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That sound you hear? That’s the sound of 29 teams other than the New York Yankees groaning after learning they’re going to have to come up with another parting gift to give to another Yankee legend and first-ballot Hall of Famer.
One year after greatest-closer-of-all-time Mariano Rivera completed his farewell tour of Major League Baseball, Yankee captain Derek Jeter announced (on Facebook?) that he’ll retire after the 2014 season. That means he’ll be saying his goodbyes to each MLB stadium he passes through the same as Rivera did last year, so bring on the framed photos and vials of dirt and odd memorabilia-based arts and craft projects and, of course, giant sand sculpture likenesses.
But though I may already be tired of the hoopla that will surround his comeback/exit interview at every stop this season, I must say (begrudgingly) I’m going to miss Derek Jeter. Because even though I pure, straight hate him, goddamnit do I respect him.
Let me be clear: I’m not going to miss what Jeter does on the diamond. I will happily do without what he contributes to the Yankees, even as an almost 40-year-old shell of his 13-time All-Star self. I don’t need the 200 hit seasons, the inside-out swing that fights off a tough pitch inside to dump a dinky little single into right field, the jump throws to first, and (of course) the intangibles that make them seem better and scarier than they really are. He can take all those World Series rings and postseason highlights (I never want to see that flip to home plate against Oakland again) and Red Sox killer moments (same goes for his suicidal dive into the stands at Fenway) and…well, he knows where to put them.
But that’s why I’ll miss the mystique he brings to the Yankees, and by default the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. As fun as it will be to think of a Yankee team forever rotating between Eduardo Nunez and Brendan Ryan at shortstop, the Yankees lose their luster without their captain. And then it’s not as much fun to beat them. Still very, VERY fun, but not quite as much.
This follows the Mo Principle, which I just made up: getting to Mariano in a save situation was one of the most satisfying feelings as a Red Sox fan, simply because he was so untouchable otherwise. Is Dave Roberts blowing a save even remotely on that level? No, of course not! It’s no different than wanting the Celtics to meet the Lakers in the NBA Finals in the two Big Three Eras, or hoping the Patriots get to face Manning for the right to advance in the AFC playoffs, or wishing the Bruins could get another crack at the Blackhawks in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals. Jeter upped the ante in the same fashion (particularly in those classic ALCS showdowns) and made the games that much more meaningful through his baseball aura, whatever that was exactly – playing the game the right way, coming up in the clutch, the way he carried himself on and off the field, all those cliches and platitudes.
Of course, I’ll also miss Jeter for just how easy it could be at times to make fun of him. The first thing that comes to mind is the way he would tend to lean out over the plate with his rear hanging out as if the pitch had buzzed him inside, when really it was right down the middle.
But even his Facebook announcement left himself open for ridicule, starting with the fact that he announced his retirement on Facebook. Some highlights:
I know they say that when you dream you eventually wake up. Well, for some reason, I’ve never had to wake up. Not just because of my time as a New York Yankee but also because I am living my dream every single day.
Well, I guess we know what color pill he’s taking.
For the last 20 years I’ve been completely focused on two goals: playing my best and helping the Yankees win. That means that for 365 days a year, my every thought and action were geared toward that goal.
I guess dating Mariah Carey was a highly strategic baseball move you discussed in detail with The Boss and GM Brian Cashman. And how exactly were those gift baskets you gave to every girl who spent the night at your pad part of your master plan to help the Yankees win?
I want the ability to move at my own pace, see the world and finally have a summer vacation.
You’re aware that you make millions upon millions of dollars, and that you can use those millions to travel to the southern hemisphere, which just so happens to enjoy the season of summer during the wintry months you call your offseason, right?
Thankfully, there’s still one whole season left of Jeter, be it to admire his comeback, decline, career accomplishments, cover stories in the tabloids, or ludicrous gifts from every team that will inevitably end up in storage alongside Mariano’s broken bat rocking chair. It’s only natural that Jeter will find himself in Fenway Park when the Yankees and Red Sox close out the 2014 regular season.