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Oh Captain, My Captain

Derek Jeter announced that he will retire via a letter on Facebook today at the conclusion of the 2014 season.  This will end the career of one of the most successful players in the history of the esteemed New York Yankees, and indeed all of baseball.  Jeter will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2020 and will almost assuredly be a first ballot inductee.  By nearly every quantifiable and non-quantifiable standard, Jeter excelled in way that truly only appears once or twice in a generation.

Some of his career accomplishments include:

  • 7 American League Pennants
  • 5 World Championships
  • 1996 Rookie of the Year
  • 2000 World Series MVP
  • 2000 All Star Game MVP
  • 2006 American League MVP runner up
  • 13 time All Star
  • 2006 and 2009 Hank Aaron Awards
  • 5 time Silver Slugger
  • 5 time Gold Glover
  • Longest tenured Yankee Captain in history
  • Most stolen bases in Yankee History
  • Most hits in Yankee history
  • Top Ten in hits All Time

In addition to the awards and accolades, Derek Jeter has provided several signature moments any one of which would have made the career of thousands of forgotten major leaguers.  Picking a single marquee moment of Jeter’s career is therefore impossible.  The plethora of choices do not even need to be described.  Just mentioning The Flip, or The Dive, or Jeffrey Maier, is all that is required to conjure up memories burned into the brain of every baseball fan.

The ability to leave the game gracefully and on his own terms was hugely important to Jeter, as it was to Mariano Rivera, who retired last year. However, very few athletes are afforded that opportunity.  One need only remember the circumstances of another Core Four member, Jorge Posada, his ignominious final season in 2011.  Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) departure of a Yankee icon was that of Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto in 1956.  Late in the season, the Yankees acquired future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter and asked Rizzuto to meet with the front office to discuss the upcoming postseason roster. Rizzuto was given a list of the player and asked for his advice on which one should be cut to make room for Slaughter.  Rizzuto went through each name on the list and was given a reason for each one for why that person could not be cut.  Finally, the Scooter got to his own name.  He was the one that was expendable in the eyes of the Yankee brass.  He had to cut himself.

The legacy of Derek Jeter will grow for one more season, hopefully ending aboard a float traversing NYC’s Canyon of Heroes in early November.   But what can we expect from him this swan song summer?  He will be 40 years old in June and is still recovering from the gruesome leg injury that occurred during the 2012 ALCS and ended up costing Jeter the 2013 campaign.  But he led the American League in hits as recently as 2012 and a Gold Glove as recently as 2010.

We can safely assume that Jeter’s defense will be a massive liability.  Despite winning more Gold Gloves than any other American League Shortstop in history, he has never had great range nor great positioning.  He does have his signature Jump Throw and he is absolutely sure handed on any ball that is hit right to him, but the phrase spoken most often by Michael Kay, Voice of Yankees, has to be “And it’s by a diving Jeter into left field.”  That’s why the Yankees invested a 2 year contract in Brendan Ryan, one of the best defensive shortstops since Ozzie Smith, albeit one who can’t seem to get above the Mendoza line at the plate.  We can expect Jeter to be shortstop who starts games and Ryan the one who finishes them.

At the plate, there is little reason to think that Jeter won’t be at least a serviceable player who hits for average.  Jeter has never been a big power guy, topping 20 home runs only 3 times in his career.  He is a singles hitter who can spray to the gaps to show doubles power on occasion.  He doesn’t need to led the league in hits as he did in 2012, and most likely won’t, but if he can continue his modus operandi as Captain Clutch and make those hits count, setting the table for Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran hitting behind him and getting the big hit with runners in scoring position (something the past few Yankee teams have been very deficient at) will make the .282/.344/.379 slash line projected by ZIPS seem better than it is.

  • John Meloche

    You will be missed Derek! I wonder what he will do next?

  • Sam Dumcum

    “Derek’s a movie” Joe Girardi.
    I’ll never forget my only Jeter moment. July 28, 2013, the wife and I were at a Yankees game as part of our anniversary trip to NYC, and it just happened to be the Captain’s first day back from… “that” injury. As soon as Jeter starts warming up, the CROWD is on it’s feet cheering (and I don’t just mean the die hard fans, I mean everyone). Derek’s got a big smile on his face as he walks up to the plate; he’s home-sweet-home and New York LOVES him. And Derek shows his love for New York as his first swing of the bat, on his first pitch back, sails over the fence. After rounding the bases an adorning crowd calls him out of the dug-out twice, and finally, the game finally continues.
    Hopefully Jeter will have a retirement like Teemu Selanne.
    (Real athletes don’t like golf – even if it is in the #Rio2016 Olympics 😉 )