El Capitan is Spanish for “The Captain.” That is the nickname given to Derek Sanderson Jeter, shortstop of the New York Yankees. He was drafted out of high school in 1992. In 1995, he would make his major league debut for the Yankees. His final appearance in “Yankee pinstripes” would be in 2014. From 2003-2014 he was named the captain of the team. During those twelve years, the team record was 1136 -808. If you do the math real quick, that’s a 58% winning rate. He led them to nine of twelve postseason appearances. They reached the World Series twice, winning once. He is the Yankees’ all-time career leader in hits (3.465), doubles (544), games played (2,747), stolen bases (358), times on base (4,716), plate appearances (12,602), and at bats (11,195). He was a nine time major league All-Star, five time Gold Glove Award winner, five time Silver Slugger Award winner, and two time American League Hank Aaron Award winner as the captain. The Silver Slugger Awards is given to the best offensive player at each position as determined by the coaches and managers based on batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. They can’t vote for players on their own team. The Hank Aaron Award is given to the best hitter in the American and National league as voted on by the fans, taking into account hits, home runs, and runs batted in (RBI).
With all those accolades, it would be easy to see why he is the captain, right? Some would beg to differ. Back in 2001 when Alex Rodriquez was with the Texas Rangers, he challenged Jeter’s leadership. He said, “Jeter’s been blessed with great talent around him. He’s never had to lead. He can just go and play and have fun. And he hits second—that’s totally different than third and fourth in a lineup. You go into New York, you wanna stop Bernie and O’Neill. You never say, ‘Don’t let Derek beat you’. He’s never your concern.” Rodriquez would later join the Yankees in 2004 and instead of playing shortstop, Jeter made him move over to third base. For the next 10 years, they had a strictly business relationship. It was never any resemblance to a friendship playing side by side for 162 games a year. In addition, some point out that the Yankees won four World Series in six seasons from 1996 – 2001, before Jeter was captain. To add insult to injury, the hated rivals, Boston Red Sox, won two championships during the years Jeter was captain. Could he still be considered the captain of the Yankees?
Yes, for being one of the greatest Yankees to play the game. He spent his entire life with the Yankees and he is all time leader in just about every category there is, as already enumerated. During the big steroid era, he was never suspected of being a user. Several of his teammates tested positive for using. His body never changed, nor was his recovery from injuries quicker from using steroids. His personal life was on full display in a major market like New York, but he was never involved in any scandal. Jeter didn’t seem to get even a parking ticket in the city. In this day and age of modern athletes, that is completely unheard of. He has appeared twice on Saturday Night Live. Also, he is a member of the Jordan Brand. Yes, he was the first in baseball to have one of the greatest captains of all time in Jordan, endorse him. That in itself should be the ultimate seal and stamp of approval. On Sunday, May 14, there was a pop up store next to Yankee stadium selling Jeter “Air Jordan” 1 High sneakers along with the rare navy suede Air Jordan 11 Premium. It prompted Jordan to write this personal letter to him:
A legacy is built by more than what is seen. It is not given, it is earned. Beyond your 20 years in the Majors and an endless list of accolades, it was your love and respect for the game that set you apart.
Your pursuit of greatness on and off the field has set the standard for others to follow. Much RE2PECT on cementing your legacy and having your No. 2 jersey retired.
The Yankees retired Jeter’s No. 2 jersey that Sunday, May 14. They also unveiled a plaque that will go in Monument Park at the stadium. The Yankees presented him with various gifts to mark the occasion. He received a replica of the Monument Park plaque and retired number, as well as 14-karat white gold career milestone ring. There is only one more tribute left for him, and that will be at Cooperstown.
Congratulations El Capitan.