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2009 S.I. Sportsman of the Year

December 1, 2009
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And the winner is…You gotta be kidding me.  Derek Jeter?!  WTF?!

Look, it’s not that I dislike Derek Jeter; I do not.  It’s not that I dislike baseball; I regard it with complete and utter ambivalence, so neither like, nor dislike enter into the equation.  And it’s not that I dislike the Yankees; it’s just that my ambivalence towards baseball is, as I have already mentioned, complete, thereby extending to baseball teams, as well as the sport itself.  Does DJ deserve the award?  Probably so.  The staff of Sports Illustrated have a very good list of reasons and criteria that have been listed for DJ’s nomination, some of which are noted below:

  • Future Hall of Famer
  • Batted .334 in 2009 (212 hits for 634 at bats, 2nd)
  • Led the Yankees to their fifth World Series title in his 14 full seasons
  • Passed Lou Gehrig’s franchise mark for base hits, which now stands at 2,747
  • In 2009 Jeter led the American League by reaching base 289 times
  • Finished second in the league in hits (212)
  • Third in batting average and on-base percentage (.406)
  • Fourth in runs (107)
  • He was named an All-Star for the 10th time, including the sixth time as a starter, while winning his fourth AL Silver Slugger as the best hitting shortstop in the league and his fourth Gold Glove as the league’s top defensive shortstop.
  • During the Series, Jeter was named the American League recipient of the Hank Aaron Award, given to the best hitter in each league
  • Winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who best displays skill on the field while giving back to the community off it.

“It was that combination of on- and off-field achievement that helped make Jeter this year’s Sportsman.”. said Sports Illustrated Group Editor Terry McDonell, “Derek Jeter has always presented himself with class; he does numerous good works for the community with his Turn 2 Foundation, which is one of the most efficient, effective foundations of its kind; and he’s extremely generous with not just his money but with his time, which in many cases is more valuable. He also had another signature year on the field.”

Clearly, the DJ is producing results, both on and off the field, and arguably, he is deserving of this award.  Congratulations DJ.  However, in regards to the WTF mentioned above, I most emphatically disagree with Sports Illustrated on DJ as the 2009 Sportsman of the Year.  Once again, it’s not that I don’t think he deserves it…I just think Roger Federer deserved it more.  And I’m not alone in this opinion.

Consider this:

Jeter  Federer 
Future Hall of Famer Future hall of famer = Check
Batted .334 in 2009 (212 hits for 634 at bats, 2nd) 61-12 record 2009 (83%)
Led the Yankees to their fifth World Series title in his 14 full seasons Feb 2009: Federer made it to the finals of the Australian Open, where he lost – in the 5th set – to Nadal, who was then the #1 ranked player in the world, and who was having the best year of his professional career.
Passed Lou Gehrig’s franchise mark for base hits, which now stands at 2,747 June 2009: Federer won the French Open, becoming just the sixth man in tennis history to win a “Career Grand Slam” by winning at each of the four major championships.
In 2009 Jeter led the American League by reaching base 289 times The French Open victory tied him with Pete Sampras at 14-major titles.  Pete, considered by many in the pre-Federer era to be the “Greatest of All Time” (GOAT) never won at Roland Garros.  Pete made it to the semi-finals at Roland Garros just once, where he lost.
Finished second in the league in hits (212), July 2009: Federer defeated Andy Roddick 16-14 in the longest fifth set final in Grand Slam history at Wimbledon, his 6th Wimbledon trophy. Federer served a personal-best 50 aces and earned his 60th tour-level title, the most among active players.
Third in batting average and on-base percentage (.406) The Wimbledon victory earned him a record-breaking 15th Grand Slam singles title and helped him to reclaim the #1 ranking.
Fourth in runs (107) Won his 16th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, second all-time behind Agassi (17)
Eighth in stolen bases (30) Sept 2009: Advanced to the finals of the US Open before losing – in the 5th set – to (rising star) Juan Martin Del-Potro
He was named an All-Star for the 10th time, including the sixth time as a starter, while winning his fourth AL Silver Slugger as the best hitting shortstop in the league and his fourth Gold Glove as the league’s top defensive shortstop. At year end, Federer played in all four Grand Slam finals in 2009, winning 2 of them.
In 15 postseason games Jeter lived up to his reputation as a clutch player, batting .344 with a .432 on-base percentage, three home runs and six RBIs. At year end, Federer also holds the record of reaching 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals and has appeared in 17 of the last 18
Batted .407 in the World Series to lead the Yankees to a six-game victory over the defending world champion Philadelphia Phillies. In what may be the most underrated achievement in sports, Federer has reached the semi-finals or better of the last 22 Grand Slam tournaments, a streak that spans over five years.  The next closest is Ivan Lendl, with 10.
During the Series, Jeter was named the American League recipient of the Hank Aaron Award, given to the best hitter in each league Finished the year ranked #1, the 5th time he’s done so, tying Jimmy Connors
Winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who best displays skill on the field while giving back to the community off it. Federer became just the 2nd player in history to lose the #1 ranking, and then regain it.  The only other player to achieve this was Ivan Lendl in 1989.

For Federer, 2009 was a year of records upon records.  He showed toughness, grit, resolve and courage, and as always, he did it with class.  It really is hard for me to understand the choice of Jeter instead of Federer, when their accomplishments are viewed side-by-side.

For example, and I hope this doesn’t sound too nitpicky, but there’s a fair amount of hoopla in baseball about getting on base.  Granted, this is an important component of the game, because if you can’t get on base, you can’t score.  But hits don’t win games, runs do.  Having the bases loaded is nice, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t convert bases to runs.  That’s just the way it is.  And when you look at the stats you see that *Jeter* is credited with 107 runs, but *he* only hit 18 home-runs, which means that 89 of “his” runs (83%) are from a combination of stolen bases and *other guys* hits.  In other words, it’s a team sport; he didn’t do it alone, not even close.  Not so with tennis where, since day 1, when you walk onto the court, you walk alone.  There’s no team, and even if a player has a coach, there’s no coaching allowed during match play!

Other relevant stats for Federer:

61-12 record 2009 (83%)

Clay 18-2 (90%)
Grass 7-0 (100%)
Hard 36-10 (78%)

2nd in 2nd serve points won  (57%)
3rd in 1st serve points won (79%)
3rd in service games won (90%)
3rd in break points saved (69%)
5th in aces (657 in 71 matches)

And Federer also has a foundation for kids

Anyway, not that any of this matters, or is socially significant in any way, but I can’t help but feel that once again, Sports Illustrated missed the mark by neglecting the Fed.

Oh well…T-minus 49 days and counting til the Australian Open.  I’ll be surprised if Federer isn’t in the finals.  Again.

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