Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees are facing a crossroads in his illustrious Hall of Fame career. In the past three years, the Yankee Captain went from washed up to leading baseball in hits in 2012 to circumstances that could see him retire after this season.
Jeter turned back the clock last year when he registered an MLB-best 216 hits to go along with a .316 batting average at age 38. His subpar 2010 season, which was accompanied by a career-low .270 batting average, seemed like a distant memory.
Suddenly a player who struggled to get past the 3,000-hit milestone in 2010 and the first three months of the 2011 season was recharged and ready for an assault at the all-time American League hit rankings.
The future of the Yankees and Jeter changed with a fall that ended with a broken ankle for Jeter and culminated with a sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. These kinds of injuries weren't supposed to happen to players like Jeter.
Jeter's return July 11 in an 8-4 win over Kansas City in the Bronx saw the Captain return to huge applause. Jeter even singled and scored in the first inning. Even though he didn't hit the ball out of the infield there was a sense things were getting back to normal, but then came the quad injury. Jeter suffered a Grade 1 Quad Strain and was placed back on the disabled list after the All-Star Break.
Jeter's body has begun to betray him and he's faced with a choice about how he wants to finish out his career. Jeter could play out the rest of this year's schedule and retire, which would guarantee he would get to enter Cooperstown in five years with his longtime teammate Mariano Rivera.
There would be no one that could criticize his decision to step away given how his health has deteriorated. Given what I've said about Jeter's health, no one would be wise to question Jeter's ability to prove the doubters wrong and put together an outstanding 2014 season, but it seems unlikely at this point.
The Yankees, however, face a future of uncertainty with aging, overpaid stars on the field. This year has been a view into what happens when you stack a roster with players past the prime of their careers. The season of injuries for the Yankees has shown how incredibly weak the minor league system has become over the past five years. There are no future stars in farm system.
No one wants to see Jeter limping down the first base line like Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Jeter knows exactly where he is with his health is at this time, and he won't play out a string just to get to a desired career milestone. What happens next will be up to Jeter - the Yankees and the rest of the baseball world will be watching on the edge of their seats.