Derek Jeter’s impending retirement after the 2014 season will leave major league baseball and the New York Yankees without more than just a shortstop and a great player. Jeter has not only been a model citizen and surefire Hall of Famer, but also the face of baseball for the past 15 or 20 years.
All baseball fans will remember his 13 All-Star appearances and five World Series championships. The soon to be 40-year-old is tenth on baseball’s all-time hits list and also has won five Gold Glove awards. The accolades go on and on, but his iconic image is what will resonate for years after he is gone. Jeter was the most humble and humanized superstar of our time.
“I tried to do this under the radar,” said Jeter early Wednesday morning at the Yankees’ Spring Training facility in Tampa, FL. “I didn’t want this to be a press conference where I come here and read a speech. I didn’t want to have everyone, especially my teammates, I didn’t want this to be a distraction to them.”
Jeter echoed the sentiment that the press conference was not a retirement press conference, as he still knows there is a task at hand. The Yankees have spent nearly half a billion dollars this offseason on former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Braves’ catcher Brian McCann and Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, among other acquisitions. The full press conference was documented by NJ.com.
All of the attention being given to Derek Jeter’s retirement leaving MLB without their face has diverted attention away from the task at hand. Underneath all of the retirement hoopla, let’s not forget Jeter is about to turn 40. The Yankees still have massive title aspirations and will be relying heavily on an old shortstop who appeared in just 17 games last season due to lingering effects of a broken ankle suffered in the 2012 playoffs against the Detroit Tigers. However, if there is anyone in professional sports who fans can count on being prepared, it is Jeter.
“This has nothing to do with how I feel physically,” Jeter said. “I feel great. Look forward to playing a full season.”
The New York Times documented how the Yankees organization encouraged Jeter to announced his retirement prior to the season so fans would have the privilege of saying goodbye to him, much like fellow Yankee legend Mariano Rivera did last season. Jeter announced his plans to retire in an elaborate Facebook message last week.
Jeter’s legacy has been intact long before his recent decision to retire. The images of him doing his trademark spinning throw from deep in the hole at shortstop are unforgettable, typically followed by his notorious fist pump after a great play. The legendary moments have been impossible to shake, from “the flip” in Game 3 of the 2001 American League Division Series against the Oakland Athletics, the 3,000th hit and the dive into the stands against the Red Sox that left his face bruised and bloodied.
Of course, no one can forget the famous primordial walk-off home run of his career that happened to come in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Postseason play had been pushed back due to the tragedies of 9/11, and the game on October 31 spilled past midnight into extra innings, garnering Jeter the now historic nickname of “Mr. November.”
Mythical moments aside, Jeter’s exit will be felt by MLB as much off the field as it will on it. Any casual bystander not just in New York, but across the country could tell you who Derek Jeter was regardless of their baseball fandom. He provided a breath of fresh air and a quintessential role model during a time where the sport’s integrity was soured by steroid scandals.
Derek Jeter’s retirement leaving MLB without the face of baseball will leave the door open for the next face of the sport, perhaps to be filled by youngsters Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. Either way, Jeter has left a profound imprint on baseball forever with not only his postseason heroics, but by the way he has carried himself as a true champion.
Editorial by Justin Hussong
The Morning Call
The New York Times