Derek Jeter’s season is over. His career most certainly is not.
The long-time Yankees shortstop was placed on the 15-day disabled list today after reaggravating his surgically repaired left ankle. This marks Jeter’s fourth trip to the DL this season.
Now that he’s 39 going on 40, several members of the baseball punditry have begun to speculate that we may have seen the last of Jeter.
I can say with near 100% confidence that Jeter will be back again, playing in pinstripes for the 2014 season. Barring any further unforeseen injuries that may keep him sidelined, of course.
Why am I so confident? Well for starters, Jeter controls his own destiny.
His three-year, $51 million contract will be up at season’s end, but the contract has a player’s option built into it. The choice of whether to exercise that option is Jeter’s and Jeter’s alone. Not to mention the fact that the option is for $9.5 million dollars. Why would Jeter walk away from the possibility of banking that much more money before hanging up his cleats once and for all?
The 2013 season has been nothing short of miserable for old No. 2. His injury plague began almost a full calendar year ago when he fractured his left ankle during the American League Championship series against the Tigers.
Jeter went under the knife last October with the expectation to be back and ready to play full speed for Opening Day in April. Except the Yankees legend fell victim to the “Can’t Get Rights”.
He refractured the ankle during Yankees spring training, costing him half of the season right out of the gate. Jeter made his season debut in on July 11, but immediately strained his right quadriceps and landed back on the disabled list. He returned again on July 28 and played in four games before straining his left calf, and again hitting the DL.
In total, Jeter has played in just 17 big league games this season, and has never really had the chance to get back on track from his ankle injury. He managed to bat just .190 with a single home run and seven RBIs during his few brief stints in the Bronx.
The season sticks out like a sore thumb against his career numbers. A .313 lifetime batting average. 3,316 hits. 256 home runs. 1,260 RBIs.
Jeter ain’t going out like that.
All of us, even the most extreme of Yankee haters, have come to know and respect Jeter. The man has won five World Series Championships, he’s been a World Series MVP, and he’s played in thirteen All-Star Games. He has racked more career hits and stolen bases during his 18 seasons in New York than any other player in Yankees history.
And he’s done everything in style, with a penchant for the clutch and a flare for the dramatic. Words could never do the moments he’s captured on the field justice, but Sportsrageous.com compiled a list of its top-10 Derek Jeter moments back in July. Here are the videos of those that stick out in my mind the most.
The Jump Throw, which has become Jeter’s signature play.
ALDS Game 5 against Oakland, Jeter makes a catch while flipping into the stands en route to eliminated the A’s from the playoffs.
Jeter passes Lou Gehrig as the all-time Yankees hits leader.
Jeter makes a running catch before diving into the against the Rival Red Sox.
The historical “flip play”, where Jeter comes from nowhere to cut off an errant throw and flip to the catcher in time to get an out at the plate. The play came with the Yankees trailing the Athletics 0-2 in the ALDS, and changed the whole momentum of the series, which New York went on to win 3-2.
Jeter hits a walk-off home run as the clock passed midnight and the date became November 1, 2001 in game four of the World Series, giving him the nickname “Mr. November”.
The 3,000th hit. Leave to Jeter to make sure number 3,000 was a home run.
A player with that kind of legacy deserves to end his career on his own terms and on his own time. And Jeter will. He is not the kind of competitor to just limp off into the sunset.
People similarly thought that Mariano Rivera’s career was done after he tore his ACL shagging fly balls and missed all of 2012. Yet Rivera has returned for a farewell tour this season, and has performed at a high level. At 43 years old, Mo has saved 43 games and has a 2.30 ERA. He hasn’t just been a contributor for a team that finds itself in the thick of the playoff hunt; he’s been a key component. Don’t you think Jeter has noticed that, too?
In 2014, Jeter will be 40. The game may be beginning to pass him by somewhat, but it hasn’t left him, and he’s still capable of performing at a high, Major League starter level when healthy. Jeter knows that.
And so he will take the offseason to try and finally get right. I hope that means he will have the graceful exit he deserves, and we will get to enjoy a few more magical moments like the ones pictured above.