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Hey Sox Fans, Respecting Derek Jeter Doesn’t Make You a Traitor

At the end of every Stanley Cup playoff series, the two teams line up at center ice to shake hands. It’s a tradition unlike any other in sports, one that shows respect and admiration.

Even after the most ferocious of battles, between the fiercest rivals, the players and coaches put it all aside just for a moment.

Red Sox fans should get familiar with the idea.

Derek Jeter is more use to these kind of receptions at Fenway Park. Not this year.

Derek Jeter is used to these kinds of receptions at Fenway Park. Not this year.

Earlier this week, longtime Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter announced that the upcoming season would be his last. Like former teammate Mariano Rivera a year ago, Jeter will receive a well-deserved farewell tour from the rest of Major League Baseball.

And it should be no different when he steps up to the plate at Fenway Park in late September, where he is expected to play his final regular season games.

For most of Red Sox Nation, there has always been a healthy respect for Jeter. On the diamond, he was the enemy. He was booed and jeered. But that was more about the Pinstripes he wore, it was not genuine hatred. He was never Alex Rodriguez or Karim Garcia or Jason Giambi or Jorge Posada.

It was the frustration from the countless times he left them shaking their heads at a clutch base hit or leaping grab. (Remember when he flew into the stands at Yankee Stadium while snagging a fly ball, emerging bloodied and blurry-eyed?)

There is a portion of The Nation, though, that just can’t bring themselves to have any semblance of esteem for a Yankee. Those folks have been out in full force this week since Jeter’s announcement, complaining that Red Sox fans have gone ‘soft.’

These are the same fans that were miffed last season when the Red Sox held a ceremony for Rivera – the greatest closer in history –  before his final game at Fenway Park and that he received a standing ovation when he ran in from the bullpen.

Newsflash: It’s going to happen again with Jeter. And the cheers will be even louder, the standing ovation even longer.

And guess what? It’s OK. It’s doesn’t make you a traitor to show respect for your rival. If you don’t like the guy or think he’s a bad player, that’s your right. But if your only reason for hating Derek Jeter is the rivalry, it’s time to get over it.

He is one of the greatest players of his generation, one of the best shortstops of all-time. He won five World Series titles, was named to 13 All Star Games, and finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting eight times. He has 3,316 career hits. He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

He has played the game with class and dignity, attributes that are increasingly hard to find in professional athletes. And because of those things, he has been the face of Major League Baseball for the last 15 years.

“In the 21-plus years in which I have served as commissioner, Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter,” MLB  commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement this week. “Since his championship rookie season of 1996, Derek has represented all the best of the national pastime on and off the field. He is one of the most accomplished and memorable players of his — or any — era.

“Derek is the kind of person that generations have emulated proudly, and he remains an exemplary face of our sport. Major League Baseball looks forward to celebrating his remarkable career throughout the 2014 season.

A 19-year series is coming to an end. A run that lasted 267 games and 19 more in the postseason (in three American League Championship Series). The battle between Jeter and the Red Sox was one for the ages. He had his moments and the Red Sox had theirs.

It’s time to put the rivalry aside, take off the gloves, shake his hand, and give him the appreciation he deserves.

Good game, Derek.

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