In a 1976 Roger Kahn piece on Stan Musial that I just finished reading, I was sort of floored by a comment that Musial made on the state of major league hitters at the time. Musial started out by praising Pete Rose, and then went to express embarrassment that many major-league hitters were hitting in the .200s. He said,
There’s no excuse for that. You know why it happens? They keep trying to pull everything they see, even low outside sliders. You can’t do that. Nobody can. If you’re a major league player, you ought to have pride. Learn to stroke outside pitches to the opposite field. That’s part of your job. A major league hitter is supposed to be a professional.
(Emphasis mine.) Jeter became famous for that inside-out swing of his that could put a ball into right field (or occasionally into the right field porch at Yankee stadium). It’s almost as if that set of instructions was written with Derek Jeter in mind, although how could it have been? Jeter was only two years old when Musial made the statement. Still, I think it captures perfectly what Jeter did at the plate for 20 years. It’s almost certainly a big part of why he ended up with 3,465 lifetime hits, and a lifetime batting average of .310.
I’m not a big baseball fan. However, I have been enjoying Derek Jeter’s final season immensely. Not only has the guy been a consummate professional his whole career, but he’s also been a consummate gentleman. He says he wants to own a team. I wish he’d come back as a coach. He has so much to teach young players and not just about baseball.