You’ve got to weigh in on Derek Jeter in the waning days of his lengthy, super Major League career. It’s just a shame that last year was wasted after his serious ankle injury in the 2012 playoffs.
Until then it almost looked as if Jeter could play forever. To remind people his 2012 Yankees season was extraordinary. The 20-year New York shortstop was 38 that season. He led the American in hits with 216 and batted .316.
Jeter was the talk of the game. It seemed possible he could play at a high level for a couple of additional seasons and who knew how many hits he could accumulate. That season Jeter did not appear to be getting older, but playing younger.
Jeter receives award
And then along came the sad injury that changed everything. Trying to make a diving play at second base Jeter broke his ankle in the American League Championship Series’ first game against the Detroit Tigers. He was done for the playoffs and for all intents and purposes he was done for good.
Jeter worked his butt off on rehab last year, but never got back to full strength. He appeared in 17 games and batted.190, a completely lost season. Overnight, Jeter had gone from defying age with an exceptional performance to looking his age at 39.
That is not how he wanted to complete a career that included five World Series championships and selections for 15 All-Star teams. Somehow, being under a hyper intense spotlight in New York for two decades Jeter handled himself with class and avoided too many tabloid starring roles.
He was a baseball player first. Being a showman rated much lower on the list. Shortstops, because of their agility and the way they fill space in the infield, are often viewed as quick with sharp reflexes, but many are seen as little men. Jeter was not a consistent, major home-run threat, but he is 6-foot-3 and weighs 195 pounds, a very sturdy guy.
Jeter’s lifetime batting average entering the final weekend of his career, is .309. That is far superior to many Hall of Fame shortstops, from another Yankee great Phil Rizzuto to Pee Wee Reese, and including Ernie Banks, Joe Cronin, Cal Ripken Jr., Lou Boudreau, and Barry Larkin. The all-time shortstop leader in average is the Pirates’ Honus Wagner at .327.
Jeter ranks sixth all-time in hits, behind Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker. He was on a roll at the end of the 2012 season. Would he have collected another couple of hundred and passed everyone except Rose and Cobb? We’ll never know that. But there is little question that Jeter will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible in a few years.
This farewell tour was well-deserved as fans in many cities paid tribute to Jeter’s career, but it lacked drama because he was no long his old self. Darn it, without that 2012 broken ankle he may have gone out in even grander style.