Derek Jeter's farewell tour reaches U.S. Cellular Field for a long weekend starting tonight, which means the White Sox probably have come up with a going-away present. As funny as it would be to see Robin Ventura sheepishly hand his former teammate a $15 Starbucks gift card, it's probably going to have more thought behind it.
So far, besides cutting checks to his charitable foundation, opponents have presented him with cowboy boots, golf clubs, a golden bat, a pinstriped paddle board, a painting, a subway tile mosaic, and most recently, a "2" from the Wrigley Field scoreboard tile.
Baseball just went through this with Mariano Rivera, and the White Sox had a present waiting for him -- framed scorecards from his first start in Chicago and the first game played after Sept. 11, 2001, as well as a donation to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
Rivera's first trip to the South Side yielded an 11-strikeout performance over eight shutout innings. His final trip featured a blown save, which was one of the two times the White Sox won a game in which they trailed in the ninth inning last year. Basically, the White Sox wished him a fond farewell, then kicked him out of their house.
It'd be nice if Jeter met the same end, but unlike Rivera, he hasn't been nearly as much of a tormentor. He's basically played a full season of games against the White Sox over his career, and they've held him below his career levels:
- vs. MLB: .312/.380/.445 over 2,640 games.
- vs. Sox: .297/.358/.439 over 137 games
It's not like that's bad. Hell, scored 104 runs over those 137 games. But there aren't a whole lot of signature performances, and even if he hit the Sox harder, his role would still limit the highlights somewhat.
If you sort his career against the White Sox in terms of WPA, he's only had one really spirit-crushing game against the Sox over the last 12 years. On April 30, 2010, he went 3-for-4 with a game-tying homer off Freddy Garcia and a game-winning triple against Matt Thornton. Of course, he's a table-setter, and more likely to score a run than drive one in, which is inherently less memorable.
Still, he'll get some kind of memento and a round of mixed applause from White Sox fans, Yankee fans and bandwagoners at The Cell. Then, Sox fans should hope for a sendoff as awkward as what happened at Wrigley. He went 1-for-7 on Wednesday, and 0-for-4 from the eighth inning on, which means some fans gave him four standing ovations after unceremonious events.
And speaking of potentially awkward, Jeter is cognizant of the undercard farewell tour going on with the White Sox:
"Paulie, he's a great guy. I've enjoyed competing against him," Jeter said. "He's the captain of the White Sox, he's a guy who's had a lot of success and plays the game the right way. I've enjoyed getting to know him throughout the years. He's had a lot of success against us.
"Paulie is someone that I think White Sox fans will always remember. It has just as much to do with what he's done on the field."
As Jeter mentioned, Konerko historically has mashed against the Yankees. In 102 games against the Bombers, he's hit .316 with 23 home runs, 65 RBIs and a .958 OPS.
The Sox visit Yankee Stadium in late August, and if Konerko comes back from New York empty-handed, I'd hope the Sox would get passive-aggressive about it for years to come. That's the true meaning of Christmas.