It may be the final season for Derek Jeter, but the veteran New York Yankees shortstop is proving one thing: he is headed out the exit door on his terms.
With a strong four-hit performance Sunday against the Chicago White Sox, Jeter showed flashes of brilliance. It was the Jeter of yore, and the shortstop who anchored many of the Yankees’ finest championship teams of the past 20 years.
The final chapter on Jeter has yet to be written for 2014, but it will certainly be a better season overall than 2013.
The man thought by many to be invincible looked vulnerable after the 2012 American League Division Series, when an ankle injury sidelined the Yankee captain for the remainder of the postseason and most of 2013.
If it wasn’t Jeter’s ankle, it was his calf. Then it was his quad muscle. Injuries limited Jeter to 17 games, and combined with pitching struggles and the off-field woes Alex Rodriguez suffered, let’s just say it wasn’t a good season in the Bronx.
Before Sunday’s game, Jeter was presented with dirt from old Comiskey Park, a commemorative bench made of bats from Yankee sluggers and a $5,000 check for Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation.
The Yankees took two of three from the White Sox, and Jeter promptly had his gifts taken back.
All kidding aside, there is a reason why Jeter deserves every bit of his farewell tour in 2014. Like Mariano Rivera last year, Jeter is retiring on his terms. Rivera’s devastating knee injury stirred the competitive fire in the reliever, just like all the injuries stirred Jeter.
He may not be same slugger of the old days, but Jeter still commands respect. He may not bat .300 or smack 200 hits anymore, but Jeter still addresses the media after every game without fail and in the face of whatever adversity there is that day.
It will be very strange to open the 2015 campaign and not see Jeter on the field any longer. There are days when Jeter looks like he is every bit the 20-season veteran, but there are days when you close your eyes and think it is 2001 all over again with Jeter making that unbelievable play to nail Oakland Athletics first baseman Jason Giambi at home.
Jeter may be gone soon from baseball, but the memories will linger on.