Derek Jeter Farewell Tour Kicks off at Minute Maid Park

The salute to the retirement of Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off the other night at Minute Maid Park prior to a game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees.

In a way it is almost fitting that such a tour would kick off at the site of a former train station.

The season long farewell to Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off at Minute Maid Park located at the former home of Houston's Union Station. Photo R. Anderson

The season long farewell to Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off at Minute Maid Park located at the former home of Houston’s Union Station.
Photo R. Anderson

For those who perhaps had not heard Derek Jeter, the long time New York Yankee shortstop, is retiring at the end of the year to pursue whatever it is that a long-time Yankee does after hanging up his bat and glove for the final time.

So much like last year, when Mariano Rivera was having a year-long retirement salute, each of the teams to host Jeter and the Yankees this season will present gifts as a sign of appreciation for what he has done for the game of baseball.

Aside from being the player that they should have drafted way back when, Derek Jeter really does not have any ties to the Astros. There are other stops on the farewell tour where teams have even less of a “connection” to Jeter.

But just like clockwork each stop will feature pregame ceremonies with gifts and “grip and grin” photo ops for the fans of “insert city name here” to pay their last respects to Derek Jeter.

Derek Jeter never wore the Astros uniform but the captain in pinstripes was bestowed gifts the other night anyway. Photo R. Anderson

Derek Jeter never wore the Astros uniform but the captain in pinstripes was bestowed gifts the other night anyway.
Photo R. Anderson

Gifts given by the Astros to kick off the bon voyage included custom made pinstripe boots, a cowboy hat and some golf clubs.

As far as the Astros go they have the distinction of being the last stop on the Mariano Rivera farewell tour last year and the first stop on the Jeter bye bye bonanza this year.

On the surface I have no trouble with teams saluting players.

In fact, I am going to see two former Astros, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, honored before the game tomorrow night.

While I am sure there will be some gifts given to them it will only be a one ballpark stop and will not feature a prolonged tour through the rest of the Major League Baseball ballparks.

Also, unlike the farewell to Jeter, the Berkman and Oswalt retirements will be occurring in front of the hometown crowd.

Despite being traded from the Astros a few years back, Berkman and Oswalt are scheduled to sign one-day contracts, say a few words and then ride off into the sunset as retired ballplayers for the team where they spent the bulk of their careers.

Lance Berkman spent Opening Day last season as a member of the Texas Rangers playing against his old team in Houston. Berkamn along with Roy Oswalt will retire together as Astros tomorrow night in front of the home town crowd. Photo R. Anderson

Lance Berkman spent Opening Day last season as a member of the Texas Rangers playing against his old team in Houston. Berkman along with Roy Oswalt will retire together as Astros tomorrow night in front of the home town crowd.
Photo R. Anderson

I am a huge fan of the one day contract sign and retire approach as it allows fans to say a final goodbye to long time players while also giving the players closure on their career.

In fact I think the baseball collective bargaining agreement should be written to ensure that all retiring ballplayers are given a one-day contract to retire with the team where they spent the bulk of their careers.

I am less of a fan of the season long farewell tours where teams are “strongly encouraged” to honor players who may have spent very little time in that particular visiting ballpark.

Most players do not have a year-long farewell tour as the majority of players do not get to choose when to hang up the cleats.

In Lance Berkman’s case he retired after his body told him in the off season that it could not handle the strain of another season.  In reality it had been a few years since Berkman had played healthy all year so the signs were still.

Oswalt finally called it a career after a few subpar seasons where the “Wizard of Os” didn’t have as much zip on his pitches as he once did.

But aside from getting honored by the team where they played the bulk of their careers tomorrow night there were no gifts showered down from opposing teams to usher in the retirements of Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman.

And there certainly were not Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt jerseys for sale in opposing team’s Ballparks as was the case this week at Minute Maid Park with Jeter merchandise available at the Astros team store.

Don’t get me wrong, Derek Jeter was a fine ballplayer who never seemed to get caught up in any of the performance enhancing drug scandals or any other issues that would tarnish his reputation or the reputation of the Yankees or Major League Baseabll.

One need only look to Jeter’s former infield partner, Alex Rodriquez, to see a player who seemed to do things the wrong way.

By all accounts Derek Jeter is one of those players for the kids in Little League to look up to and immolate but does that rise to the level of making his jerseys available in every ballpark and bestowing lavish thank gifts on him? I am not sure.

Like Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Jr. spent his entire career with the same team. Like Cal Ripken, Jr. Jeter is likely a first time ballot Hall of Famer. Photo R. Anderson

Like Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Jr. spent his entire career with the same team. Like Cal Ripken, Jr. Jeter is likely a first time ballot Hall of Famer.
Photo R. Anderson

Cal Ripken, Jr. was another player who like Jeter did things the right way on and off the field. Like Jeter, Ripken spent his entire career with the same team which is becoming more and more of a rarity.

But even as much as I like Cal Ripken I still have issues with a season long farewell tour.

That does not mean that you cannot respect the player for being an ambassador for the sport.

Opposing fans should even feel that they can give a little cheer when said player is up to bat but creating an environment where teams are left to one up each other when it comes to bestowing gifts on opposing players is a trend that needs to go.

The Yankees last home game this year will be against the Orioles. In the spirit of season long tributes perhaps Cal Ripken, who spent his entire career with the Orioles, will be on hand in some way to send Jeter off into the sunset.

Barring a playoff run for the Yankees Jeter will end is career at Fenway Park against the Yankees’ bitter rival the Boston Red Sox. I can only imagine the parting gift that they will give him.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go look for my Berkman jersey for the game tomorrow night.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Expectations Vary and Rarely Satisfy Everyone

Monday night the television show How I Met Your Mother aired it series finale and answered the long awaited cliffhanger of how the main character met the mother of his children.

Tuesday the internet was filled with reaction to the show with some viewers feeling satisfied with the fate of the characters they had invested so many years watching and others feeling cheated at the ending.

No show is ever going to please everyone so the fact that fans were divided in how they received the show should not be a surprise to anyone.

Years after it aired people in some corners of the globe are still trying to make sense of the series finale of Lost so alienated fan bases is nothing new.

For the record I was pleased with the How I Met Your Mother ending as it aligned with a prediction for the show that I had made a few years back.

The opening week of the Major League Baseball season is a time filled with great expectations for all 30 teams. Photo R. Anderson

The opening week of the Major League Baseball season is a time filled with great expectations for all 30 teams.
Photo R. Anderson

But this is not a column about my psychic powers when it comes to television shows although there are certainly enough examples of that to fill a column.

Instead this is a column about expectations. More specifically this is a column about great expectations when they come to how one’s particular baseball team will do over the course of the season.

While we will try to steer clear of Charles Dickens references in our exploration of great expectations it is a fact that many expectations exist when it comes to the start of the Major League Baseball season.

For many fans those expectations of greatness include a trip to the World Series for their favorite team.

It is a sad fact that only one out of the 30 Major League Baseball teams will be crowned World Champion in any given year.

With only two teams making it to the World Series and only one team winning it all it is a fact that 28 teams will not meet their “go to the World Series” expectation each year.

Even though the number of teams that reach the playoffs each season has been expanded over the past few years to include two Wild Card teams there is still only one team that wins the World Series each season.

Realistically not all 30 teams have a shot at making it to the World Series in any given year. To be fair only about 15 of the teams could honestly look in the mirror each year and say, “If things go our way this year we could be playing in the October Classic.”

Expectations are not always based in reality of course so there are fans for every team that feel deep down to their core that their team can make it all the way despite what the facts tell them.

The Houston Astros are coming off of a trio of 100 plus loss seasons and most people would agree that on paper they have absolutely no chance of going to the World Series this year based on the roster they have. In fact there is a very strong possibility that they will once again lose over 100 games over the course of the season.

The Houston Astros have lost over 100 games for each of the past three seasons. Most expectations for this season point towards the streak entering a fourth year. Photo R. Anderson

The Houston Astros have lost over 100 games for each of the past three seasons. Most expectations for this season point towards the streak entering a fourth year.
Photo R. Anderson

Despite those grim statistics I am sure that there is a least one fan who carries the expectation of seeing the Astros play in the World Series this year.

Call it greatly unrealistic expectations or just blind faith but that total commitment to one’s team and fanaticism can be refreshing at times even if it is not completely understood.

Even unmet expectations can carry a fan through the dark times when all else seems lost and they are in the minority opinion when it comes to the success of their team in any given year.

Consider the plight of the long suffering fans of the Chicago Cubs whose “wait ’til next next year” mantra has kept them going despite a century long drought since their last World Series appearance.

And while the Cubs have seen over 100 years go by since they were in the World Series, the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals are the only two teams in Major League Baseball who have never been to the World Series in their history.

Even those lowly Houston Astros of the three consecutive 100-loss seasons can claim a World Series appearance.

Expectations can waver as the season goes on. Just as I am sure some fans of that certain television show may change their opinion of the finale one way or the other after giving it some thought I am sure that some baseball fans will modify their expectations for their team as the season goes on.

While the saga of How I Met Your Mother has ended, the Major League Baseball season is just beginning and there are many expectations to make over the next six months.

Expectations of winning the World Series may turn into expectations and wishes to just have a winning record depending on how injuries and other factors go for teams as the season wears on.

That is part of the fluidity of expectations both great and small. They are allowed to change and not every expectation comes true no matter how hard one wishes for it.

One expectation that I have is that it will be a good season where sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to read some Dickens for some reason.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson