I admit it. The news has me a little verklempt. Derek Jeter has announced his retirement after the 2014 season.
The Yankee Captain turns 40 this year so it wasn’t like this came as a total shock. Still, reading his letter on Facebook meant it was real. It meant that a very storied chapter in pinstriped history is soon coming to a close.
There was at least one sports talking head (the YES Network’s Michael Kay) who said he was actually surprised by the news. He thought Jeter would go quietly into that good night not wanting the fanfare of a farewell tour like his team mate Mariano Rivera received last season. However, I understand why Jeter decided to announce his retirement before the season started. By saying it out loud it makes it real both for him and for the fans. It gives him a chance to say goodbye and for the fans to appreciate a great career. Jeter is no Brett Favre. There will be no coming back.
Derek Jeter has been the face of the Yankees since his first full season in 1996. A season in which the Yankees won their 23rd World Series championship and Jeter was named Rookie of the Year. He’s been the living breathing embodiment of the Bombers’ success ever since.
His accomplishments are many and great: Five World Series championships, 13 time All-Star, World Series MVP, All-Star Game MVP, five Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers. That’s quite a trophy room.
My favorite Derek Jeter moment was his entry into the 3,000 hit club on July 9, 2011. Early in the game, he got to number 2,999 on a bouncer up the middle. Then came his second at-bat in the third inning. The umpires switched out the balls as they do when a milestone hit is on the line. After all, if Jeter hit a home run they wanted to be able to get that baseball back for posterity. I remember remarking out loud as Jeter stepped into the batter’s box against Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price: “Like Jeter’s going to hit a home run for number 3,000.” No sooner had the words come out of my mouth then he hit the ball and it went soaring over the fence. I just laughed and shook my head. I should have known better watching him play all those years.
Of course, it wasn’t enough that Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit was a dramatic home run off a fireballer. His performance that entire game was pure fairy tale. He went 5-for-5 with his fifth hit producing a go-ahead run for the Yankees in the eighth inning.
That game, more than anything, sums up Derek Jeter and his Yankee career. If someone made a movie with the same plot, you’d say it was over the top. Things just don’t play out that way in real life. In the case of Jeter, truth is schmaltzier than fiction.
So, while we take the 2014 season to remember all the amazing Derek Jeter moments, forgive me if I dream of one last World Series ring for the Captain. He may be coming off a major injury. He may have lost a spring or two in his step. And the Yankees’ infield may be a mere shell of its former self. No matter. Nothing is ever too unbelievable when it comes to Derek Jeter.