The Captain is bidding adieu to the game after a very memorable career
The Captain is winding down a storied 20-year career, one filled with clutch performances, World Series championships and his trademark fadeaway jump throw from the hole.
Derek Jeter has been the consummate professional while styling at short. He has a squeaky image and rarely stirs up the tabloids. A controversy surrounding Jeter is called a hitting slump.
He’s done all this at one of the most demanding positions on the biggest stage for the one of the most storied franchises in the world. He’s been a main cog in the Yankee machine that has won five titles in his career, including three straight from 1998 through 2000. Fortune magazine recently ranked him 11th among the world’s greatest leaders. When asked what Jeter has meant to the game, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig simply said: “The face of baseball.”
That face is making one final tour around the league — including his final appearance at Target Field as a member of the AL team for the 85th All-Star Game. Jeter is expected to be recognized during the game for his sterling career — which might be the only time he’ll be cheered at Target Field.
“Derek Jeter is the kind of young man who reminds [us] of players from other generations whether it is Henry Aaron or, in my case, a Robin Yount,” Selig said. “People with class, dignity, a great player who always represented the sport beautifully. So I’m proud to be commissioner of a sport that has Derek Jeter.”
The Jeter farewell tour is weaving its way through the league, and the Yankees shortstop might have to add on to his house in order to keep the gifts teams are giving him. The Twins two weeks ago presented Jeter with the last second base from the old Metrodome and donated $10,000 to his foundation.
“First of all, I don’t like the phrase ‘farewell tour,’ ” Jeter said before a Twins-Yankees game at Yankees Stadium in May. “That sounds like you’re running around shaking hands and kissing babies. We’re trying to win, not look at it as my last year.”
As soon as he announced on Feb. 12 that 2014 would be it for him, what else could he expect?
What’s been remarkable about this tour is that teams like the Cardinals, Brewers and Cubs — places he’s been to only a few times because of interleague play — are holding pregame ceremonies for him.
Teams have been creative with their gifts. The Cubs gave him their number 2 from the Wrigley Field scoreboard. The Astros gave him golf clubs, a Stetson hat and a pair of pinstriped boots with his number on them. The Angels gave him a paddleboard in Yankees colors. And many have made donations to Jeter’s Turn 2 foundation, which helps children stay away from drugs and alcohol. The A’s gave him a check for $10,002 — nice touch. The Mets wrote one for $22,222.22 — see what they did there?
“It’s been very much appreciated, what’s happened so far this year,’’ Jeter said. “I don’t expect people to react a certain way, but the way they have is pretty overwhelming, especially the way the fans have treated me. It’s been something I’ll always remember.”
Jeter is at a point where it seems like every other day he’s passing an all-time great in something. This season alone, he’s passed Paul Molitor for ninth place on the all-time hits list. He’s passed Lou Gehrig for second place on the Yankees’ all-time runs scored list. He’s in fifth place on the all-time singles list and has a chance to pass Cap Anson (2,614) for fourth.
He also has moved into second on the all-time list of games played by a shortstop, passing Luis Aparicio on May 24 while the Yankees were in Chicago, coincidentally. “Aparicio!” Jeter exclaimed after the game. “Everybody knows how great he is.”
Jeter has never played another spot in the field. Ernie Banks ended up playing more games at first base than shortstop. Cal Ripken at third. Robin Yount in center field. Shortstop is a demanding position; it’s difficult to have a lengthy career there. Jeter’s range has predictably declined through the years. General Manager Brian Cashman speculated in 2011 that Jeter would end his career as an outfielder, but No. 2 never moved.
“Extremely impressive,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s one thing if you retire at 32 that you play your whole career at shortstop, but he is going to be 40 this year and it is extremely impressive what he’s done. ‘‘
Last season was particularly distressing for Jeter, who was out until July because of a fractured left ankle. He then landed on the disabled list twice because of right quadriceps and right calf strains. Before that he was seemingly indestructible.
If he finishes the season healthy, he’ll end his career 20-25 games shy of Omar Vizquel’s record of 2,709 games played by a shortstop.
“It’s difficult at any position to play this long,” Jeter said. “It’s a demanding position. I’ve been fortunate to stay healthy and play a lot of games. Second on the all-time list, I’m proud of that. My job from Day One is to play shortstop. That has never changed.”
Jeter is not quite finished yet. He’s trying to lift a Yankees team this season that has been offensively challenged but nevertheless has stayed in contention in the AL East. At times he’s looked late on fastballs, but he’s going down on his terms, fighting for the playoffs once again. He’s played 158 career postseason games — about a full season spent in the playoffs — and he wants more.
“We have a lot of playoff memories of him, always coming up and being one of the most clutch hitters I’ve ever seen,’’ Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Soon he’ll have to find some other outlet for his competitive juices. He indicated in early June that he wouldn’t mind being an owner someday.
“I plan on it being very, very smooth and enjoyable,” he said of his coming transition. “I have been doing this for a long time, parts of 20 years, parts of 23 doing it professionally [including the minors]. I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. I’m having a lot of fun doing it. But the time has come. After this year. I’m happy with what my career has been.
“I’ll have plenty of stuff to do. I have plenty of things that I’m interested in that I’m going to be doing, but at this point my number one focus is to play.’’