Friday, March 6, 2015

O captain, my captain

It's a damn shame about Derek Jeter. He might have made a terrific baseball commissioner had he not met such an untimely end, dying of early onset godhood and all.

Wait. You mean he's not dead?

Sure sounded like a eulogy the other day, when Yankees GM Brian Cashman went on Mike Lupica's radio show and said the Yankees should never name another captain. It was eerily like Joe McCarthy, the Yankees manager back in the day, declaring the club would never have another captain after Lou Gehrig -- who, of course, did die.

So you can understand the confusion.

 Look. Jeter was a great captain and a mythic Yankee in the finest tradition of mythic Yankees, and someday his plaque will join those of all the other mythic Yankees out there in the monuments beyond center field. And it's not like Cashman was breaking with historical precedent; there was no Yankee captain between Don Mattingly and Jeter, and, after McCarthy's pronouncement, there was no Yankee captain until Thurman Munson ascended to the post in 1976. That's a gap of 37 years.

This suggests that someday there will, in fact, be another Yankee captain. And that's as it should be. Because if you retire the post with Jeter, you're essentially saying he was the greatest captain in Yankee history. And I don't know how you do that without it being interpreted, at least partially, as a slap at the likes Gehrig and Munson and Mattingly, among other worthies.

Those are some kind of names above which you'd be elevating Jeter. And maybe some people -- Cashman, for instance -- are prepared to do that.

But that's prisoner-of-the-moment stuff, and the Yankees more than any other franchise are the antithesis of the momentary. Love 'em or hate 'em, their very history demands the long view.

So pump the brakes, Brian Cashman. All those monuments deserve that.


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