Re: Jeter re-signed....$12MM
posted at 11/6/2013 11:45 AM EST
Jorge Arangure Jr.
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November 4, 2013
The Captain's Last Stand
Mariano Rivera is gone, along with Andy Pettitte, and no one knows if Alex Rodriguez will play for the Yankees again. When will Derek Jeter join them? (Getty Images)
In the waning moments of the 2013 season, while longtime teammates Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte received numerous ovations and were recognized for their accomplishments as they headed toward retirement, the often-injured and suddenly bench-ridden Derek Jeter finally admitted that he had started to face his own baseball mortality.
Jeter's comments were a casual acknowledgement, certainly not a teary-eyed pronouncement, but it was a subtle glimpse at the thoughts of a player who very rarely allows anyone publicly to know just what sits inside his head. But the 39-year-old Jeter had no choice but to accept the truth. With so much uncertainty about his health, and with all his best friends on the team soon to be receiving their pensions, the end for the best shortstop in Yankee history is near.
Jeter had participated in Rivera's retirement ceremony on a sunny Sunday morning during the last week of the season, then he famously, along with Pettitte, went to the mound at the final home game at Yankee Stadium this season to remove Rivera from the game so that the legendary closer could get one last proper goodbye from the home crowd. These were moments that would never be forgotten by Yankee fans, and it became obvious that they would not be forgotten by Jeter either.
"Time to go," Jeter told Rivera as he removed him from the game.
Jeter has not commented publicly on his new $12 million, one-year contract that was announced on Friday, yet there is a growing sense that for Jeter it soon will also be time to go. It's a safe bet that Jeter did not hold a conference call after the announcement on Friday because he knew that the questions about his retirement would begin.
Last season was a miserable season for Jeter and he dreaded, even more than usual, the constant questions from reporters. Jeter can be coy and curt with writers, but this time, you could really sense that the questions were becoming a distraction, or at the very least, an annoyance. During one media session this year, Jeter asked the crowd of reporters if someone had a question for him that he hadn't already been asked this season. Since the topic at that time was Jeter's health, the answer was no. They were all the same questions about the same topic that had dominated his 2013 season.
The assumption is that Jeter's health will be fine with a full offseason to recover. But for the first time in his career he will be playing under the uncertainty of a one-year contract. Will this season be his last? The questions about his future are unavoidable. It's a fair question now or when Jeter reports to spring training in February and gives his opening "State of the Jeter Address." It's unlikely that he'll answer that question definitively anytime soon, but it's a topic that will continue to come up.
The one-year contract represents something of an experiment. The $12 million is more than what Jeter would have earned on the open market, but it's understandable that the Yankees would want to reward one of their all time greats.
But can Jeter, who turns 40 in June, be a productive player one year removed from hitting only .190 with a .288 OBP and .254 slugging percentage in an injury-marred 2013 season that limited him to only 63 at bats? And if so, would Jeter gamble that he could be similarly productive in 2015 if he had a successful 2014 season?
Yet Jeter should take note and follow Rivera's path. One year after Rivera suffered a devastating knee injury that kept him from most of the 2012 season, the closer returned for a celebrated final season in which he was one of the top closers in the league and his exit was a perfect bookend for a remarkable career. In a somewhat mystifying development, Rivera became almost a mythical figure during his last season, with opposing fans seemingly wanting to catch one final glimpse or to simply bask in his presence. It was if Rivera had become a combination of a rock star and the pope