I'm sure everyone has heard this by now, but if not, Derek Jeter is retiring after the season. The reason I'm sure everyone has heard this is because it's been the biggest story in sports since he announced it, and the reason it's been the biggest story in sports is that he is ending an amazing career. Of course, shortly after it was announced, the season-long ceremonies for the future Hall of Famer began to be dreaded.
This is a seemingly natural reaction, since we just went through a year of Mariano Rivera ceremonies. As Red Sox fans, it's even easier to dread, since Jeter has been the guy on Boston's biggest rival for the last 15 years. For me, personally, I've never seen a Yankee team without him, and it's been so easy to root against him for all these years, from the Nomar-Jeter debates to present-day defense conversations. With all that being said, though, there's no reason to get angry about the upcoming season full of Derek Jeter ceremonies. It's something he deserves, and it should be embraced, by Red Sox fans especially.
The face of baseball is an idea that is often overrated, and seems like a media creation just to start conversation rather than debates. As cliche as it sounds, a player isn't going to be bigger than the game, and no one person will ever define the league. However, that doesn't mean one guy can't leave a bigger impression than anyone else in the game, and that's exactly what happened with Jeter during the last decade. As the captain for baseball's most storied franchise, at a time when they were also winning divisions and championships like it was going out of style, he fits this criteria perfectly. More than any other player in the game, casual fans and non-baseball fans recognized Jeter. That means something across the game, and it's going to be weird without him. That doesn't mean MLB needs to scramble to replace him (as some have suggested), but it does mean there's nothing wrong with honoring that kind of player.
So, why does that mean Red Sox fans should care any more than other non-Yankee fans? There are a couple reasons for this. Firstly, Boston has their own icon who is likely nearing the end of his career. David Ortiz is still hitting like a superstar, and is asking for more years on his contract, but he's still a 39-year-old DH and the end is a lot closer than the beginning. When he announces his retirement, he's going to be honored in a similar way to Jeter. They both have led their teams to multiple championships, have been lauded for their clutch abilities in those championship runs, and have been deemed consummate winners. Ortiz is going to deserve all the praise he receives at the end of his career, and we as Red Sox fans are going to enjoy every second of that praise. There's no reason we should be upset of Jeter getting the same kind of treatment.
There's also the fact that the Red Sox-Yankees relationship is so intertwined. Although over the past few years it has felt like the Red Sox's main rival has shifted to being the Rays, there will still never be a rivalry quite like the Red Sox-Yankees. In the mid-2000's, that rivalry reached its peak, with both teams hitting their stride as two of the premier franchises in the league, and tempers flaring seemingly every time they met. The rest of the country complains about the frequency and length of these match ups now, but there's no doubt those were the best moments of the last decade. And who was at the forefront of those games for the other side? Derek Jeter.
The 2014 season is going to be the year of Jeter, and there is going to be a lot of ill-will towards that fact, especially among Red Sox fans. It's a natural reaction, given the intense rivalry between Boston and New York, and the constant flow of Gold Gloves find their way into his trophy case. However, when you move past that, there are plenty of reasons for him to receive all the praise he's going to get this year, especially from Red Sox fans. It'll be our turn in a few years with Ortiz, and it would be unfair to try and deny it to Jeter. He also helped give us some of the best rivalry games this town has ever seen, and has made the last decade of baseball that much more fun to watch. Fittingly, Jeter is going to end his career (regular season career, at least) at Fenway Park. There are surely going to be some boos in the crowd that day, but hopefully most Red Sox fans give him that day, and the rest of the season for that matter.