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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Derek Jeter All-Star Break

They shoved Derek Jeter’s final All-Star appearance so far down our throats that it induced nausea. Or NAU2EA.

We were complicit, at least those among us who clicked or punched his name a composite 3,928,422 times out of desire or obligation to see the perennially underexposed shortstop at last get a little prime-time promotion. None of those All-Star votes came from yours truly. I channeled the average unreconstructed Deep South voter circa 1876 and declared, “As God is my witness, I shall never cast a ballot for a godforsaken Yankee.” If I were the type to plaster bumper stickers on the rear of my car, mine would read, “Don’t Blame Me. I Voted For Alexei Ramirez.”

But there he was, elected and, naturally, canonized. The night they announced who would play in the Midsummer Classic, it was reported as a done deal that Target Field would be the site of the “Derek Jeter All-Star Game”. That wasn’t speculation. It was a promise or perhaps a threat sure to be made good on. Those who frame these things colluded on an angle and that was that. The other 67 All-Stars — by definition the very best the sport has to offer — were playing for second place.

America, if you wanted Jeter, you got him. Perhaps in far-away precincts this was considered a rare treat. Around here, not so much. We who persevere in the New York Metropolitan Area have experienced no Jeter-coverage shortage since 1996. Elsewhere you could have called it the Derek Jeter All-Star Game. Here we referred to it as Tuesday.

The concept of the farewell All-Star Game is at once both a grand tradition and a recent phenomenon. Now and then through the years, a living legend who was no longer playing like one would be granted an invite to one more soirée, providing a chance for a grateful nation to stand, applaud and thank that player for long and superlative service to its pastime. Our own Willie Mays was favored with such a slot in 1973. It was a nice gesture.

In 2001, however, it became a thing. Cal Ripken didn’t need to be ushered by fiat onto the American League roster. The fans voted him the junior circuit’s starting third baseman. Fair enough, it’s the fans’ game. He was batting .240 and wasn’t anywhere near the player he had been, but that wasn’t the point. The point was he was Cal Ripken.

The point was hammered home like a son of a gun that July. Alex Rodriguez, then generally considered that nice young man from Texas, graciously switched positions with Ripken so Cal could play shortstop once more. The old Oriole more than earned his keep with a home run in the American League’s 4-1 win over Bobby Valentine’s National League squad.

In the age of Selig and Fox, however, it wasn’t enough to sit back and enjoy Ripken’s final moment in the nocturnal sun. The network kept pounding away at the significance of St. Ripken and the commissioner stopped the game midway through to give him (and unjustly parenthetical Tony Gwynn) a special award, not to be confused with the MVP trophy and car he was given at the end of the night. Not long after, I distinctly recall Joe Morgan, then of ESPN, conflating Ripken’s third-inning solo job off Chan Ho Park with Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning Shot Heard ’Round The World from 50 years earlier as two very similar spine-tingling baseball moments.

Sure. They were both home runs and images existed of each. Same thing, right?

I liked and admired Cal Ripken, but I remember being dismayed that MLB couldn’t leave well enough alone, that we the fans couldn’t be trusted to make the most out of a legend stepping out of the spotlight. Through no fault of Ripken’s, the whole affair wasn’t classy. It was excessive. It was shoehorning Super Bowl-style hype into a sweet summertime tradition.

Take that sense, multiply it by a hundred and you got Mariano Rivera’s All-Star swan song from 2013. Then take that, set your calculator app on “tilt,” and you got the Jeterama of 2014. The best that can be said about the latest edition of the practically mandatory lovefest — aside from it having the decency to take place somewhere other than Citi Field — was that Jeter played well, reminding the involuntarily Jeterated viewer of why he certainly rated a bit of fuss if not necessarily an enormous glob of it. “Playing well” boiled down to a diving stop that didn’t result in an out, along with two hits — only one of which wasn’t shrouded in suspicion after Adam Wainwright admitted to grooving him a pitch, à la Denny McLain to a nearly done Mickey Mantle late in 1968, but then kind of, sort of recanted. For a reduced-range 40-year-old batting a power-free .272, it was a perfectly fine performance…even cap-tipworthy.

But that couldn’t be left be. Fox’s voices couldn’t shut up about Derek Jeter for nine innings, including the several conducted after he exited to one more hearty ovation. The biggest upset of the night had nothing to do with the A.L.’s 5-3 victory. It was Mike Trout capturing the MVP. I was sure it would go either to Derek Jeter for what he did on the field or Derek Jeter for sitting on the bench and deigning to interact with his teammates — for which Fox praised him lavishly.

Surely this All-Star Game was somebody else’s final All-Star Game, too. Lots of somebodies. We have no idea whether Daniel Murphy (0-for-1 plus a harmless flip over the first baseman’s head) will ever qualify for another one of these affairs. You go back to the Ripkmarole of 2001 and you note all kinds of names that never saw another Starry, Starry night. Rick Reed, half of the Mets’ contingent 13 years ago in Seattle, never made it back. Neither did ex-Met Mike Hampton or future Mets Cliff Floyd, Roberto Alomar, Tony Clark, Mike Stanton and Ripken victim Park. (Hey, we sure were skilled at collecting guys who stopped being All-Stars, huh?)

Many of those players probably exulted in being part of Ripken’s night, just as the never-again All-Stars of this year will someday say, yes, as a matter of fact they were present that time in Minneapolis when Fox mainlined Derek Jeter and the home audience overdosed early and often. Nevertheless, it’s not supposed to be any one player’s game unless that player makes it his own. Baseball isn’t well served when it pours on the adulation for us. Show some “RE2PECT” for the process. We’ll figure it out without a script.

Then again, I’ll gladly accept being aggressively spoonfed one Yankee Legend for one mostly meaningless exhibition game in July in exchange for being completely spared the lot of them come October. Nothing made me appreciate Mariano Rivera more last season than not being commanded to appreciate him — and his team — in yet another postseason.

36 comments to The Derek Jeter All-Star Break

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Well said!

    One nice thing I got from last night, as Jeter was being ushered off the field, was I could sense millions of Yankee fans suddenly feeling their team’s mortality.

    As for the Wainwright fiasco, blame Selig. Nobody cares if it’s an exhibition.

  • Lou from Georgia

    I did laugh at the ‘RE2PECT’ commercial as three Met faces were pixelated to protect their identities. Mr. Met too. I’ve never understood the love for Jeter both on and off the field, but then again I question the popularity of a lot of things. At least we’re only about 70 games from the final lovefest for a good long while. Will Boston fans stoop to tipping their caps to him the final weekend series? If they do then I don’t know what is going on with kids these days.

  • Jon

    +a million.
    Mail a copy of ths to the next commissioner.

  • Ed Rising

    Last night was totally over the top. I mean they take him out in the 4th inning? What? All these people vote him into the game – and they take him out in the 4th inning? The fans ovation for him was great and totally warranted. But the Fox voices and cameras that made us witness Derek being hugged and congratulated by his entire team – was way too much! The game is too long already – there’s a place to cut time. I thought it would never end. The only thing that I enjoyed about it is thinking some pleyers did this begrudgingly. Jeter is a great player and deserves a great send off – but we have another half of the season to go – Derek is not going anywhere yet.

    • Seth

      I’ve never seen an all-star (in the modern era) that played the whole 9 innings. It just isn’t done — most players only get 3 innings or so (and pitchers only 1 or 2). Otherwise a lot of the squad wouldn’t get a chance to play.

    • Ken K. in NJ

      …All these people vote him into the game – and they take him out in the 4th inning?

      Well, by my calculation that’s 3 more innings than a certain Mets Batting Champion played in a game that actually did count, and a game which 29,000 people came to the ballpark for really no other reason than to see him play.

  • Dennis

    It’s actually not a “meaningless” exhibition game…..home field advantage in the World series rides on it. I’m a little ticked off the NL lost…..when the Mets make their second half run, sneak in as a wild card, storm through he NL playoffs and make it to the WS, they’ll be opening up in a AL park.

  • This morning I think all of America got a ride home in a hired car with a gift basket.

    • Chuck

      Props, you beat me to that one. We will soon see a clip of a young lady in a limo with a gift basket tipping her cap.

  • Dave

    Wow, great diving play on a ball hit, far as I could tell, about 3 feet to his left. And then not getting the runner out. Let’s put that play up there with Mays’ catch in the 54 Series and both of Agee’s in 69. That and all but being told what pitch was coming a la Crash Davis surely rank among The Greatest Moments In All-Star Game History and will be shown in highlight reels the rest of the season.

    But yes, the silver lining to all of this preening narcissism and idol worship is that the Yankees have painted themselves into a payroll corner that practically makes the Phillies look like the A’s. They can all be reserving tee times at the golf course of their choice on September 29 right alongside our guys, difference being that we didn’t spend $300M on Beltran, Ellsbury and McCann alone.

    And was it just me, or did these white-in-front caps last night momentarily fool people into thinking there were guys wearing Expos uniforms?

  • Guy Kipp

    This has nothing to do with Jeter, but everything to do with FOX’s coverage and with the game’s disgrace of a commissioner. Ken Rosenthal spent five minutes interviewing Bud Selig on camera last night with Hank Aaron awkwardly and silently sitting next to him, in the shot the entire time. And Rosenthal never even acknowledged the presence of the sport’s greatest legitimate career home run hitter. Not until after Rosenthal threw it back to the booth did Joe Buck give us a parenthetical mention that, oh yeah, that was Hank Aaron in the suite with Selig.

  • kd bart

    Meanwhile, perennial All Stars and Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Ralph Kiner, who both past away this year, were never mentioned on the Fox telecast.

  • argman

    I am so glad that I didn’t watch that thing last night. I turned it on to see Cabrera cross home plate in the first inning, then saw Wainwright strike out the next hitter. And changed the channel. Nothing to watch on any other channels, BTW, but not as bad as Jetervision.

  • March'62

    After last year’s Riverafest, I knew enough to stay away from Jetervision last night. Shocked is not the word Greg, that they didn’t give Jeter MVP. He at least had a couple of hits, tainted though they most likely are. What they did with Rivera last year was a joke. A scoreless 8th inning – Hey! Give that man a new car!

    I just hope that next year’s NL manager, Terry Collins, doesn’t overuse Harvey, Wheeler, and Mejia in the game. We’re going to need them again down the stretch.

  • Tim H

    In non-Jeter news:

    I could have sworn I heard Joe Buck say that the replay rule “…has been a positive for Major League Baseball.”

    I mean, c’mon.

    • Chuck

      I never thought much of Jack Buck as a baseball broadcaster, but his son is an embarrassment to him and to (small b) baseball.

  • APV

    Ok, enough about Jeter. Here’s my beef from last night:

    Fernando Rodney strikes out Murph to end the 8th inning and reacts by doing his arrow thing? Really dude? Would have been hilarious if Perkins gave up three in the 9th and the NL won. Murph, remember that reaction and take it with you to Safeco Field next week when the Mets play the Mariners. Don’t let that Usain Bolt wannabe punk you like that.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Jeter actually made me smile a bit when Buck asked him if he was going to miss this, and Jeter said, “You mean the interviews??” Very un Jeter-like. Nobody blinked. And I’m glad after about the 23rd shot of the Jeter Family they finally mentioned who the Jeter Baby was. I thought, maybe, well, you know..

    Especially since Our Jeter (aka David Wright) apparently got married this winter, unbeknownst to me until it was mentioned at least three times over the weekend, as in, where David Wright will be during the All Star Break.

    BTW, let’s not forget that Duke Snider was once one of those Token All Stars, on two counts. As the lone Met, and as an Old Guy. Not much fanfare that I recall, other than in my house.

  • mikeL

    yea i skipped all but a few minutes of the game. what i always found cool about baseball was the idea that living legends could cooexist with the mortals and just go about the business of playing ball. ditto for the breaking of records. acknowledge them quickly them return to the game. the significance of the player, the feat, the moment left to the viewer and to the vagaries of oral history. as such the moment is owned by all and by no ONE.

    i think that came to an end when ripken broke gherig’s record
    and the game stopped and ripken ate it all up and viewers were showed that the game itself didn’t really matter, it was all about celebrity/fame…and publicity for the commissioner, the advertisers and the makers of official keepsakes…and the ONE official narrative

    the current slew of victory lap retirement-ops are beyond tiresome. are uber-achievers like jeter and rivera so insecure in their respective legacies that they can’t simply play their last season (y’know, the game comes first), and maybe announce their plans around the final month? or heaven forbid, after the world series is over?

    for one the all star game would certainly be more watchable…

    mets in six!

  • oldbat

    If you had any sense of baseball history you would play the season and save the cheers and tears for your last game. These endless presentations of grotesque farewell gifts are actually pretty funny. Fortunately he can bury them in the attic of that hideous house he is building. Granted I am a Mets fan but I do follow the “other” team simply because thye get twice as much print as mine. Derek Jeter is one of the most boring players in baseball. I am sure he is a nice young man but if you asked the perennial sports question of who would you like the have dinner with I would take Ted Williams, Pete Rose and casey Stengel.

  • Chuck

    Did anyone else notice that Jeter’s mother had a Lifestile Lift®?

  • nestornajwa

    Next July…
    And listen to this crowd roar for Ivan Nova!! So much has been written about the fact that this could be Ivan’s last Midsummer Classic in pinstripes. Who can forget that magical night in May, 2013 when Nova struck out five en route to a 6-4 Yankee win?

  • Lenny65

    You know what I hate? I hate it when a sportscaster tries to explain to me that even though I might hate the team he plays for, I “have to admit” that it’s been a “real pleasure watching such a classy athlete perform for all these years” and etc. I will admit no such thing, I never dervied a millisecond of joy from watching “Jeets” (worst nickname ever) play baseball. In fact old #2 was at the epicenter of the single most depressing moment of my Mets fan life thus I’m quite pleased to see him ride off into retirement. Typical Yankee, always hogging all the glory for themselves.

    In fact I propose a Colon for Jeter trade. Then we can stick Jeets on the bench and let him wind the ol’ career down caddying for Tejada. Maybe we could allow him to throw an inning or two in a huge blowout loss or one of those 19 inning games we play a few times a year. Then DFA him in the third week of September. That’ll learn those pinstripers!!!

    • Chuck

      If Jeter spent his whole career with the Astros he would not have collected as many hits as Craig Biggio. Had he played his whole career with the Royals he would have fallen short of George Brett’s hit total. He was the beneficiary of the Steinbrenners’ bottomless checkbook.

  • I find this post offensive. How can you overdo a celebration of a man who walked on the moon, cured cancer, brought peace to the Middle East, and was (I assume from the media coverage) the first player to ever get 3,000 hits!?!

    You should be ashamed of yourself!

  • Oh did I ever need to read this Greg and all these excellent comments too.

    I didn’t watch the All Star Game, but I listened to the whole of it and from what I read above ESPN radio was as bad as Fox’s television coverage. They never stopped with Jeter. After every half inning they came back with a clip of his 1st inning double.

    In the 4th inning they interviewed him while the action was taking place. We missed two batters and a few pitches of the next batter. Don’t tell me the game means anything when ESPN disrespects the action on the field for another anodyne interview with Derek Jeter.

    Oh, and they wouldn’t stop talking about the fact that he was still in the dugout later in the game. Uggh.

  • Dennis

    It’s funny……for everyone who hates Jeter so much, you guys spend an awful amount of time writing about him. Everyone should post this many comments after a great Mets win instead of a player on his way out.

    • Lenny65

      The thing is, Jeter has been right in our faces since 1996, just a relentless bombardment, year after year. This is really our last chance to vent, that’s all. By tomorrow we’ll go back to our usual level of chatter and concern re: Jeter which is zero.

  • 9th string catcher

    Now, now, Dennis. The previous post had almost as many comments as this one (29-32). Although, to be fair, this is a blog that tends to focus on “constructive” criticism (myself included). And god knows, the All-Star game had a lot to criticize.

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  • […] it’s too much or they’re not up for swooning over the guest of honor…and believe me, the guest has been honored plenty…they act so offended! “Don’t you know how great this guy is? It’s history! History!” […]