Jays closer Casey Janssen has had the better of Derek Jeter 16 times out of their 17 head-to-head encounters.
But ask Janssen about the New York Yankees captain and, after a string of compliments, he goes straight to the one time Jeter got the best of him.
“He hit a home run off me and I blew a save because of it,” Janssen recalled with a grimace.
Even when someone has his number, Jeter — who has hit .059 against Janssen — leaves an impression.
Toronto fans will get one last look at the 40-year-old shortstop when Jeter’s farewell tour rolls into the Rogers Centre on Friday.
“His career speaks for himself but he’s one of those guys who seemed to do everything right,” said Jays manager John Gibbons.
“And he was a guy that always seemed to rise to the occasion when they needed something,” he added. “He anchored their great teams. He showed up to play every day.”
Like other clubs, the Jays will be showing their appreciation for the future Hall of Famer with a gift.
The Detroit Tigers presented him with two seats from the original Tiger Stadium and three framed paintings. Cleveland offered up a pinstriped Gibson Les Paul guitar and a framed piece of artwork of Jeter made out of LEGO bricks.
The Kansas City Royals donated $10,000 to his Turn 2 Foundation. The Texas Rangers matched that charitable cheque and threw in a pair of cowboy boots. Minnesota wrote the same cheque and also presented him with the last second base ever used at the Metrodome. Oakland opted for a $10,000 cheque and personalized bottle of Napa Valley wine.
Some clubs worked around the number he wears.
The Cubs presented Jeter with a No. 2 from the famous Wrigley Field scoreboard. The Mets gave Jeter a plaque depicting his No. 2 made out of subway station tiles before their final Subway Series game as well as a charitable cheque for $22,222.22. The Angels went for a Yankees-themed paddle board adorned with No. 2 on it. Houston gave him pinstriped cowboy boots with his No. 2 on them, a cowboy hat and a set of golf clubs.
As of Wednesday, the Jays said they were finalizing their gift.
Jeter has hit .286 in 213 career at-bats against current Jays pitchers with six homers and 21 RBIs. Compare that to .357 against the current crop of Texas throwers, .327 against Seattle, or .316 against Boston.
Jeter’s memories of Toronto may be painful. On March 31, 2003, he dislocated a shoulder sliding into third after a violent collision with catcher Ken Huckaby. In typical Jeter fashion, he was hustling to take third on a comebacker to the mound. Jeter was out six weeks and Huckaby became Public Enemy No. 1 in New York.
Today’s Jays talk of Jeter with respect and admiration, both for his play on the field and the way he conducts himself off it — especially under the bright lights of the Big Apple.
“A true ambassador of the game,” said right-fielder Jose Bautista, the leader in the Jays’ clubhouse. “He exemplifies what a baseball player is supposed to be like.”
“He’s the all-time baller. The original gangster,” centre fielder Colby Rasmus, in typical Rasmus-speak, said in his southern drawl. “He’s always been cool. Every time I’m on second base, he’s always cool.
“He’s the only player that’s ever made me feel good and I still liked him after they were spanking our butts.”
Added 24-year-old pitcher Drew Hutchison: “Everyone respects him. Every player, every manager, everybody in the game. That doesn’t happen a lot. ... He’s a winner, he’s a leader. Growing up, he was the guy you watched and you love to watch play.”
Said Rasmus: “He was able to find that lightning on the bottle and he was able to hold onto for a long time ...I tip my cap to him. He’s the man.”
Janssen had a message for Toronto fans ahead of Jeter’s visit.
“Come out and support him, because he’s one of a kind and guys like him don’t come around too often.”