The thing about being a sports icon is that people will go out of their way to fawn all over you while you're in your prime. When your skills begin to fade as you age, and your play diminishes, people begin to forget about you. Or even worse, begin talking about how you should have retired long before you did because you're just tarnishing your legacy. We've seen it happen with players like Michael Jordan, Cal Ripken Jr., Johnny Unitas, Ken Griffey Jr., Joe Montana, Larry Bird, and many, many others.
It seems almost unthinkable that a negative word would ever be spoken about these legends of the game, players who helped shape and define, not just their teams, but the leagues they played in. In their primes, these players were revered. They were treated like gods and put upon pedestals so high, you'd need a spaceship to reach them.
Longtime Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, announced before the season began that 2014, his 20th, would be his final season in the major leagues. Some have whispered over the last couple of seasons that he should have retired sooner, that his skills have diminished, and that he's not the same player he once was. But to many of us – even those of us who aren't Yankees fans – Jeter is pulling the pin at just the right time. Even though he's clearly lost a step or two, he's still performing at a high level, and is being productive for his club. No, he's not the same player he was 20 years ago, but then, who can do the same things they could 20 years ago? But he's still an icon and an important part of the game. Not seeing Jeter in the middle of the Yankees infield will be a strange experience for baseball fans everywhere.
Of course, along with the announcement of an icon's retirement, comes the farewell tour. Clubs around the league are falling all over themselves to give Jeets a parting gift worthy of his status as a baseball legend and icon. But what do you get for the guy who literally has everything – or at least as the money to get everything? Some clubs have put together some really terrific farewell gifts, some have been “so-so,” and others have completely swung and missed.
This list will focus on that last category. It's a good thing that it's the thought that counts because here are the 10 stupidest gifts Derek Jeter has received on his farewell tour...
10 Chicago Cubs
We're so torn on this one. This is a gift that could have been so great. It could have easily been on top of the “best of” list. And it still belongs somewhere on the list. Maybe. But as they say, presentation is everything, and in that category the Chicago Cubs failed miserably. Though, given the club's history, it's not surprising. From one icon to another, the Cubs presented Jeter with the number 2 tile from Wrigley Field's legendary scoreboard. The trouble with it is that they just handed him the tile. No frame, no stunning presentation. It was as if at the last minute, somebody in the PR department realized they didn't have a farewell gift for Jeter and found the first thing with the number 2 on it they could find and handed it to him. In a classy display case, this could easily have been an awesome gift. As it is, it's still cool, but definitely looks like a last minute idea.
9 Chicago White Sox
While the Sox clearly put a little more effort into their farewell gift for Jeter than their cross-town brethren, the end result is still pretty weak. The dirt from US Cellular Field with the names of baseball's greatest shortstops enclosed in a nice glass display case is... nice? We guess? But the bench, made from bats that went along with it is – well – pretty horrible. Made by former player Ron Kittle, whose company specializes in these sorts of things, the baseball bat bench looks more appropriate to a sports bar, rather than the Captain's home – which is where it is likely going to end up via “anonymous donation.”
8 New York Mets
We get that people were probably pretty stumped by what you get for a guy like Jeter. It's hard buying for somebody who already has it all. But whoever made the decision to go with the number 2 mosaic made from subway tiles should probably be looking for work elsewhere. They also threw in a pretty extravagant cake designed by Buddy Valastro of television's “Cake Boss.” Seeing the “artwork” presented to Jeter, we think the Mets should have just stuck with the cake and donation to Jeter's “Turn 2” foundation.
7 Minnesota Twins
Jeter spent a lot of years crushing the hopes and dreams of the Minnesota Twins and their fans. In fact, there is perhaps no other team in the Majors more looking forward to his departure than the Twins (maybe the Red Sox more than them). To bid the Captain adieu, Minnesota gave him a nice display case featuring the last second base bag ever used at the now demolished Hubery H. Humphrey Metrodome. The gift was nice in spirit of course, but would have been more appropriate had Jeter – you know – played second base. Still, it's a nice piece of memorabilia, we suppose. And one that would fetch a pretty penny on eBay should Jeets ever find himself in need of cash.
6 Oakland A's
Have you ever been on your way to a dinner party at somebody's house and realize that you can't show up empty handed? What do you do? You usually stop off somewhere and grab a bottle of wine to bring with you to avoid that social faux pas. Which is almost what it seems like the Oakland A's did to honor Jeter's retirement. The club presented him with a commemorative bottle of wine – a 2009 Cabernet from the Abreu Madrona Ranch to be exact. Perhaps the gift was so lacking, former teammate and current A's hitting coach Chili Davis, felt compelled to send Jeets a personal gift before they game – an ornate box containing three bottles of a very expensive wine. Perhaps they were just trying to get him liquored up before the game so he wouldn't torch them like he usually does?
5 St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are one of the classiest and most understated organizations in baseball, to be sure. So it makes a certain amount of sense that their farewell gift to Jeter would be – well – understated. Though they did make a very nice $10,000 donation to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation, they presented him with a pair of cufflinks – bearing Stan Musial's likeness. Perhaps because he's an icon? The face of the Cardinals' organization? We're not sure. They didn't even play the same position, so we don't know why Musial cufflinks were given the green light. It almost seems like somebody in the front office found them in their desk and decided they'd make the perfect gift – in addition to removing some clutter from their desk. Cufflinks with Jeter's likeness would have made more sense to us, but hey, what do we know?
4 Houston Astros
At least you can say this for the Astros – they were consistent this year. They were a consistently bad baseball team, and they were equally as bad when it came to giving gifts. For Jeter's farewell, Houston ponied up a set of golf clubs – because apparently all rich guys need a set of clubs. They also gave him his very own Stetson hat – because Jeets really looks like the Stetson wearing kinda guy. But the kicker – no pun intended – was the gift of customized cowboy boots. These blue and white pinstriped boots bearing the Yankee emblem and Jeter's #2 are quite possibly the ugliest things we've ever seen. And we don't see Jeets slapping these on for a night out on the town anytime soon – at least not if he hasn't chugged down the huge bottle of wine the A's gave him first.
3 Milwaukee Brewers
While some teams seemed to have really put in some thought and effort into Jeter's farewell gift, the Milwaukee Brewers seemed to – well – not have. Though they, like every other team, made a very nice donation to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation, their farewell gift was – a bronze plated bat. Granted, it's not like Jeter had a lot of historical ties to the Brewers, so a seat, or a base, or even some dirt from the old stadium wouldn't have meant very much, but a bronze bat? At least the Orioles went with a “regional theme” in their weak offering. The least the Brewers could have done would have been – oh, I dunno – perhaps had a special “Jeter Lager” brewed up by a local brewery maybe? Almost anything seems better – and more personal – than a bronze bat.
2 Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles' gift to Jeter was as underwhelming as their baseball team has been surprisingly overwhelming this season. We don't know who is in charge of their special promotions department for things like a baseball icon retiring, but we're relatively certain the guy washing jock straps for the team could have come up with something a little better. For their big sendoff for Jeter, the Orioles gave him an official US Navy Captain's hat – making him the envy of 5-year olds everywhere – and an oversized crab mallet to go along with the bucket of Maryland crabs they presented him. It wasn't exactly the sort of parting gift one would expect for a legend.
Showing that it's not just big league ballclubs that hand out crappy gifts, sports equipment manufacturer Rawlings got in on the Jeter Farewell Tour. They presented him with a gift suitable to every teenage boy's room... or for the room of every adult male who's never mentally/emotionally progressed beyond his teenage years. Rawlings presented Jeter with a giant leather chair shaped like a baseball glove, and matching ottoman of course. Somehow, we don't see Jeets and/or whatever supermodel girlfriend he has at the moment, sitting back and relaxing in that thing. But hey, it's the thought that counts, right?