Unless you’ve been living under a rock during the entirety of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, you’ve undoubtedly been forced to bear witness to the international extravaganza that has become Derek Jeter’s retirement tour. The commissioner’s office has made this priority number 1 since the onset of the season, a priority that will culminate when Jeter makes his final appearance at Yankee Stadium tonight and in Boston on Sunday.
That all said, the events of the retirement tour have been more than polarizing from a fan’s perspective, not because Derek Jeter doesn’t deserve the respect he’s been given, but more so because the events, attention, and adoration have been a bit overblown. Then again, maybe that is just a bit of sour grapes on my part because of one simple fact.
The Toronto Blue Jays have never had a Derek Jeter-type player.
Now, it could easily be said that if the Blue Jays had that special player, he would certainly go unnoticed. Let’s face facts, Jeter is Jeter and being treated like it’s the end of an era because of his team’s zip code. New York is the media capital of the world and the Yankees are the apple of their eye, controlling a fan base unlike any in all of professional sports. Derek Jeter just filled a void left by the likes of Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, and Mickey Mantle before him. One could argue that you put some different laundry on the man and plunk him down in obscurity, his retirement would hardly register a blip on the radar regardless of just how great of a player he was.
Alright, I’m getting away from my point for a bit. Circling back, the Blue Jays have never had their own Derek Jeter, or to a lesser extent Konerko or Biggio for that matter.
Sure, they’ve had a few guys that have been the face of the franchise, but none that more that Blue Jays jersey every single day of their career and did so at an All-Star capacity.
Carlos Delgado wore the Blue Jays jersey proudly for 12 years and twice finished in the top-5 of the MVP voting while in Toronto. However, the calls of free agency riches eventually won out and the Jays just weren’t going to compete with other teams on the open market, losing him to the then Florida Marlins.
Dave Steib was nearly that guy. A perennial All-Star and Cy Young candidate, Steib suited up for the Blue Jays for the first 14-years of his career. Steib would take a one-year jaunt with the Chicago White Sox in 1993, but would ultimately finish his career with the Blue Jays in 1998 after four years away from the game. However, while Steib was verifiable ace for a 10-year period, he wasn’t anyone’s idea of a Hall of Famer either.
Roy Halladay was another case altogether. 12 years in a Blue Jays uniform was enough to rank him among the most loved Blue Jays of all-time. However, the specter of free agency loomed over him before the 2010 season, prompting the Blue Jays to trade one of the best pitchers in baseball to help spur along a rebuilding phase.
That’s it, only three names really come to mind, and none of them fit the mold. I’m not sure what it says about the state of the Blue Jays player development program, but it certainly doesn’t shine a healthy light on it. The fact that Toronto has had a tough time not only developing talent, but convincing the talent they have to stay in Toronto is another issue altogether.
With that in mind, the Blue Jays do have one player that is rising through the ranks and could possibly become that face.
Dalton Pompey, being an Ontario native, is the type of player that Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays should strive to build into a franchise corner stone. The homegrown pedigree makes it significantly easier to avoid the pitfalls of free agency and sell him on being in Toronto for the life of his career. Of course, that also relies on Pompey realizing 100% of his potential and being not only a productive major leaguer, but an All-Star at a premium position for years to come.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid that has played a grand total of 13 games at the Major League level, but who knows, 20 years from now we could be talking about Dalton Pompey in the same light as Derek Jeter.
You know, without the parade and farewell tour.