In the final seasons of their baseball careers, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera were able to ride off into the sunset with their heads high. Although they played for the worst Yankees team in over 20 years, they still performed at the level that fans have come to expect from them. At 43 years old, Mariano Rivera's pitching was nearly indistinguishable from the years when he was winning championships in his late 20's. As an old and gray 41-year old, Andy Pettitte earned his keep as a top of the rotation starter, something he's done seemingly every year since 1995. After a long, frustrating season it was at least a small consolation to see two members of the "core four" walk away on top of their game. So where does that leave the last remaining member?
The aging roster that made up the 2013 Yankees will only continue to decay in 2014 and Derek Jeter will most likely be part of the problem. From the look of it, the DH spot will have to be used as a musical chair for all of the late 30-somethings on the team, so the 40-year old Jeter will have to primarily play shortstop. At least that's the plan. The problem is that Jeter has been playing one of the most physically demanding positions in the sport every day for the past 19 years and it's taken quite a toll on his body. After playing just 17 games last year due to a rash of injuries, it's reasonable to think that he might struggle to stay on the field even if he was given a part-time role at shortstop. That leaves the chances of him flourishing in his usual role, like Pettitte and Rivera did in their final seasons, at very, very slim. It's also bad news for fans with seats behind first base as Eduardo Nunez might see even more playing time at shortstop in 2014.
But let's say Derek Jeter miraculously gets put back together and is healthy for 2014. What kind of production can you expect from a 40-year old infielder? There has been exactly one player in the modern era that has played shortstop full-time at age 40. Omar Vizquel, whose value was always tied to his glove, put up a paltry .246/.305/.316 line as a 40-year old with the San Francisco Giants, which was well below his career .272/.336/.352 career line. Craig Biggio's career numbers fall right in line with Derek Jeter's and he happened to be an everyday second baseman at age 40. That year he managed to go .246/.306/.422, pretty weak compared to the .281/.363/.433 line he put up for his career. As a big shortstop, Jeter has always been compared to Cal Ripken Jr. Well, Ripken was an everyday third basemen in his final season at age 40 and stumbled his way to a .239/.276/.361 batting line, a far cry from his career .276/.340/.447 marks that put him in the Hall of Fame.
With those players, all of them very good for a very long time, a precedent has been set as far as what to expect from Derek Jeter in 2014. Not much. The Captain has proved doubters wrong before, and his career line of .312/.381/.446 is better than any of the three mentioned above. So there's a chance that his numbers don't sink as low as they did for that trio. However, it's safe to say that Jeter's 2014 season won't resemble his dominant form of the championship years and he might not even be able to leave the game on his own terms like his homeboys Andy and Mo.