With the news of the Yankees and Brett Gardner both declining their options for the 2022 season, it is apparent that New York has said its last farewell to an era of Yankees players. That era included a range players including Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Canó, CC Sabathia, and a few others. Despite only one world series victory in the last two decades, the team has won many games and homed many great players.
Perhaps that has also meant they held onto players for quite too long as well. Outside of two stars, many of these farewell tours didn’t end so great, including the most recent in Gardner. Most of this is probably due to age, but nevertheless, I’d like to take a quick look back at these final seasons starting with recent hall of fame inductee and one of the greatest Yankees of all time in Derek Jeter.
The Captain was a bit old by the time of his farewell tour. While he received many gifts from various clubs ranging from donations to the Turn 2 Foundation to chunks of the Fenway Park scoreboard, he did not play all that well during the span of the tour. It is certainly impressive that Jeter pulled off playing in 145 games, but he hit for a 49 wRC+ and was undeniably a drag on the team. It wasn’t all that shocking considering he was playing on a bum ankle at age 40. But this is what you do for a player who led your team to so much success, right?
Jeter left the stage with honor, as one might say. His left side of the infield mate, Alex Rodriguez, went through a bit more of a debacle. The situation didn’t seem all that sour as in other years during this tumultuous relationship, but it was still quite odd. If you don’t immediately recall, Rodriguez retired mid-season and subsequently took a token job in the front office. That suggested the situation wasn’t all that bad. On the field, however, it was bad.
A-Rod was awful in his final 65 games in the 2016 season. He had a 56 wRC+ and -1.1 fWAR. He was plagued by injuries and never got it going, but even so, things like this are expected in your age-40 season! He was quite good the year before, but the team was moving in a different direction, and that meant finally removing themselves from a decade long love-hate relationship.
Then there was CC Sabathia. He is the most beloved in the recent era of Yankee players. He pitched for the team for 11 seasons and is likely to enter the Hall of Fame with pinstripes on his cap because of the long tenure. He recreated himself with the Yankees. When Sabathia lost velocity, he changed around his pitch mix and became an artist. Throughout his final seasons, especially 2019, he was on and off the mound dealing with chronic knee issues. He left it all on the mound. He didn’t pitch great in his last season, but he still got the ball in the playoffs, and fought till he literally could not anymore against the Houston Astros. It was a tearjerker. Here it is.
You may have erased the next farewell from your mind. Robinson Canó had a 143 wRC+ and 5.9 fWAR in his final season in pinstripes. He is the best second baseman in Yankees history. The team let him walk to Seattle and have been looking for a high-contact lefty slugger since. In his final season, his strikeout rate was 12.5 percent. That’s less than DJ LeMahieu’s stellar 2019 season. He did what DJ did, only every single season. He was under appreciated and did not receive the proper farewell considering his status in Yankees history.
Like Jeter, Mariano Rivera left MLB adorned with many gifts and love from opponents and fans. Rivera received what may be the greatest retirement of all-time. The Twins had an ingenious idea and crafted a rocking chair made of splintered bats. Perfect for Rivera, who split many bats across his career with his patented inside cutter.
Mo combined all the greatest bits of other players’ farewell tours. There were wonderful gifts, endless love, an appropriate sendoff in the stadium, and magnificent performance on the field to cap it all off. He threw 64 innings with a 2.11 ERA at the age of 43. He could’ve kept going, but decided it was time to hang them up. His last game was emotional. Here’s the final entrance if you’d like to relive it.
And that’s that. Mo and Canó certainly had the best performances in their final seasons. Unfortunately, none of these Yankee greats were sent off with a ring. They all won at some point though, and that’s not something any of the 2022 Yankees will be able to say. Let’s hope that the next Yankee great whose era is over in New York gets a proper send off in the form of great success and a World Series championship.