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Jeter's greatness on display

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NEW YORK -- Watching the postseason every year, I find compelling reasons to pick Derek Jeter to be the American League MVP the following season. When you see the Yankee shortstop play everyday, you realize he's one of the greatest players of all time.

Sure, Jeter hit solo home runs in the final two World Series games and earned the MVP award. But he does all the little things. Some Mets players said one amazing thing about Jeter was that when the Yankees won Game 1 on Jose Vizcaino's 12th-inning single, Jeter was the first guy over the dugout screen, on the field and out to home plate.

Mets reliever Turk Wendell said, "How many superstars are the first guy to home plate?" But that's typical Jeter, who is like Ruth, Mantle and DiMaggio were for the Yankees, but in a different way.

Now that the Yankees have three in a row and four in five years, it's not their last hurrah. They still have Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Roger Clemens, Mariano Rivera and Mike Stanton. Plus, every knows they will go out and get one of the biggest free agents. It might be the end of the line for certain players like Paul O'Neill or Tino Martinez. But then they can sign a player like Manny Ramirez.

The Yankees will retool, but while they may have more ability next year or the year after, they may never have a team that pitched better together or has a bigger heart than this year's champions. That's what we all celebrate about the Yankees.

The rest of the country would love to hate the Yankees, but except for Clemens' bat-throwing incident in Game 2, they never gave anybody anything to hate about them. They carry themselves with such dignity.

When Jeter hit the home run in Game 5, he never looked up. He beat Al Leiter and tied the game, yet there was no showboating or histrionics. Jeter just put his head down and showed respect. It was almost as if Jeter were saying, "I was lucky to hit this home run." That's the team's personality, and the Yankee way.

O'Neill once said this team was taught by Don Mattingly. And now the future Yankee teams will be taught by Jeter. Hopefully, they will all stay together and continue to play the same professional way.

Final World Series thoughts:

  • For the Mets, you have to feel awful for Leiter, who pitched as well as anyone could for two games in the Series. How he can have 11 postseason starts and no wins is both unbelievable and unfortunate.

  • Yankees starter Pettitte was absolutely brilliant. Look at how Pettitte held the Mets' baserunners and killed any chance for them to run the bases in Game 5. He got plenty of defensive support from Martinez, who made two great plays at first base on throws that bounced in the dirt from Jeter and Scott Brosius.

  • Joe Torre managed with a six-man pitching staff, plus David Cone for one batter. With his record for saves, Rivera is the greatest reliever ever in the World Series and has now closed out three straight Series.

  • And don't forget Stanton. He saved the Yankees in Game 5 of the AL Division Series against Oakland. And here's his World Series line: two wins, 4 1/3 innings, no hits, no runs and seven strikeouts. Stanton has the best ERA at 1.02 of any reliever in World Series history. Last winter, he could have made a lot more money somewhere else, but Stanton wouldn't leave because he loved the Yankees and wanted to stay in New York.

  • The Yankees benefited from every move they made, both on and off the field. Along with David Justice, Glenallen Hill, Denny Neagle and Jose Canseco (who was more of a mistake), the Yankees got Luis Sojo and Vizcaino. In Torre's subtle, eighth-inning double-switch, he moved the pitcher, Stanton, back one position in the batting order. I heard people say, "Why would he do that?" But it turned out to be Sojo, not Stanton, at the plate in the ninth inning, delivering the key hit with two outs and two runners on.

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  • Gammons: 2000 column archive

     Derek Jeter feels any of his teammates could have been World Series MVP.
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