The End of an Era: Derek Jeter to Hang Up His Spikes After 2014 Season
Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson and Mariano Rivera.
Some of the greatest baseball players of all-time have worn the pinstripes of the New York Yankees with pride. Over the past 20 years, Derek Jeter has earned the right to have his name mentioned among those legends. Like all good things though, his time as a Yankee will be coming to an end. Recently Jeter, the Yankees’ captain since 2003, announced via his Facebook page: “The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball.”
This announcement hit me close to home. I was raised to be a die-hard Yankee fan, and I was fortunate enough to grow up with the Yankee dynasty of the late ’90s, early 2000’s. The end of Jeter’s career symbolizes the final chapter of that dynasty because after the 2014 season the entire “Core Four” will be officially retired. The “Core Four” – for those who don’t know – were the heart of the Yankee dynasty: Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter came up through the New York Yankees minor league system and were integral parts of those championship clubs.
Even with another year to play, Jeter has already put up historic numbers. One of his top individual accomplishments are his 3,316 career hits, which rank 9th in MLB history. A decent season could see him rise to as high as 6th on that list, but it would take a classic Jeter 200 hit season to jump into the top 5. It’s hard to say that anything is out of reach, but that is a tall order for a man who turns 40 in June. More important than each of those hits though are the 5 World Series rings that Derek has helped the Yankees clinch. Jeter has also picked up 13 MLB All-Star selections, 5 Gold Glove Awards, 5 Silver Slugger Awards, the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year award, and a World Series MVP.
There is no denying that Jeter is a Hall of Fame-caliber player. His individual stats, coupled with being known as a “winner,” will likely grant him first ballot entry to Cooperstown when he becomes eligible. Jeter’s career has taken place during the “Steroid Era” in baseball, but he has avoided scandal and carried himself with unwavering professionalism while leading baseball’s most loved AND hated team on baseball’s biggest stage. Performance enhancing drugs have dragged some of the greatest names in the sport through the mud (McGwire, Bonds and Rodriguez to name a few), but Derek Jeter has managed to stay clean and produce at an incredible rate.
To those who are familiar with the game, this did not come as a complete surprise. Derek missed most of the 2013 season due to injuries, and missing that much time at age 39 is not an easy thing to overcome. In the letter to his fans, Jeter said, “Some of the things that always came easy to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle.” It is clear that the game has become more of job for Jeter than it ever was, and he has come to terms with the fact that his body can no longer handle the trials of a 162 game season the way it used to.
Jeter has taken a page out of his long-time teammate, Mariano Rivera’s, playbook by announcing his intentions to retire before the season begins. This will allow each of the teams, and their fans, a chance to give Jeter a proper farewell tour. Jeter is greatly loved – and greatly hated – by fans across the league, but I expect the respect of the fans to be on display as they say goodbye to one of the all-time greats.
The New York Yankees are likely in for a tough season in 2014. In 2013 they missed the playoffs for only the second time since 1994, and they will need to fight through the highly competitive AL East to earn their way back in. If the Yankees fail to make the playoffs, Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium will be September 25th against the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees end the regular season in Boston at Fenway Park with a series against their longtime rivals, the Boston Red Sox. This means that Derek Jeter’s career could possibly come to a close playing against the fans that have relentlessly booed him for the past 19 seasons. While this may seem like the last place Jeter would want to finish up, I can’t help but think that he will be walking off the field on September 28th to a standing ovation from thousands of fans that respect the way he played – and just for now, still plays – the game.