After ESPN mastered Michael Jordan's "Last Dance" documentary, I was ecstatic to find out the Derek Jeter was getting his own. It shouldn't have been after the home run derby on a Monday night, but I still mustered up the energy to watch the first installment.
Episode 1 takes us through the early days of the Jeter family, Derek's rise to one of high school's best, and the Yankees state of the late 80's and early 90;s. I was most intrigued on the story of Gene Michael's role with getting Derek Jeter to New York, and how he fell right into their laps.
From playing to managing and then holding a leadership position, Gene Michael left an impact on the Yankees in many areas. However, he and George Steinbrenner never really saw eye-to-eye. There was constant interference and challenges between the two, and if it wasn't for his suspension in the 90's, then this documentary and story would not be told.
While the Boss was suspended due to paying a gambler to spy on Dave Winfield, the Stitch took advantage of some managerial flexibility and began stockpiling the youth movement in the Bronx. The future was being built right before everyone's eyes. Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and of course, the final piece of that puzzle, Derek Jeter.
Jeter explained that he was told in advance of the 1992 draft, that he would be selected first overall by the Houston Astros or fifth by the Reds. All eyes were on Jeter, but teams opted for MLB readiness rather than a prospect. Houston went with third baseman Phil Nevin (Yankees Coach 2018-2021), and Cincinnati opted for outfielder Chad Mottola.
Those first five picks came and went, and somehow, the high school standout fell to the Yankees at 6th overall. It was meant to be. The documentary flashed multiple photos of Jeter in his childhood, and he was always dawning Yankees caps and shirts.
Some things that stood out to me in Episode 1.
The cancellation of the '94 season. The biggest "What If?" in MLB history. The Yankees were probably a World Series team that season and what would have been with guys like Buck Showalter and Don Mattingly if they did so. It also was the catalyst for what's to come.
I feel like they didn't address how Jeter went from struggling in the minors to all of a sudden Minor League Player of the Year, and how we went from shy to captain like. What was the defining moment of these changes?
Brining along Derek Jeter in the 1995 playoff run was one of the smallest yet most important move the Yankees could have ever done. It showed him what needed to be done in order to get back into the postseason.