Derek Jeter's Image Takes a Beating

Monday, 18 Jul 2011 09:04 AM

By Jon Friedman

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What the heck is going on with Derek Jeter, my favorite baseball player and the virtual face of the sport since he broke in in 1996?

A year ago, Mr. Clean got bad publicity when he missed the funeral service of Bob Sheppard, the long-time Yankee Stadium announcer.

Jeter then went into a prolonged batting slump but continued to bat leadoff. He looked a little less than gracious when a 23-year-old guy caught the home run ball that constituted Jeter's milestone 3,000th career hit on July 9 at Yankee Stadium.

Finally, he skipped playing in the annual baseball showcase, its All-Star Game, citing exhaustion at the task of getting to 3,000 hits. He went to Miami instead.

This is stunning because Jeter is so image conscious. He never does or says anything controversial, does he? He is the perfect corporate symbol — a man who makes no mistakes.

Jeter's situation has become such a tragicomedy that it reminds me of Tom Wolfe's great book, "The Bonfire of the Vanities," in which Sherman McCoy becomes a vilified symbol of the times. McCoy was bewildered by the flurry of public abuse he was getting in the media — a lot like what Jeter is going through.

Is Jeter a victim or a villain? Should his 15 years of solid service overshadow the past 12 months of controversies?

I hope Jeter pulls it together. I hope he leads the Yankees to the franchise's 28th World Series championship. It would be nice if he got the last laugh on all of his bitter critics.

For his sake, I hope Jeter finally lightens up and remembers that he can't put himelf above the game.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.






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