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Wednesday, July 12
MVP just the latest award for meteoric Jeter

ATLANTA -- So what does Derek Jeter do for his next trick? Cure cancer? Win a Nobel Peace Prize? Marry Jennifer Lopez?

He's done everything else, hasn't he? Rookie of the Year. A World Series ring every October whether he needs one or not. Led his league in hits. Led his league in runs. Had more hits after his first four full seasons than all but five players who ever lived.

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter will have to clear a little more space on his trophy shelf.

And now an All-Star Game MVP trophy.

Oh, and not just any All-Star Game MVP trophy. The only All-Star Game MVP trophy ever won by a member of the Yankees, a team that has employed several players over the years you may have heard of.

So think now. What's he do next? Solve the labor mess? Figure out the realignment puzzle? Invent a magic potion that takes 10 years off the right arms of David Cone and Roger Clemens?

Whatever he does, you wouldn't put it past Derek Jeter anymore. How can you? He just turned 26 and already, he has done more in this game than the entire Minnesota Twins roster put together.

It's hard to say where that line is that separates the great players from the Casey Candaeles of this life. But we can all agree that Derek Jeter wouldn't know how to dip below that line if you drew him a map.

"He's a special player, man," his ex-teammate, Joe Girardi, was saying from the National League locker room after watching Jeter's 3-for-3 evening in All-Star Fantasyland. "He just relaxes. He always plays his game, no matter how big the stage."

Yes, he's a .345 career hitter in the division series, he's a .319 career hitter in the League Championship Series and he's a .315 career hitter in the World Series. And for his latest big-stage extravaganza, Jeter became the first shortstop to get three hits in an All-Star Game since Arky Vaughn -- in 1941.

Remember now: Derek Jeter just turned 26-years old. Imagine how he'll play when he gets comfortable with who he is and what he is.

"First of all, most people don't get to the level he plays at," Girardi said. "And what I really like about Derek Jeter is that he has as much fun playing the game as anyone. This is just fun for him -- and a chance to get together with guys he doesn't get to see a lot and have a good time. Don't misunderstand me now -- he plays to win, but he's able to relax in this setting and have fun at the same time."

Jeter also seems to have a certain affection for Turner Field, which you might have noticed. It's been the home of many an 0-for-4 for mere mortals, but counting his 3-for-3 Tuesday night, Jeter is 16 for his past 27 (.593) in his last six games in Atlanta, with five RBI and nine runs scored.

"If he played in Atlanta," said Chipper Jones, "he might be the first player to hit .500. He can't make an out here. I was glad to see nobody else in the National League can get him out here, either."

Think about the pitchers he has faced in those games -- the Braves' Aces Inc., collection in the first five, then Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Al Leiter in the All-Star Game. Then think about what those games have meant -- an All-Star Game, two World Series games and three turbocharged regular-season games last month.

Then kick those numbers around again -- 16-for-27? You've gotta be kidding.

"I just find the holes here, man," Jeter said. "I really can't look anything into it. I just find the holes."

But no other Yankee ever managed to find enough of those holes to win an All-Star MVP trophy. And even though there was no All-Star MVP trophy before 1962 -- thus allowing the Babe, Gehrig, DiMaggio and several other household names to escape blame on this one -- that's still a startling fact.

It was startling to Derek Jeter, anyway.

"To hear I'm the first Yanke ever to win one is kind of baffling," he said. "There's been some amazing guys to play here. But when you play the game, you just want to be in the right place at the right time. And obviously, I was tonight."

He's just one of those lucky guys who happens to be in the right place at the right time. That's all. Kind of like those hardware-store owners who win the lottery. Derek Jeter: Just a lucky guy. Whenever he shows up, trophies and World Series rings always seem to follow.

"Well," said his manager, another lucky guy named Joe Torre, "the harder you work, the luckier you get."

The luckiest man in All-Star Town finished packing up his gear Tuesday night. He began to zip up his equipment bag. Then it struck him -- something was missing.

He turned to Yankees publicity man Jason Zillo with the question of the night.

"Hey Jason, what happened to the trophy, man?"

"I don't know," Zillo said.

"Guess they stole it, huh?" Jeter replied, not looking like a man who thought this was a good reason to call 9-1-1.

A minute passed. Zillo launched a mini-investigation. He then returned to report the trophy was safe after all, in the possession of the Yankees' traveling secretary. Just one more lucky break in the ever-fortuitous life of Derek Jeter.

So off he went into the night -- bound, no doubt, for the Mayo Clinic, where he'll be helping all the doctors diagnose cases on his way to the ballpark, where he'll be seeing if he can possibly find a few more holes. For about the next 15 years.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for


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