Saturday, December 31, 2011

Derek Jeter's Ups and Downs in 2011

It's a pretty common for a lot of men to wish they were Derek Jeter— probably a few women too.  Who wouldn't want to be the starting shortstop of the New York Yankees?  Rich, handsome, athletic and the idol of thousands of fans. There wasn't too much not to like about the basically untarnished image of the Yankees Captain until 2011 rolled around.

There was a lot of good, bad and great things for Jeter in 2011.

The past year was probably the most turbulent and public twelve months in both Jeter's personal and baseball life.  The virtuous Jeter started showing a few chinks in his armor.

Coming off the Yankees losing to the Texas Rangers in the 2010 ALCS, Jeter ushered in 2011 after contentious contract negotiations with the Yankees— the only pro team he has ever played for.

The leaking of the private negotiations led to a public feud with GM Brian Cashman and Hal and Hank Steinbrenner and left a bitter taste in Jeter's mouth.  A three-year, $51 million deal was deemed an overpayment by many for the 36-year old player on his last legs.

At a press conference, Jeter bared his fangs but tempered his anger at how the talks were handled by management. 

Not a good way to start the new year even with 51 million reasons to be happy.

Even the good people next door started to sour on Jeets.

There was the completion of his $7.7 million mansion in St. Petersburg, Florida which had his neighbors crying foul.

"St. Jetersburg," as it became known was being called a monstrosity with nearby residents complaining that it would become a bigger attraction than Disney World and there would fans and photographers cruising up and down their palmetto-lined streets.

Even Hal Steinbrenner used the eight bathroom home to backhandedly disparage his player during contract talks by saying some people "are too busy building mansions."

Jeter signed the contract and did what he does best— work hard.  He even headed down to training camp a few weeks early to work with hitting coach Kevin Long.

The extra practice did nothing for Jeter and, by his 37th birthday in June, he was lugging around a sub-par .260 average with 2 home-run offense while he stoically pursued his 3,000 career hit.

Dropped from the lead-off spot down to No. 2 and then near the bottom of the order, fans started to count the days until his benching more than how many games until he got number 3,000.

Pulling Jeter from the lineup came from an unexpected source.  An injury to Jeter's calf put him on the 15-day DL for the first time since 2003— only six hits from the milestone 3,000.

Eduardo Nunez filled in capably for Jeter at the plate but was pretty much a disaster in the field and, still,some fans started to think he was Jeter's heir apparent.

Jeter came back from the sprained calf with a vengeance and— on July 9 against the Tampa Bay Rays— became only the 28th player in major league history to get his 3,000th career hit.

He did it like only Jeter and Hollywood could script it with a dramatic home run before going 5-for-5 on a glorious summer day in front of his family with girlfriend Minka Kelly sitting in a luxury box in Yankee Stadium.

But even after "The Natural" moment there was controversy to follow.

Christian Lopez, the man who caught the valuable ball, was awarded box seats and autographed memorabilia from the Yankees team for the prized possession.  Some people thought Lopez got screwed but he insisted he was more than happy to give the ball back to his favorite player.

Things got better again.

After all the hub-bub about the 3K ball, the batting slump subsided and Jeter was named the "Most Popular Male Athlete" in a Harris poll.

The glory was once again short-lived after the 11-time All-Star infuriated baseball fans when he snubbed the All-Star game to rest his calf in Florida.  Many thought he didn't even deserve to make the team anyway.

The came fall, and things started to turn for the worse.

Rumors that Jeter's longtime squeeze Kelly started circulating that the sexy actress was having an affair with one of her co-stars on the set of the television series "Charlie's Angels."  Losing the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers in five games had to hurt just as bad.

In November, the rumors of a breakup with Kelly became reality then followed by gossip pages filled with stories of Jeter's one-night stands and the love-em-and-leave-em bachelor giving his conquests autographed baseballs and a limo ride home after a night of passion.

 After all, anything Jeter was valuable.

They even auctioned off the foul ball he hit right before his historic 3,000th hit.  The FOUL ball!

Jeter is valuable in charitable ways too.  Last month, a Long Island  judge, who knew Derek's father Charles, asked him a favor to help brighten a traumatized young boy's— he had been stabbed— life by sending him some signed gear.

Jeter obliged and even offered the youngster a box seat for an upcoming Yankees game.  A real Pride of the Yankees moment.

Throughout 2011, we saw many new dimensions to the extremely private Derek Jeter.

The once enigmatic figure was at times vulnerable, angry, broken-hearted, limping, caring and kinky— sometimes in swift succession and— through the ups-and-downs— for all the world to see.

From being called a has-been to achieving the milestone of his career or planning a life together with someone to having the breakup played out in public— it was quite a year for the Yankee.

But, it sounds like Jeter's year is going to end on a high note.

If you didn't already see it splashed across the gossip pages, Jeter was spotted rekindling his romance with Kelly in —where else— Paris.

His one-nighters get a swag bag.  Kelly gets the City of Lights.

No matter what, it's still good to be Derek Jeter.

1 comment:

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