The 2014 season is more than just a comeback season for Derek Jeter. After suffering an ankle injury and other annoying aches and pains, the Yankee captain missed most of the 2013 season. Now healthy and looking to be the team's starting shortstop, this season is also a goodbye. Just like Mariano Rivera before him, he wants one more season to prove he is healthy so he can go out on his own terms. Just like Mo, he'll have an entire season of farewells and remember whens.
People have been saying that this year is the year the Yankees, as we know them, come to an end. People have been wrong year after year, but still those predictions are made. Well, congratulations, if you said 2014 was the end, you were right. I'm not saying that this is the end of their time competing, the Steinbrenners would never let that happen, and after a near-$500 million offseason, there's no way the Yankees fall to the wayside in 2015. This isn't the end of the Yankees as we know them, but this is the end of one iteration of them.
Before Derek Jeter, the Yankees were a franchise in a very dark place. Now, after 20 years, five World Series titles, seven pennants, 13 division titles, and 17 playoff berths later, Jeter leaves the team in a completely different place. Of course, he didn't do it all on his own. He was surrounded by great players in his time: Paul O'Neill, Don Mattingly, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Bernie Williams, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada. The list goes on. With the retirement of the rest of the "Core Four," what this goodbye season is really all about is the end of the one thread that connects them all together. We're not saying goodbye to the man, but to the era he played in. I mean, even he understands that he can't go on forever.
The fans who grew up in the Derek Jeter Era have really never known a time when their franchise was in a bad place, where success wasn't a given. We don't really know how lucky we are, because as you might remember in 2008 and 2013, the feeling kind of sucked. Now imagine that every year for five years, 10 years, 15 years. The next time you're about the act like a spoiled Yankee fan just remember how fortunate you are for this era of baseball, but remember that even though it's over, it's not really over. The Yankees won't become a black hole for the next decade. They won't be missing the playoffs on a regular basis, but it will be a different team.
Just like the Babe Ruth Era, the Joe DiMaggio Era, the Mickey Mantle Era, the Don Mattingly Era, and so on, came to an end, so must the Jeter Era. On to the next one. What might make this era harder to move on from is that there's no one taking the torch. Robinson Cano has left. Sabathia and Teixeira have their own problems, and Ellsbury, McCann, and Beltran haven't even played yet. We might have to wait a few years before we see the rise of another leader.
If you're a regular Pinstripe Alley reader, you might be shocked to see me saying such things about Derek Jeter. I know I have been very critical of him over the years, but it was never really about Derek Jeter, the Baseball Player. My disdain toward Jeter has always been more towards Derek Jeter, the Narrative. People say that Derek Jeter is this and he is that and whatever else, but because he is such a private person, we never really know exactly what he is other than what he wants us to see him as. I like my icons to be a little more personable, but that doesn't take away the incredible achievements that is this man's career. Maybe my views on him have soured in the last few years, but in 20, 30, 50 years, the Derek Jeter Era will be a part of history, which was what really attracted me to the Yankees in the first place.
Baseball is a game of comings and goings and it will never be anything different. Derek Jeter might be the greatest shortstop of all time, he might be one of the best players of all time. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that he was the face of one of the most successful times in Yankee history, and that definitely says something about him as a baseball player and an icon.
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