Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Derek Jeter Walks Away, But Not Before the Red Sox Embarrass Him One Last Time


Only the Red Sox could send Derek Jeter into retirement and somehow make it all about us.

I’m sure there were good intentions laid out somewhere in the planning of Sunday’s bloated pre-game ceremony, meant to pay tribute to the retiring Yankee captain. Unfortunately, they were lost like priority mail to the NFL in a sea of guest star appearances more superfluous than an “Ocean’s Eleven” sequel.

Yes, it was cool to see the likes of Troy Brown, Bobby Orr, Paul Pierce, and Carl Yastrzemski out on the Fenway lawn prior to Game 162, played in weather more fitting for Game 87. It had to be pretty special – for a New England sports fan, at least - to see guys like Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, and Pete Frates share the field together, paying tribute to the Yankee legend.

What the hell did any of them have to do with Jeter?

Oh sure, Pierce and Brown were captains of the Celtics and Patriots, respectively, just like the now-former Yankee. Neat. What was Tim Wakefield’s relevance then?

Perhaps the only thing weaker from a premise of a tribute might be the eventual day we salute Byung-Hyun Kim with a ceremony entitled, “He once played here.”

You could argue that the Red Sox and director of schmaltz Charles Steinberg were put in an impossible position, being forced to honor a noted rival on the day of his final big league bow, particularly after the scene had already played itself out numerous times at Yankee Stadium. It wasn’t like they were going to welcome a string of Yankee greats to tip their cap before the Fenway crowd either. That’s why it was refreshing to hear Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino tell WEEI last week that Sunday’s ceremony would be “understated.”

It started out well; Jeter standing at short to echoing chants of “De-Rek Je-Ter” as former Red Sox captains Yaz, Rico Petrocelli, and Jim Rice came out to greet him and whisper sweet retirement wishes in his ear. It should have ended there. Give Jeets the boots and then go play nine. But the Red Sox, as always, had to go further, trotting out guys like Orr, Brown, and Pierce, a trio who, while adored by probably only half of Sunday’s crowd, nested with New Yorkers, have zero relevance to Jeter’s legacy.

Not to mention, if we’re going to trot out former Boston greats, then where the hell was Derek Sanderson, the former Bruin for whom Derek Sanderson Jeter was always thought to be named after?

It was embarrassing, but only got worse when Steinberg went and scouted the Improv Asylum for an Aretha Franklin look-and-soundalike to perform the theme song of the afternoon, “Respect,” or “Re2pect,” which was bred upon a national Nike marketing campaign this summer. The only time I can remember Jeter appearing like he would rather slither out of his skin than endure a moment was during the waning innings of the 2004 ALCS.

Then there was yesterday.

“It was hard to envision what would happen because this is a place where we’ve been an enemy for a long, long time,” Jeter said. “For them to flip the script this last time coming here, it made me feel extremely proud and happy that I was a part of this rivalry.

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Getty Images

“I didn’t expect everything that happened, all these guys coming out here, former athletes and former captains coming out. It was pretty special.”

Not really.

When Yankee manager Joe Girardi removed Jeter from the game after an infield, RBI single, it was finally the crowd’s chance to say goodbye and it became a moment of unchoreographed simplicity between ballplayer, teammates, and fans. It was another reminder that such instances don’t need a script, the likes of which would be marked up in red pen should any high schooler submit its equivalent to a creative writing course.

The result was a cringe-worthy display of New England sports history, which is normally always welcome, expect when you’re landed with the task of celebrating a fierce competitor. It’s the same thing as if the Yankees were celebrating David Ortiz at the end of his career and parading Joe Namath, Patrick Ewing, and Mark Messier out to the Yankee Stadium diamond. Red Sox fans would be left scratching their heads for the relevance.

Sorry, but this ceremony was an abject failure.

Respect? More like "F-A-I-L-U-R-E."

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