- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Derek Jeter hit the trifecta for a sports icon — money, love and respect.

It’s not an easy triple crown. You can have your agent negotiate the money — mountains of it. Ask Alex Rodriguez.

Jeter will have earned about $265 million over his career when he retires at the end of this season. A-Rod will have made about $300 million, and could wind up with $360 million when all is said and done.

How much would he have given back to have a night like Jeter had at Tuesday’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game?

You can’t negotiate that. You have to earn it on the field, in the bleachers, the sports bars, people’s living rooms. You can’t buy your way into people’s hearts.


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Like the Beatles said, “Money can’t buy you love.”

Ian Desmond should have been paying close attention to Jeter’s All-Star evening. He, too, has that rare opportunity to win that triple crown.

No one is suggesting that the Nationals shortstop is Derek Jeter. But he is on track for a good — perhaps great — major league career.

Desmond, 28, has won the last two Silver Slugger awards at his position — a position that future Hall of Famer Troy Tulowitzki plays. He hit 45 home runs and drove in 153 runs in the past two seasons. He leads the team in home runs this year with 16, with 57 RBI.

He can be erratic at shortstop, but he can be remarkable as well. He is a player you want on your team — as witnessed by the number of phone calls general manager Mike Rizzo would receive about Desmond from rival GMs early in his major league career.

He is laying the groundwork for the first part of the Jeter triple crown.

He is well on his way to the other two — love and respect.

Desmond is a stand-up guy. He and Jayson Werth are the leaders of this team, but unlike Werth, Desmond treats people with respect. He reaches out to others, such as his the “Ian Academy All-Stars,” the group of scholar athletes from the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, where Desmond sits on the board of directors. He has been an active and aggressive supporter of raising money for neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that often results in tumors.

He reaches out to young players to help them. Earlier in his career, after he came up to the major league club, Desmond would show up at local minor league games in the Nationals organization to show his support.

Dan Steinberg in the Washington Post D.C. Sports Bog recounted a recent story of his personal connection with people. Desmond has been trying to give up chewing tobacco, and a Nationals fan sent him some “Big League Chew” gum to help him. They communicated on Twitter, Desmond thanked her, and when the two happened to connect recently at a Nationals game at Camden Yards, Desmond again thanked her personally, and gave her a set of his batting gloves. The fan later saw Rizzo and told him that he needed to sign Desmond to a long-term contract.

The Nationals tried this winter. But Desmond, if we are to believe him — and I do — wouldn’t give the Nationals a hometown discount. They offered him $90 million over six or seven years, depending on what reports you believe, but Desmond told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that he felt an obligation not to take less money than he might be worth on the free-agent market — because that would deflate the market for other shortstops who would be seeking contracts as well.

That’s a measure of Desmond’s sense of responsibility. It’s also players’-union propaganda, because when push comes to shove, what Ian Desmond could have here in Washington, he couldn’t find anyplace else, no matter how much he got paid on the free agent market to help his fellow shortstops.

You know how many baseball icons this city has had in the last 70 years? One — Frank Howard. He was just with the Senators for seven of his 16 major league seasons but he left an impact that is still felt today, because he touched people, not just with his talent, but with his heart and deeds.

That’s it. Frank Howard. There are other Senators players who we have been fond of, and there are Nationals players as well.

But Ian Desmond has a chance to feel the kind of love and respect that comes with a player who delivers great moments on the field, and perhaps greater moments away from it — all while wearing the uniform of one single team for his entire career. It’s a special relationship, one that can’t be negotiated. It’s there for the taking in this town.

It’s the triple crown.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.

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