Passing the Torch
It was coming and we all knew it, the most anticipated moment of the 2014 MLB All-Star Game. The last player to ever wear a single digit on his Yankees jersey was making his final All-Star appearance.
It came at the beginning of the fourth inning when White Sox short stop Alexei Ramirez relieved Derek Jeter from the game. The ovation was thunderous, appreciative, sincere, long, and well-deserved.
Jeter is clearly one of the greatest players in MLB history, let alone among New York Yankees.
Of course we know it’s all ball bearings now-a-days. But let’s take a refresher course anyway.
Jeter is the all-time Yankees leader in games played by over 250 contests (2,685), he’s the only Yankee to achieve over 3,000 hits (3,408), he’s first in stolen bases with 354, and recently tied the Iron Horse Lou Gehrig in doubles with 534. Jeter is sixth in Yankees RBI (1,286), and only 52 runs behind Babe Ruth for first in that category at 1,907.
Then there’s the eyeball test, which we first experienced in 1996 when Jeter won Rookie-of-the-Year honors and his first World Series. We knew then the kid was special, but little did we know how special. Eighteen years later, we say thank you and farewell.
Jeter went out the way he should – a double, a single, and a defensive play to his left. And an ovation that lasted about two minutes.
As usual, when one transcendent player leaves the stage, another is there to take his place. Enter the Angels’ Mike Trout.
Speaking of eyeball test, is there any other young player who is more enjoyable to watch play the game than Trout? Giancario Stanton, Yasiel Puig, Andrew McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw — all great but none is more worthy of grabbing the torch from Jeter than Trout.
Only 22, Trout became the second-youngest All-Star Game MVP and just the second player in All-Star history with a triple, a double and two-or-more RBI in the contest. He became just the third player in MLB history with four-or-more All-Star Game hits before turning 23.
Sick numbers. And to think where this kid is heading. He’s a natural ball player, blessed with talent and ability, yet humble as they come. Trout has been compared to another Yankee great – Mickey Mantle.
Seriously, the kid already has 500 hits, 300 runs, 200 walks and 80 home runs. Only six other major leaguers have done that before turning 23: Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Al Kaline, Ted Williams, Mantle, and Ken Griffey Jr.
And here’s a random question – why do two of the best players in Angels history have fish for last names (also Tim Salmon). OK, sorry, off topic.
Trout grew up idolizing Jeter. When Trout was asked what he admires most about him, he was quick to point out No. 2’s championship rings. It’s honestly the only thing that is unclear about the young phenom’s future – can he become the champion that Jeter is? Don’t bet against it.
Jeter’s time is almost through. Trout’s is just beginning. With the Rangers having a season to forget, it gives us two things to watch and follow during the second half of the season.
Those final games for Jeter in September will be worth watching, especially the final home contest on Sept. 25 vs. Baltimore, and his last game on Sept. 28 at rival Boston.
On the other coast, no matter your allegiance, no matter what team you call your favorite, Trout is one of those rare athletes that demand our respect and admiration just from watching him perform. Every time he takes the field, he captivates you with his play. You never know what’s going to happen, but it’s usually something good. We’re going to be marveled.
Just like we were by a young phenom in pinstripes in 1996.