Derek Jeter is SI's Sportsman of the Year

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Derek Jeter wasn’t the MVP of his own league in his own sport but, according to Sports Illustrated, he’s now the Sportsman of the Year:

“It’s unbelievable. It was completely unexpected. It came out of the
blue,” Jeter told The Associated Press during a break in the photo
shoot. “When I heard it, what can you say? It’s one of the greatest
honors you can achieve in sports.”

The 35-year-old Jeter is the first Bronx Bomber to be tapped for the
award that has been given out since 1954. Swimmer Michael Phelps was
last year’s recipient.

The Sportsman of the Year Award is something of a moving target, with weird zeitgeisty things having a lot to do with who wins it. Brett Favre won it a couple of years ago for “his perseverance and his passion,which, strangely enough, is one of the reasons everyone likes to hate on him today. The whole Red Sox team won it in 2004, putatively for historical reasons, though strangely enough the 2005 White Sox didn’t get it despite the fact that they broke a longer championship drought. It’s the sort of thing that makes one ask (heaven forbid) whether magazine sales have just as much to do with the award as athletic accomplishments do.

But it’s not just about on-the-field achievement, of course.  I think the best ever Sportsman of the Year Award came in 1987 when SI gave it to six different athletes, some known, some not-so-well known, citing their charitable efforts as “Athletes Who Care.”  This year SI cites Jeter’s philanthropic work as a big reason for the award.  If that was the main driver, as opposed to simply wanting a Yankee on the cover in a year with little in the way of monster stories, good for SI.

And no matter what SI’s motivation was, good for Derek Jeter.  I have my fun with him from time to time simply because it makes Yankee fanboys crazy, but he is a Sportsman in the truest sense of the term, and he is deserving.

Watch: George Springer robs Todd Frazier with an incredible catch at the wall

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Perhaps there are a few who still miss the slope of Tal’s Hill rising from center field, but George Springer isn’t one of them. He lassoed a 403-foot fly ball from Todd Frazier in the seventh inning of Game 6, reaching nearly to the top of the wall to prevent the Yankees from gaining on the Astros’ 3-0 lead.

According to Statcast, a fly ball with an exit velocity of 103.6 MPH and a launch angle of 29 degrees lands for a home run 72% of the time. That wasn’t going to fly with the Astros, who were facing runners on first and second with one out and saw Justin Verlander‘s pitch count rapidly approaching 100.

It wasn’t long before the Yankees tried for another home run, however, and this one sailed far above the heads of all of the Astros’ outfielders. Aaron Judge lofted a 425-foot shot to left field in the eighth inning, destroying a first-pitch fastball from Brad Peacock and finally getting New York on the board.

The Yankees currently trail the Astros 4-1 in the bottom of the eighth.