I’m not somebody who believes ballplayers either past or present should be held up as role models, but Derek Jeter has long stood as one of the few exceptions in that category. He plays hard, he stays out of trouble, he handles himself with class at all times, and never embarrasses himself or the game. For Jim Rice to characterize Jeter as somebody focused on individual goals and big contracts, as he did the other day in front of a bored audience of Little League World Series participants, qualifies as one of the most ill-informed statements to come out of an ex-jock’s mouth all year — which is saying something. The completion of Rice’s tedious march to the Hall of Fame — as the most horseshit selection the writers have made in a long, long time — doesn’t qualify him to start bashing players of the current generation. At least not without providing an accompanying visual of an incontinent old man yelling at the teenagers doing donuts on his lawn.
The YES Network broadcast team had fun bashing Rice during Friday night’s Yankees-Red Sox blowout. Smooth Ken Singleton, whose nature in the booth always seems to be an extension of the joie de vivre of a guy coming off a 2-for-4 night, took serious umbrage at Rice’s statements as both a contemporary of Rice and observer of the bulk of Jeter’s career. Michael Kay spoke of an old Red Sox yearbook in which Rice was quoted as saying that his favorite thing about playing in the majors was the 1st and 15th days of the month, when he got his paycheck. Awkward.
Rice, never known for his charm with the press, has claimed he was misquoted, but even if he didn’t mean to tar Jeter with the same brush he used on Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, his comments about players in his day being either somehow morally superior or simply better than those of today despite improvements in training and nutrition doesn’t ring true. Put a sock in it, dude.