Chipper Jones preemptively announced his retirement at the start of 2012 and had somewhat of a farewell tour as opposing teams often paid tribute to the Hall of Fame-bound third baseman when he visited their stadiums for the final time.
Mariano Rivera did the same in 2013. However, compared to Jones, Rivera’s send-off from baseball was an extravaganza (unfortunately, it also distracted attention away from Todd Helton’s farewell season).
On April 7, the Detroit Tigers gave Mo a plaque with two photos and dirt from Old Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park, thus setting a precedent for every team in the game to present Rivera with a parting gift. Some were funny, like the “Chair of Broken Dreams,” while others were more pragmatic, like donations to Rivera’s charity. Then there were gifts that were just flat out stupid — I’m looking at you, Texas Rangers. A cowboy hat and boots? Seriously?
Derek Jeter has announced he will hang up the spikes after 2014. Which begs the question: what will he receive on his farewell tour? MLB teams just spent an entire season celebrating the man who crushed their dreams in the ninth inning. Now they have to honor the man who beat them in innings one through eight.
It should be difficult for teams to think of something to give Jeter. Rivera had the whole “Enter Sandman” thing going for him. His nickname and his reputation for making bats explode were the inspiration for many of his gifts, as was his background coming from a family of fishermen. Jeter doesn’t have as much to work from.
He was made the Yankees’ team captain in 2003, only the 11th man to receive such an honor. Combined with his innate ability to step up in big games, he has earned the nickname “Captain Clutch.” The Toronto Blue Jays could potentially play off this and their Canadian roots by giving him a Yankees-style hockey jersey with the captain’s C on the chest. The Tigers could combine the clutch aspect of his moniker with their city’s car industry background and give him the clutch from a car painted navy blue and white.
The Houston Astros could give him a Phil Nevin baseball card. The Cleveland Indians could do the same with Paul Shuey, and the Baltimore Orioles with Jeffrey Hammonds. All three players were taken ahead of Jeter in the 1992 MLB Draft (as were B.J. Wallace and Chad Mottola).
Another option is to go the charity route, as was commonly done with Rivera. A $2 donation for every time Jeter’s gotten a hit in his career could make for a nice donation. The greatest honor he’ll receive will come from the team for which he’s played two decades. Like Rivera, Jeter has preemptively announced his farewell season. Also like Rivera, the Yankees will give him real estate in Monument Park. It’ll have to do until he receives his rightful spot in Cooperstown.