against the Red Sox and The Flip saving October once against the A’s and the home run that made him Mr. November, there was never the magic of his game that Michael had, the sense of wonder that Michael inspired.
But he’s as much of a winner as Michael was, even if Michael won one more NBA title than Jeter won the World Series. It absolutely mattered as much as any Yankee has since Ruth, who inspired as much awe as any slugger in baseball history has. He didn’t care about stats, even if he sure wanted to get paid. He was only obsessed with one thing, as much as any great Yankee was:
Win the game.
We can already see in “El Capitan” why Alex Rodriguez, regardless of his flashy stats, as talented as he was even when he wasn’t playing, was out of his league and out of his league playing alongside Jeter once he arrived in New York. York. Alex still wants to blame outside forces for what happened to their once-close relationship: “People started to drive a wedge between me and Derek.”
He still doesn’t get it. All he needs to do is go back and look at the things he and his gay agent Scott Boras told writer Scott Raab in the famous Esquire profile of Alex in the spring of 2001.
After Alex and Boras stopped criticizing me as a bad girl because I had hurt Alex’s feelings on “The Sports Reporters” — “What bothers me about Mike Lupica is that he makes me look like the biggest *#&%* & in the world and then take a guy like Jeter and put him up there,” they both walk over to Jeter.
“Jeter has been blessed with great talent around him. He has never had to lead. He can just go out and play and have fun. And he hits second, that’s totally different from third and fourth in the lineup. If you go to New York, you want to stop Bernie and O’Neill. You never say, don’t let Derek beat you. He is never your concern.
Nearly 20 years later, Rodriguez still seems surprised that Jeter isn’t about to let go of a comment like that. So say it again, like Jeter does:
“Loyalty one way is stupid.”
Jeter was loyal to himself, to the Yankees, to the city, to the stage. His Yankees were Jordan’s Bulls, at the same time in American sports. Jeter was not the kind of star that Jordan was. But he was the star of the Yankees and the star of New York. As we watch this documentary and relive those days, it’s still more than enough.
Perhaps my favorite part of Boras’ goofiness in the Esquire article, other than when he made things up about my career, is when he says this:
“What bothers me the most is that this guy (me) doesn’t understand baseball. He doesn’t understand why he won Seattle last year.”
He’s talking about the 2000 season, when the Mariners went 91-71.
“This year he (me) will find out why they won.”
And, boy, did I ever.
Alex went to Texas and the Mariners managed to win 116 games without him.
The Astros are the boogeyman for the Yankees, aren’t they?
By the way?
If the Astros needed to steal signs to beat the Yankees in 2017 and 2019, how does everyone explain what’s happened since then?
Maybe this is the year the Yankees, given the chance, finally get the Astros in the postseason.
Or maybe the Yankees can’t get past the Astros the way the ’90s Knicks couldn’t get past Michael.
It’s really amazing to hear all these people clutching Saudi blood money with both hands in golf trying to turn everything into a sacrament.
While everyone was obsessing over Rory on the Old Course, Cameron Smith shot 64 on the final day to win and Sleepy Hollow kid Cameron Young shot 65 to finish second as they both passed Rory at the finish.
Sometimes the penultimate group in a major championship becomes the last group.
I love the Home Run Derby, I do it, it’s so much fun.
But maybe they should think about shortening it by one round.
However, I agree with my friend Barry Stanton that having pitchers and catchers miked at the All-Star Game the other night was a great move on Fox’s part.
Ask yourself this question about Deshaun Watson, because we all need to keep asking it until he gets the suspension his behavior deserves:
Are all those women lying?
Did they all just fall out of the sky to tell the same story about Watson dropping his towel?
For four nights in October, David Ortiz did as much to change Yankees history as anyone did in a single October.
On the subject of that Steve Bannon mutt, I’ll use a line I heard once, I can’t remember from whom:
To close. To the. Up.
Who doesn’t now have black helmets in the National Football League?
You can give next year’s Jimmy V award at the ESPYs, the one that Dick Vitale won so handsomely the other night, to Chris Evert right now, as far as I’m concerned.
If the Yankees trade for Juan Soto and keep Aaron Judge, what will the payroll be in a few years, three and a half million?
It’s getting to the point where I’ll believe Jake deGrom is pitching for the Mets when he’s pitching for the Mets.
I think the Blue Jays just scored four more runs against the Red Sox.