Some players are just entering or in the midst of their prime. Guys like Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp came out slugging to start the year and are early MVP candidates for their respective leagues a month into the season. Meanwhile, there are two guys who supposedly had their best baseball behind them who are off to arguably the hottest starts of their careers. Yes, AL East haters, this is about David Ortiz and Derek Jeter. 18 games into the season, the aging All Stars were both hitting .420. While neither will finish the season at that clip (one would imagine), both of the players came into this season with something to prove to their respective fan bases. And, themselves.
The similarities actually started last season. Both Ortiz and Jeter finished 2011 with 162 hits and 84 runs scored. Jeter, however only slugged six home runs to Ortiz’ 29. Ortiz also won the RBI battle with 96 to Jeter’s 61, mainly due to their positions in the batting order.
While Ortiz and Jeter have been the faces of their respected franchises for some time now, Yankees and Red Sox fans alike began doubting their All Stars as their production began to drop as their age rose. Both players have had their contracts expire and renewed with much backlash from these fan bases. Both have been called over payed and far beyond their prime despite their past accomplishments.
Jeter has been the Yankees every day shortstop since 1996. He has played 2,445 games in pinstripes and has become one of the most iconic figures for one of the most storied franchises in MLB history. The 12 time All Star helped bring five World Series titles to the Bronx. His 3,122 hits are more than anyone who has ever donned the pinstripes. He has also swiped more bases than any other Yankee. His number two will never be worn in New York ever again.
While Ortiz has only been a member of the Red Sox since 2003, his impact in the midst of the Red Sox lineup throughout history is second to none. Ted Williams, Yaz, Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Johnny Pesky… No one was able to do what Ortiz did in just his second season in Boston. Every member of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox holds a special piece of history in Boston. But, other than perhaps Curt Schilling, Ortiz will forever be remembered as the catalyst. Down 0-3 to the Yankees in the ALCS, Ortiz seemingly put the franchise on his back. Since the first title he helped deliver to Boston, he has gone on to win another ring, become a seven time All Star, win the Home Run Derby in 2010, and become the MLB all time leader in home runs and RBI by a DH. After tonight, Ortiz sits 18 back of 400 home runs.
Both members of the centuries first All Decade team, Ortiz and Jeter are off to arguably the hottest starts of their careers. If either of their teams plan on making a push deep into the post season, Ortiz and Jeter must be integral pieces once again. Regardless of their teams, both players look like they took an offseason vacation to the fountain of youth. These guys have plenty of baseball in their futures and those fans calling for their collars just a short time ago are certainly singing a different tune today.