Start spreading the news, Derek Jeter is leaving after 2014. The song “Theme from New York, New York” isn't about Derek Jeter. Heck, it was released days before he turned 3 years old. But one could say the song — the Frank Sinatra rendition is blasted in Yankee Stadium after each home game — could easily relate to Derek Jeter. As a kid, he would say he wanted to be the shortstop of the New York Yankees when he grew up. A very specific target. But sure enough, that’s what he did. The Yankees drafted him in 1992, and for nearly 20 years, he’s made it there, and made it anywhere.
I’m a big fan of consistency. I believe in the idea of “if it ain't broke, why fix it?” Until recently, I was using a laptop that I got in August 2006, much to the disbelief of some of my family members. At work, I've been known as the guy who brings a turkey sandwich and Chobani Greek yogurt for lunch. I love when I see a Chobani 10-for-$10 deal in the grocery store circular.
Baseball is, by far, my favorite sport. And being from New York, and because, as my grandpa put it, the driver turned toward Yankee Stadium instead of the Polo Grounds, I’m a third-generation New York Yankees fan. He grew up watching Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and of course, Red Ruffing and his 335 complete games. And while I've been able to enjoy the careers of career Yankees Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada and long-time Yankee Andy Pettitte, since 1996, Derek Jeter has been the starting shortstop — usually batting second — for my beloved baseball team on a daily basis. That’s a long time.
Jeter playing shortstop for the Yankees is probably one of the longest-running relevant consistencies of my lifetime. After all, I was 7 when he made his major league debut, and now I’m almost 26. And that whole time, barring an injury here and there, we've been going strong. He averaged 144 games a season since 1996 (and that’s despite a 17-game 2013 season. It’s 151 games if you want to ignore 2013.) While I can’t tell you how he did in my presence for his career, I can tell you that since August 2010, Jeter is 14-for-51 (.275) in my presence, in 12 games, with 5 RBI and a leadoff home run in Baltimore April 10, 2012.
Obviously I don’t know the guy, but I’d like to think Jeter is a fan of consistency, as well. When fans worried about a potential bruise or minor injury, Jeter would always brush it off, say he was fine and expect to have his name on the lineup card the next day — and most of the time, it was. He has had a recording of the late Bob Sheppard announcing his name every time he steps up to bat at in the Bronx ever since the legendary voice of the Yankee Stadium passed away in 2010.
But, alas, all good things must come to an end, and today, Derek Jeter announced he will retire once the 2014 baseball season comes to a close.
We’ll have a lot of memories together, mostly via my television. Some were just instances, such as the flip play of 2001 or the play when he dove into the stands and came out with a bloodied face in the 12th inning of a July 1, 2004 game against Boston, or his 3,000th hit in 2011. Others were repeated, such as seeing “Knoblauch-Jeter-O'Neill” atop a lineup during the late-90's Yankees dynasty, the line drive base hits that John Sterling would typically describe as “Jeterian” or, of course, the jump throw from his shortstop post.
Derek Jeter at bat, New York Yankees vs. New York Mets, July 2, 2006
Photo by Jon Bleiweis | JonBleiweis.com
And frankly, we may not see another Derek Jeter in baseball for a long time. By that, I mean a Hall of Fame-caliber baseball player who spends his entire career with one team. There aren’t many, presently. Chipper Jones retired after 2012. Rivera and Todd Helton retired after 2013. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have passed the 10-year mark in Philadelphia, if you want to consider them Hall of Fame-caliber, while Joe Mauer and David Wright just hit the 10-year mark in Minnesota and with the New York Mets, respectively.
It’s tough to think of more players to add to that list, at least at this time. Perhaps we’ll see Dustin Pedroia, Andrew McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw, Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman, Buster Posey, or even Ryan Braun join them, but while they’re all under contract for a little while, it’s all speculation right now. In this era of free agency, money speaks louder than ever. Jeter’s former teammate, Robinson Cano, chose not to be the face of the franchise and potentially get his number retired in New York, as he chose to sign a 10-year, $240 million deal, rather than accept the 7-year, $175 million deal the Yankees were proposing after nine years spent in the Bronx. Time will tell with that short list, and we won’t know for a long time.
Change is not always what I want, even if it happens, and even if it’s ultimately for the better. Like 6-year-old laptops being used daily, you don’t find too many 40-year-old starting shortstops in Major League Baseball. It was only a matter of time that Jeter would announce his retirement. Frankly, I’m just surprised it wasn't done after his final season started instead of before.
So with all that said, I’ll enjoy the 2014 baseball season, the sendoff season for Derek Jeter, and move on accordingly. And while I’ll still bring a turkey sandwich into work for lunch, perhaps I’ll broaden my horizons a little more often.