He’s a five-time World Series champion. He’s a 13 time all star. He has over 3,000 hits and has broken the Yankees’ records for career hits and stolen bases. Simply put, Derek Jeter is not only one of the greatest short stops of all time, he is also one of the most successful and gifted players to play the game of baseball. From his sensational rookie season start to his nearly flawless consistency as a veteran, Jeter has proven to be an iconic baseball player for the ages. However, while his greatness and professional poise have withstood the test of time, his athletic abilities and durability are slowly beginning to deteriorate. Ever since Jeter fractured his ankle in game one of the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, his miraculous talents and inspiring presence seem to have left him. Rather than starting the 2013 season rejuvenated and in high spirits, Jeter aggravated his previous ankle injury and eventually it was discovered that he had a small crack in his ankle. While Jeter did return to Yankees line up on July 11th, he suffered a quadriceps strain after playing in only one game.
Although the Yankees played inspired baseball initially after they went twelve games above .500 into late May, with each passing day it became evident that without Jeter the Yankees were simply pushing their luck with each hard earned victory. While Jeter’s absence clearly had an effect on the Yankees overall performance, it was made far worst by the lack of the Yankees other key players who systematically succumbed to their own debilitating injuries. Nearly every of the Yankees stand out super stars from Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are all still on the Yankees disabled list. Without these core veterans along with Derek Jeter as their fearless leader, the Yankees lack the veteran tutelage to propel them to success in the AL East.
However, the Yankees injury issues have become secondary to certain off the field tribulations. Specifically, Alex Rodriguez’s potential involvement in the recent Biogenesis scandal has been a great cause for concern. While Rodriguez has previously admitted to using banned substances between the years of 2001 to 2003, his humility and culpability over a decade ago don’t absolve him in any way from his alleged involvement in the more recent steroid controversy. At any other moment Rodriguez’s most recent missteps would be dealt with effectively with a degree of poise and complicit cooperation. Since this issue came at an inopportune time when the Yankees had roster issues, it caused a rift between Rodriguez and upper management. Between dealing with a scarce dug out along Rodriguez’s unfavorable limelight, the Yankees organization began to show signs of desperation and utter dismay.
While it would be unfair to definitively suggest that Jeter’s physical ailments were an omen for how the Yankees conducted themselves and their underwhelming regular season, it seems as if the Yankees are in a situation where an ultimatum must be reached. Even with the return of the Yankees star players, the fact still remains that this is an older team that is trying to hold on to the remnants of what made them successful in the first place. Jeter (age 39), Rodriguez (age 37), Granderson (age 32) and Teixeira (age 33) are all in the latter stages of their illustrious careers. While Granderson and Teixeira still potentially have a few solid years ahead of them, both Jeter and Rodriguez have long surpassed the primes of their careers. The inner workings of the Yankees dugout are slowly beginning to succumb to the inevitable, unstoppable force of time. Even if Jeter and company came back healthy and tenacious as ever, it would only prolong what would eventually come to pass. For Yankees fans, a singular sentiment must be considered if this team is to successfully usher in a new era of superstars: rebuilding. This has been a foreign concept for the Yankees who typically have enough monetary funds and a solid scouting department that has done an excellent job at filtering out the older players for the new ones. Now however, with all their key players on the disabled list without any determined dates of their returns, the Yankees need to wake up and realize that their time of expected dominance is coming to a close.
In the end, while Derek Jeter clearly personifies what it means to be a hall of fame baseball player, he appears to physically be unable to continue his illustrious legacy. Like the recently retired Ray Lewis, Jeter needs to face the reality that he has given the city of New York all he has to offer. Even though he may not go out the way he wants to, Jeter should at least consider going out on his own terms. While it may be hard and disheartening for die-hard Yankees fans to deal with, they’ll ultimately be eternally grateful for whom Derek Jeter was as a phenomenal baseball player, a role model and an all-round likeable human being.