Luke Crabb | June 23, 2017 5:35 pm CT
Admitting my bias:
If you’re at least 22 years old and you’re a baseball fan, then you either love him or hate him (by now you know I’m talking about Derek Jeter).
I grew up loving Derek Jeter because of moments like the jump throw, the flip play, and of course the controversial Jeffrey Maier home run.
All of these moments culminated to create an icon that fans still can’t say goodbye to. A lot of people make the argument “Jeter did it the right way”. Looking back, I’m one of those people that thinks the way Jeter carried himself was great for baseball in the era he played in. At the time, I didn’t think much of the way Jeter carried himself; I just thought he was an amazing player.
I appreciate Jeter even more today.
I was five years old watching Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in their illustrious 1998 home run chase. I’m embarrassed to admit how much I adored Slammin’ Sammy Sosa. I idolized Sosa with the way he hustled out to his position, along with his awesome smile that he sported while playing the game. My love for Sammy all changed when I heard the news from a 2003 game…
That’s all it took for a young fan to change his perspective on his hero. That same year he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
All while this heartbreak was occurring, the skinny kid from Kalamazoo was hitting the ball to the opposite field and had won his fourth World Series title three years earlier.
Around this time in baseball is when people realized how special Jeter was. With juiced power hitters catching the eyes of fans just a few years earlier – people were tired of their stars being tainted, enter Jeter.
Derek Jeter’s Postseason Heroics:
The Derek Jeter postseason chronicles began in the 1996 ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees trailed 4-3 in Game 1, that was until madness ensued after Jeter hit a fly ball to right field…
The home run was Jeter’s first of many Postseason shots. The Yankees went on to win the game and eventually on to win the World Series in 1996.
Four years later the Yanks found themselves in the Subway Series. It’s Game Four and the Mets hung on to a 4-2 lead in Game 3 – to cut the Yankees lead to one game. Jeter took no time to take center stage as he led off the game with a home run and from there the Yankees didn’t look back. The Yankees captured the series and Jeter the Series MVP.
The late 1990’s and early 2000’s Yankees, continued to dominate and found themselves in the ALDS Game 3 against the “Moneyball” Athletics.
The Yankees were down two games on the A’s. Facing elimination in game 2, the Yankees were up 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh. The A’s hit a ball down the right field line with a runner rounding second base – threatening to tie the game. Shane Spencer the Yankees RF cut the ball off and fired it into Tito Martinez (1B). The throw was over Martinez’s head. Jeter came charging in from Shortstop to cut the ball twenty feet up the first base line. With his momentum going against the play at home plate he flipped the ball to catcher Jorge Posada to get out at the would be tying run, Jeremy Giambi.
The play is referred to today as “The Flip”. The play was so bizarre and it’s hard to put into words how instinctive the play was…
Jeter is the all-time Postseason leader in: At Bats, Runs, Hits, Total Bases, Singles, Doubles, and Triples. A large part of Jeter’s career was spent in the postseason. Jeter finished his career with five World Series championships. He will go down as one of the Postseason all-time greats.
The Curse of the Great Bambino:
To grasp how immensely clutch David Ortiz was in the playoffs, you need to go back into the heyday of the Curse of the Great Bambino…
In 2003, the Red Sox were stopped short of their World Series hopes by Jeter and company in a seven-game series. In the bottom of the eighth the Red Sox were holding onto a three run lead. A rally was started by none other than Derek Jeter and a three run eighth with Pedro Martinez on the mound tied the game. Later in the bottom of the eleventh an Aaron Boone walk off home run sealed the victory and a ticket to the 03’ World Series for the Yankees.
The stunning loss left Red Sox fans stunned and left them with only one explanation. The Curse of the Great Bambino will not be broken, enter “Big Papi”.
David “Big Papi” Ortiz’s Postseason Feats:
Flash forward one year to the 2004 ALDS. The Red Sox take the first two games from the Anaheim Angels. The game is tied in the bottom of the tenth 6-6 with Jarrod Washburn on the mound for the Angels. Johnny Damon worked a single and after a Manny Ramirez walk, David Ortiz stepped to the plate. The first of many huge hits by Ortiz ensued. A two-run home run over the green monster to seal the ALCS and move the Sox onto the ALDS. His final slash line for the ALCS, you ask? (.545/.688/1.000)
This Papi walk-off home run set up the greatest playoff series in baseball history.
The Red Sox dropped the first three games to the Yankees and it looked as if the curse was back. Game three was an embarrassing 19-8 loss for the Sox. The Sox hopes were at an all-time low.
Game four of the series was one for the ages. The Red Sox scored one in the bottom of the ninth off of Mariano Rivera – to tie it and put it into extras. Yet once again, Ortiz came up in the bottom of the twelfth in a tie game…
The feeling was still bitter sweet for Red Sox fans. No team had ever come back from a three game deficit.
The next night the Sox found themselves in the longest postseason game in MLB history. It was 4-4 in the bottom of the fourteenth, runner on second, and who other than David Ortiz to come up with two outs? He delivers again, a bloop single up the middle falls, the Red Sox season lives on.
*Joe Buck seems less annoying in these times.
Game 6 was the Schilling bloody sock game.
Game seven was a blowout, the Red Sox won 10-3. And were on to the World Series.
The Red Sox don’t go to the World Series without Papi. They don’t win the World Series without his performance in these games. It’s hard to take yourself seriously if you think that they would win this series and ultimately break the Curse of the Great Bambino, without him.
The best part about this story – the David Ortiz playoff clutch hits don’t stop there.
The Sox were down a game to the Tigers in the ALCS, and they found themselves down 5-1 in the eight.
What do you know? Papi comes up with the bases loaded and two outs. He gets a fastball down the heart of the plate and hits a ball that just goes over into the bullpen, causing Tigers Right fielder Torii Hunter to flip over into the bullpen. The result was one of the most famous images in playoff baseball history.
A Look at their Postseason numbers:
(Ortiz is the top graph and Jeter is the bottom)
I was curious what Twitter thought, so I did a twitter poll on the question.
Small sample size, but it was still quite interesting to see what people thought on Twitter.
After taking a hard look at both players, it really isn’t that close. I grew up a Jeter faithful and I have to admit… David Ortiz was more clutch in the playoffs than Jeter. I have set my bias aside being honest Ortiz was unbelievable.
Ortiz stepped up in the biggest situations and delivered. He was faced against The Curse and he broke it. It would be hard to find a more clutch hitter in the postseason than Big Papi.
Congratulations to David Ortiz for getting his jersey retired tonight. Thank you for the goosebumps all of those years.