Last year was both phenomenal and heart-breaking in the eyes of a Yankee fan. We experienced the long goodbye of epic closer Mariano Rivera. “Enter Sandman” would be heard no more in the late innings of a close game. Other teams honored Mo in their own stadiums for all the defeats and broken bats he has delivered over his 19 year career. I was lucky enough to be at the stadium for his final celebration, which ultimately brought tears to my eyes and ripped out my heart. But now it is over.
And in 2014, we have to do it all over again.
Derek Jeter is in his 20th season and because of his devastating injury in the 2012 ALDS against the Tigers, his career will come to a close. Well, he is 39 years old, but still, his injury played a key factor in deciding his retirement. Now, I have no doubt that this will definitely not be the last we see of Jeter in the baseball world (my guess is he’ll make one hell of a coach…), but still his absence will ring strong, both in the locker room and on the diamond.
Not only is the current captain, but he is the legend. He is the baseball player I grew up studying and imitating in my own experiences both on and off the field. He taught me the value of being humble and treating others with respect. He showed me the beauty of the game of baseball. Several Yankees fans feel similarly, but fans of other teams have treated his retirement announcement with backlash.
Constant rumblings around the internet say that this is unlike Jeter. His humble and selfless nature wants this elaborate spectacle of a farewell tour? He just wants attention for his retirement, just like Mo got. And it would be it will be painful to watch him get special attention throughout the season
Let me put things straight: I have no clue what Jeter’s intentions were. But I feel as though I’ve gotten to know him these past twenty years, as I’ve grown up with him, watched him develop as a player and become one of the most respected men in baseball. No matter when Jeter would announce his retirement, there is no doubt that he would still receive the same, if not more, star treatment than Mo. Go around all the MLB locker rooms and question them about the Yankees. The first thing they’ll say is how much respect they have for Jeter. And no, that is not just a ploy. He truly does treat all the teams in the league with respect.
He is a mentor: a dedicated player who truly had to work hard to get to where he is today. No, he may not hit home runs daily. No, he may not even have the best average or be the slickest fielding shortstop right now, but he is the definition of a leader. With so much emphasis placed on the stats and MVP titles, Derek Jeter is not at the top. But he is still respected because of his leadership and the way he carries himself amongst an organization that has been scrutinized and under the microscope for decades.
In a baseball world riddled with accusations of PEDs and cheating, Jeter is the one major player who has stayed out of the discussion fully. And in today’s society, that is an amazing feat. Just like Mo, Jeter has stayed out of the spotlight for all the wrong reason and found his way to the same spotlight for the right reasons: for being humble, for being hard-working and for being dedicated and giving to the community.
Is this the kind of man who you think would retire just for the attention? Obviously he knows of his Core Four status, and with him retiring, the team and the organization is suffering a large blow. Giving advance warning of his retirement will give us fans a chance to soak in all that he has done for this organization and the sport of baseball. We need this time to prepare ourselves for the end of a generation and the start of a new one. And as Jeter heads out, the captain role will be vacant. The leader in him knows that the team needs to develop a new leader and this season will give them time to do that. Who knows what will come after this? Who knows if we will ever see a leader, person and ball player like Jeter ever again? We just don’t know. But it’s his time and it’s time to say goodbye, giving him whatever we can since he has done so much for us.
So Jeter, you deserve all the love you are about to get from fans all across the MLB. Not only have you made a difference in the Yankee Universe, but you’ve showed players and fans all across the MLB what it means to truly be a baseball player.