“Next on the clock, the Cincinnati Reds.”
In hindsight, Derek Jeter was the obvious choice.
As history goes, Chad Mottola became the Reds first-round selection that season, seemingly sealing the fate of a doomed franchise for a decade and a half to come.
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The sun is setting on one of the greatest careers baseball has ever seen. For a prolonged period of his career, Jeter was classified as a product of his team, not the quintessential baseball icon of days gone by.
He may not crack the Yankees all-time Mount Rushmore, as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle have a stronghold on the Yankee elite, but to say Jeter isn’t one of the game’s greatest players, would be unfair.
From the moment he arrived on the scene in 1996, Jeter only knew success. He won rings in four of his first five seasons, making it look as easy as his birthright.
Born to an interracial couple, an immaculate blend of persona, there was difficult to find a negative word to speak of. Living in the bubble that is New York City, Jeter managed to stay the poster boy of a city that can so easily corrupt and tear down its biggest stars; see, Alex Rodriguez.
In an era of corruption and rampant performance enhancing drug use, Jeter may never have won a MVP award or a batting title, but he managed to stay clean of the cream that seemingly transformed the game for over two decades.
Would Jeter have succeed as quickly in the Queen City? Based on the talent that would have surrounded him during that time, more than likely not. Many forget that Barry Larkin won the National League’s MVP Award in 1995, just a year before Jeter arrived on the scene as an everyday shortstop. Certainly, Larkin was not moving, and Jeter seemed destined to be the prototypical middle of the diamond player.
Of course, the entire argument would dig less deep had Chad Mottola panned out into anything of relevance.
Mottola had only 79 at-bats as a member of the Reds, amounting to just 17 hits and three home runs. He shockingly managed to stay around the game for another decade, making his final appearance in 2006 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Over the course of his career, Mottola managed to hammer only four long balls and drive in 12 runs.
The Reds will be fortunate enough to see the immortal Derek Jeter one last time this season. From July 18-20, the club will be in the Bronx following the All-Star Break, and hopefully Jeter will have warded off any nagging injuries by that point.
A legendary career is coming to a close; one that could have very easily been drastically different.