Perfection is such a hard thing to achieve in sports.
Whether we’re talking about a team or an individual, it’s almost impossible.
Even so, it’s mostly about a single season, a one-time event or one moment in time like a perfect game in baseball.
Then there are perfect postseasons that make you recognize greatness. There’s Michael Jordan’s 6-0 record in the NBA Finals and winning all six MVPs. There’s also Joe Montana’s 4-0 mark in the Super Bowl. In the process, he won three MVPs and threw 11 touchdowns and no picks.
Still, few, if any, have been able to pull off a perfect career.
Enter Derek Jeter.
He did it. Argue if you want. Look for a blemish if you want.
The slate is clean, perfect.
It’s the reason that in a few years when Jeter is eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame, he should be the first unanimous player ever voted in by the baseball writers.
It would be an amazing accomplishment when you realize all the greats who came before him and never got that honor.
But if there was a player worthy, it’s Jeter. All day, all night.
Jeter’s perfect career is an amazing feat when you think he did it as the shortstop for the New York Yankees’, the winningest sports franchise in this country hands down.
And not for a few years, but 20 seasons.
Jeter – who had his No. 2 retired in a ceremony on Sunday at Yankee Stadium – didn’t just excel individually. He also won championships on the biggest stage in front of the brightest lights where expectations were always there.
Many have passed through in the world of sports and wilted, not lived up to the hype, faltered in big spots and ultimately just didnt get the job done.
“When you’re in it, you don’t really think about it too much because you just come and do your job,” Jeter said to the media at Yankee Stadium about his career. “But after I’ve retired, I realize how special it was.”
Jeter finished his career with 3,465 hits, the sixth-most in MLB history. He is only Yankee to record 3,000 hits in pinstripes. Jeter finished his career with a .310 batting average.
We saw a skinny kid start a career with high hopes, blossom into a full-blown star and retire a living legend all before their eyes.
Along the way, we also saw Jeter win. And win. And win. And win. And win. Yes, Jeter won in 1996, his first season as the Yankees’ every day shortstop, the first of five World Series titles.
Along the way, he made signature plays defensively. The Flip, when Jeter took a relay throw and tossed it to catcher Joe Girardi to nail the Oakland A’s Jeremy Giambi at the plate in Game 3 of the AL Division Series.
He also played the role of hero with the bat. Jeter was even dubbed Mr. November when he hit a extra-inning home run to win a World Series game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 at the stroke of midnight as the Oct. 31st game went into the next day.
In 2004, there was The Dive. Jeter dove into the stands for a foul ball. He went in head first and came out bloody. And yes, he made the catch for the out.
Jeter’s 3,000th hit was a classic, too. He went 5-for-5 on that day in 2011. The magical hit a home run off Tampa Bay’s David Price. It allowed Jeter to reach a plateau no Yankee had before.
Then came his final game at Yankee Stadium in 2014. It was better than a scripted Hollywood production.
In his final at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, in a 5-5 tie against the Baltimore Orioles, Jeter, with a runner on second, delivered an opposite field, RBI game-winning walk-off single.
It brought the house down in Da Bronx.
And did we mention, Jeter never got in any trouble, never embarrassed the franchise, the city or the fans.
“He has played on the brightest stage in baseball for basically two decades and probably has represented the game as well as almost anyone that’s ever played the game in the history of the game,” Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus said at time of Jeter’s retirement.
For that, Jeter deserves the honor of being an unanimous Hall of Famer.