Commentary

Jeter the name that matters

If Yankees' captain ever ended up on positive test list, baseball's done

Originally Published: August 12, 2009
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

BRONX BOMBSHELL: DEREK JETER SAYS HE USED STEROIDS

Well, what would you do if ESPN interrupted your regularly scheduled programming for that one? Would it be enough to make you shred your season tickets, douse your baseball cards with charcoal fluid and delete America's pastime from your Facebook friends list?

If I ever see Jeter's name attached to the hip of performance enhancers, I'm done. I mean it -- I'll never watch another big league game again. Because if Captain Pinstripes could do the Vitamin S deed, then anybody can.

Jeter's name is where I draw the line in the PED sand. He is the absolute last guy I'd ever suspect of juicing. It seems so, well, beneath him. He is the one player who I actually think would walk away from the game if he thought he had to cheat to compete.

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesWouldn't be much point in caring about baseball if Derek Jeter's name ever showed up on some performance-enhancing drug list.

To me, Jeter is the anti-Barry Bonds, the anti-Roger Clemens and the anti-Alex Rodriguez. He understands that if you compromise the game, you compromise yourself.

Bonds, who didn't need to cheat but did anyway, was undone by an ego the size of Alcatraz. Clemens, the pathological liar who tries to intimidate people into believing his gum-wrapper-thin explanations, cheated because he was "The Rocket'' and you're not. And A-Rod, overpowered by the need to please and justify his historic contract, copped to at least three seasons of PED use -- but only after lying about it for years and only after he was cornered by the truth.

Not Jeter. I can see him marrying Mariah Carey before I see him squirming in front of a Congressional hearing with the lawyered-up Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. I can see him in a Boston Red Sox uni before I see him smirking his way through PED revelations like Manny Ramirez did in Los Angeles.

Jeter would never put himself in that position. At least, that's what I want to believe. Then again, I wanted to believe it with his New York Yankees teammate, A-Rod. More than anything, I wanted to believe in the integrity of Rodriguez's numbers.

I'm not a Yankees honk. In fact, I want to scrape my ears with a steel-haired barbecue grill brush every time I hear play-by-play man John Sterling do that grating, "Thhhhhhhhhhhhe Yankees win!'' thing. But how can you not admire the way Jeter treats his craft? He is the template for baseball professionalism.

That's why I'd need a year's worth of Dr. Oz therapy sessions if it turns out Jeter did the steroids deed. And I'm not the only one.

Yankees fans would go into permanent mourning if Jeter betrayed them. A-Rod's steroids admission they could handle; he was a free-agent import. Jeter, though, was born and raised by the organization. You think Yankees and you think Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Maris, Berra, Munson, Reggie and Jeter.

Same thing goes for St. Louis. Cardinals fans worshipped Big Mac and then watched in disbelief as he napalmed his sport and reputation by refusing to "discuss the past.''

Can you imagine if Albert Pujols, the man who eventually replaced McGwire at first base, was a syringe enthusiast? City officials would have to set up a baseball suicide prevention clinic at Busch Stadium. Cards fans adore Pujols.

A Jeter steroids admission would be the deal-breaker for me. Pujols, too. If those guys went pharmaceutical, I couldn't go to a big league game if Bud Selig paid me.

Who would it be for you?

[+] EnlargeAlbert Pujols
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonFans in St. Louis were burned by Mark McGwire. They couldn't handle it if another superstar got caught in this PED mess.

Ken Griffey Jr.? If The Kid did it, I'm gone.

Chipper Jones? The same.

Mariano Rivera? I'd think about it.

Joe Mauer? The sound of weeping followed by my baseball resignation letter.

Jim Thome? Baseball's nicest guy wouldn't do that to us, would he?

Tim Lincecum? Sadness if The Freak was a fake.

Trevor Hoffman? Hells bells, please not Hoffman.

David Wright? See Mauer response.

More and maybe all of those names on that "secret'' steroids list will eventually leak out. In February, it was A-Rod. In June, it was Sosa. Last month it was Ramirez and David Ortiz. It's death by 96 or so paper cuts.

So far the game has survived the depressing revelations. It sort of coagulates, scabs up and then heals as best as it can.

But there could come a time when the PED damage reaches a tipping point. For me, the magic number is 2.

Jeter's jersey number.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter