2014 Season Preview: Jeter’s Final Season

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(AP Photo/Ron Frehm)
(AP Photo/Ron Frehm)

I’ve been watching baseball pretty much my entire life, but I think the first season I can actually remember was 1992. Before that I just watched baseball. The 1992 season when I really started following the game on a day-to-day basis, if that makes sense. That’s when I started paying attention to statistics (wins and RBI, baby) and understood the pitching rotation, things like that. I certainly remember watching a ton of baseball before 1992, but that was the year it went from an interest to an obsession.

One of the things I remember most about that 1992 season was thinking the Yankees had a gem of a young shortstop in Andy Stankiewicz. He carried like a .310 batting average into July and it bothered me whenever he sat for Randy Velarde. I remember being bummed when Stankiewicz didn’t win the Rookie of the Year award, even. I didn’t understand what it meant that he was a 27-year-old rookie. The Yankees were bad and he was a new face, a symbol of hope going forward.

Stankiewicz obviously was far from the shortstop of the future. He didn’t even make the team in 1993, and by 1994 he was playing for the Astros. Guys like Spike Owen and Mike Gallego came and went at shortstop, then in 1995 the Yankees had whatever was left of Tony Fernandez’s career. Similar to how Kenny Rogers was an awesome pickup because he once threw a perfect game, I remember being glad the Yankees signed Fernandez because I had heard his name in an All-Star Game or two along the way.

* * *

The 1995 ALDS loss to the Mariners was devastating to a teenaged Mike Axisa. It was one thing to root for a bad 1992 team or a good but not good enough 1993 team — the 1994 strike sucked, but, looking back on it, I wasn’t as upset as I probably should have been — but rooting for that 1995 squad was something different. I thought the season was over after a long losing streak in August, but the club reeled me back in with that insane finish (26-7!) to win the wildcard spot.

I can’t really explain how I felt watching Edgar Martinez’s double roll to the wall in Game Five, but I remember it. Helpless, I guess. Watching that ball roll and knowing the Yankees’ season was about to end is something I’m never going to forget. The 1995 Yankees were the first postseason team of my lifetime and that series, that double, was the first time baseball ripped my heart out. I was crushed. I didn’t know baseball could make me feel like that.

The relay throw on Edgar’s double was the last play Tony Fernandez ever made for the Yankees. He dove for a ball in Spring Training the following year and shattered his elbow, paving the way for Derek Jeter to become the everyday shortstop. I knew nothing of prospects at the time and I remembered Jeter from his cup of coffee the year before, but nothing more. I expected the Yankees to go out and make a trade, not go with the kid. That was crazy to me.

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Unlike Stankiewicz, I didn’t get that “shortstop of the future” vibe from Jeter, at least not right away. He hit the homer on Opening Day and had a nice two weeks to start 1996, but Jeter was pretty mediocre from mid-April through the end of May (proof!), and it was kind of a blah first impression. He tore the cover off the ball from June through the end of the season and that’s when it hit me and I think a bunch of other people that hey, this kid was pretty good. The Yankees might have something here.

With Jeter’s help, the Yankees went on to win the World Series that October and to this day, that is my favorite sports memory and favorite Yankees team. I think everyone feels the same way about the first championship team they witness, regardless of sport. It’s a great feeling, that first title. And, to be honest, I don’t think the 1996 World Series would be nearly as memorable for me had Edgar Martinez not ripped my heart out the year before. As much as it sucked, Fernandez’s no-chance relay throw and the heartbreak of 1995 made 1996 that much sweeter.

* * *

Jeter was outstanding throughout the late 1990s and 2000s, though he was never my favorite player. I’ve always gravitated towards pitchers for whatever reason, so I enjoyed watching Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte more than Jeter. David Wells was a fave too. I was pretty upset when they traded him for Roger Clemens. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike Jeter, but he was never my favorite player the way he is for so many others. That doesn’t make me weird or anything. It’s just my opinion.

For a big chunk of his career, I think I took Jeter for granted. I knew I was watching a great player, but it wasn’t until … I dunno … 2002? that it dawned on me I was watching a historically great player. Maybe it was because he came up at the same time as Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra in an age of super shortstops. I hadn’t suffered through enough Stankiewiczes and Gallegos to grasp how special Jeter was. There was not enough of a scar to make me fully appreciate his greatness, no Edgar Martinez double of shortstops to better put things into perspective.

Year after year, Jeter put up great seasons and the Yankees won, but not like they won when he first came up. The roster had turned over as it tends to do, but Jeter was the mainstay. Pettitte only pitched once every five days. Rivera only pitched when the game was close in the ninth inning. Jeter played everyday, batted in every first inning. There was comfort in that. The Yankees had changed over the years but they were still Derek Jeter’s Yankees. To borrow a phrase, he was the straw that stirred the drink.

Jeter has been a constant for so long, putting up the same great numbers every year and playing every day. Looking back, it’s really remarkable he stayed so healthy for as long as he did. His only significant injury from 1996-2010 was a fluke play, when he slid into Ken Huckaby at third base in 2003. Other than that, he was out there every game. These last four years have been rockier though, both with injuries and poor performance. Seeing Jeter battle baseball mortality has been … weird. Not sure how else to describe it.

(NY Times)
(NY Times)

I wasn’t terribly surprised when Jeter announced his plan to retire a few weeks ago. The announcement itself was surprising, but the idea that he would soon walk away was not exactly unexpected. At age 39 and after what he called a “nightmare” injury-plagued season in 2013, retirement had to cross his mind. How could it not? This is a guy who has accomplished everything imaginable in baseball and the game wasn’t coming as easily as it once did.

In a weird way, I think last season helped me prepare for life with Jeter. The same was true with Mariano Rivera when he got hurt in 2012. He was not around on a daily basis anymore, which was a new experience. This year, not seeing Rivera come out of the bullpen will be different but not unfamiliar. That same will be true at shortstop next season. Last year did a good job of showing everyone how the Yankees will look without Jeter.

We watched Don Mattingly walk away back in the day, and more recently we’ve watched guys like Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada and Pettitte (twice) and Rivera retire. All were great and beloved but none were as great and beloved as Jeter. Only Rivera is close. Jeter is on another level in every way, both on the field and off the field. It’s possible if not likely he will be the greatest Yankee of my lifetime, which is amazing to sit back and think about. You and I may never see another player of this caliber in pinstripes again. It’s cliche, but you know we’ll all be sitting around as grumpy old people in 50 years saying “yeah he’s good, but he’s no Jeter.”

I have absolutely no idea what to expect out of the Captain in his final season. I thought 2008 was a sign he was slipping, then he was an MVP candidate in 2009. I thought he was done after 2010-11, then he rebounded to hit like his old self in 2012. What happens after all the leg injuries? Who knows. He’s an important part of the team and the Yankees need him to produce, but at his age and after what amount to a year away from the game, he’s a real question mark. Maybe his body will be refreshed following the year off. Maybe his bat speed is beyond the point of return. We’ll find out soon enough.

All I know is that I plan to make an extra effort to sit back and appreciate Jeter this year, something I did not do enough over the years. Appreciate him for the player he’s been, for the leader and ambassador he is and has been, and for being the final tie to that 1996 club. Jeter is last remnant of this remarkable stretch in franchise history; the Yankees didn’t feel the same without him in 2013 and once he retires after the season, they won’t ever feel the same to me again.

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  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Stankie the Yankee! I had no idea he was a 27 year-old rookie either.

    We all had goofy haircuts back in the early 90’s. I’m actually quite shocked how Derek’s hair back then looks like mine back then.

    This should be a fun thread. I look forward to Darren fighting ten guys at the same time and/or hearing about why Jeter hasn’t walked into Joe’s office already and asked to bat 10th.

    • Preston

      I don’t know why he doesn’t retire right now to free up a roster spot for future HOFer YANGERVIS SOLARTE!!!!

      • I’m One

        And there it is. We have a replacement for Future HOFer Ronnier Mustilier.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Selfish fucker, that Derek Jeter.

        This must create quite the moral conumdrum for Darr…..oh, he already hit Yangervis over the head with a shovel to save Jeter? Not surprised.

    • OB/GYN. Kenobi

      My hair in the 90’s was mint.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I would equally not be surprised by the following as well:

    1. Derek winning the AL Batting Title.
    2. Derek’s season being over before my tax returns are in.

  • I’m One

    Nice article Mike. So much I’d like to comment on. Not sure I’ll be around in 50 years to speak about Jeter, and, yeah, he is most likely the greatest Yankee we’ll see in our lifetime. I missed seeing Mantle in his prime by a few years. I recall seeing him as a regular in the latter part of ’96 and realizing that he was something special. He just seemed to get it done, especially when the team needed him. I just hope he’s got one final solid season left in him.

    Thanks for the write up. I’m sure we’ll get a few more of these as the season progresses.

  • Ashley

    1996 is the first season I can recall. I remember the improbability of the Yankees winning 4 straight games to take the World Series after dropping the first two. Jeter has been a central piece of my Yankees fandom and I will sorely miss watching him play. Thank you for this piece and the lovely sentiment it expresses.

  • Joe

    All I can say is that in 1995 if Jeter was playing short instead of Fernandez…he would have nailed Griffey at the plate….NO DOUBT ABOUT IT !!!!!!

    • TWTR

      If Fernandez had not gotten hurt, I am not 100% sure that Jeter would have had a Yankee career.

      • Joe

        TWTR …you are 100% correct!!!!!!!!!….we got lucky !!!!

      • pablos giftbaskey sammie

        If Fernandez had not gotten hurt, I am not 100% sure that Jeter would have had a vaginalovin career.

        • TWTR

          He probably would have, just in a lower rent district.

    • Darren

      I blame Joey Fuckin Cora. That little shit was out of the baseline by a mile.

    • OB/GYN. Kenobi

      Yeah yeah but what would Sizemore have done with that play? F the relay throw, just run in and tag the mofo.

  • Eddardo Nuney

    Derek Jeter is the greatest Yankee to ever put on the pinstripes. I truly believe that the HOF will waive its mandatory 5 year waiting period and announce that it will induct Jeter the day after the Yankee season is over. I think they should do the same with Mariano as well so that they can go in together.

    If the Yankees appear to be a WS contender in June/July don’t be surprised if Mr. Mariano comes back for one last chance at that elusive 6th ring. Mariano doesn’t even have close if DRob is successful, he can be the setup man as he was for Johnny Wetland in 96. What a great bookend that would be to the storied careers of Derek and Mariano if they went out on top just like they came in.

    • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

      You truly believe that they’ll waive the waiting period for both Mo and Jeter?

      So what you’re saying is……YOU’RE GOING TO MURDER THEM?!?

      • Preston

        He’s sick of wearing their jersey’s he wants to make a Jeter, Rivera uniform a la Buffalo Bill.

        • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

          I shuddered. And felt nauseous.

    • OldYanksFan

      Hey… please pass the shrooms.

    • OB/GYN. Kenobi

      Step away from the medicine cabinet.

    • http://Riveravenueblues Marty lieberman

      Great, yes. Greatest ever,? Maybe for someone born in about 1987 or later. Alas, I wasn t . So I did see Mantle in his prime. I missed seeing Joe D by a couple of years and I hear some guys named Ruth and Gehrig had some skills. Sure, Jeters great, can t we just say “one of the greatest”. Certainly the greatest Yankee SS ever.

      • Wicomico Pinstripes

        What do you do when an Eddard is being an Eddard? Let him be an Eddard.

    • John D

      uh …. none of what you said has any chance of happening

  • John in Forest

    The first full season I can recall is 1961. It was a great season to be a 7-year-old in Brooklyn. I had no memory of the Dodgers and the Mets were a year away. I grew up thinking that the Yankees automatically were in the World Series every year …. that didn’t last long.

    My advice — enjoy watching Derek play this final season, regardless of how he does. After he’s gone you’ll be left with a hole in your heart that will never fill.

    • Mandy Stankiewicz

      “enjoy watching Derek play this final season, regardless of how he does. After he’s gone you’ll be left with a hole in your heart that will never fill.”

      Well said.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Now I have an Extreme power ballad stuck in my head.

        • Preston

          Because deep down you know that Eddard is crazy enough that he might actually have a deep hole in his basement where he stores things he covets.

          • OB/GYN. Kenobi

            It’s puts the lotion in its skin or it gets the hose.

            • OB/GYN. Kenobi

              *on

          • Preston

            Reply fail. Meant for the Macho Man

    • Mandy Stankiewicz

      “enjoy watching Derek play this final season, regardless of how he does. After he’s gone you’ll be left with a hole in your heart that will never fill.”

      Well said.

    • http://Riveravenueblues Marty lieberman

      First season I recall was 1955. Think I went to opening day at the stadium with my grandfather on a col, snow flurry type day. Might have been 1956. Yankees clobbered the Senators 19-1I think. Have to check baseball reference. From about 56-64, I would be really upset if the Yankees lost. Crabby, didn t feel like eating, wouldn’t read the sports pages. Series in 1955 and 1957 were bad. 1958 great, Yankees came from behind 3-1 to beat Milwaukee.1959 finished third. 1960 bad, walk off to pirates game 7. Not yet called “walk offs” then. 1962, my covey s shot found richardsons glove to end game 7. 1963 Koufax, 1964 dynasty dies with game 7 loss to cardinals.

      1965….yankees horrible and my hormones kick in….girls.:) found something better then Mantle belting one into the upper deck. Good times.

      • http://Riveravenueblues Marty lieberman

        19-1!

  • LarryM Fl

    Mike the article was just great. I grew up in the middle 50’s with the Mick and that crew of Yankees. The Mick was a great ballplayer but he cheated himself and his fans. As I grew older and understood the content of my reading which was mostly the Yankees and Mick. I knew he was a problem star who wore number 7 for the Yanks. He could hit, field and run. Yes run in a straight line. The knees made it difficult to cut the bases.

    Jeter IMHO has been a pleasure to watch grow into the star that he is. Coming to park ready to play. In 20 years have not heard a bad word or tale about the guy during the season and after the season. 20 years and a .313 lifetime BA, >250 Hrs. a very adequate fielder. He is my favorite Yankee with the Mick second. Also I believe he will hit this year just needs more time against life pitching.

    • LarryM Fl

      Live not life

      • Kosmo

        “Mick cheated himself and his fans“ ? In Mick´s first 14 seasons the Yanks made it to the WS 12 times !!! He was undoubtedly the cornerstone franchise Yankee player all those years and the best AL player from 1952 thru 1964. I never ever felt cheated. I know that IF he´d taken better care of himself his numbers would have been greater. Call me old fashioned but Mickey, Whitey and Yogi will always be my favorite Yanks that I actually had the pleasure of watching.
        I always liked Jeter a very durable clutch player and certainly one of the 2 or 3 greatest SS to ever play the game.

        • LarryM Fl

          Kosmo, I respect your opinion which is not hard to accept but the more I became aware of the Mick’s life. The more I felt disappointed. As a kid I would only sit in the bleachers to see him. I understood nothing of his life until older when his career was over. If Mick cheated himself than it follows that the fans did not get the best he could have been (IMHO). He more or less indicated such prior to his passing. If he only took care of himself and not having a terminal attitude to his life expectancy.

          I too have much love for those guys and how they won. It was great being a Yankee fan as a kid in those years.

          • Preston

            I once read an interesting article comparing Mickey Mantle and Barry Bonds as opposite ends of the spectrum. One cheated himself by abusing his body, the other cheated the game to make himself the best he could be. Both probably would have been better off meeting in the middle.

  • Wicomico Pinstripes

    Excellent, excellent article. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Jeter is easily my favorite player that I’ve had the opportunity to watch.

    • CS Yankee

      Gehrig, Mo & Jeter have the highest class.

      The Babe, The Mick & Wells (likely) the most beer.

      Joe D., The Mick & Jete (likely) the hottest women.

      Therefore, Jete is tied with The Mick.

      • LarryM Fl

        Mick was married!

        • Squints

          And…

          Mick cheated on his wife and got as much tail as Jeter. Jeter was just smart enough not to get married and not have kids during his career.

  • CS Yankee

    The first season I recall being hooked on was 1976, we moved out west and I could follow them everyday (at least) in the boxscore.

    The Comeback Yankees of ’78, The ’96 (comeback) WS Yanks and the extreme butt-kicking ’98 club are all tied as my favorites.

    Great way to end the Jeter write-up, Mike.

    • OB/GYN Kenobi

      We must the same age ish. I was blessed to have gone to every one of those post season games in the late 70’s with my uncle who fought a long but ultimately losing battle to cancer. We couldn’t afford the tickets. Not even close. But my mom insisted. Man oh man, memories.

      • CS Yankee

        Born the first year of the Yankees drought (1965).

        Grew up “middle class” whereas I had one pair of jeans and one pair of dress pants…McDonalds was a treat that we looked forward to once or twice a month. Missed a field trip to see the O’s play because you needed $4 or 5 to go (tix and food) scrapped together a buck to buy a set of wristbands from a friend who went…ahh, the good old days! Never can get why people are jealous of what others have, I grew up “rich”.

    • http://www.twitter.com/thewallbreakers Scully

      That ’98 team that destroyed the whole league was honestly so much fun haha. I guess that does make us the Evil Empire, doesn’t it?

  • Eddardo Nuney

    Name another ballplayer that combined the class and talent that Jeter displayed throughout his career. You can’t. A-Rod cheated the game, Clemens cheated the game, Bonds cheated the game. Jeter just showed up to the ballpark everyday and made do with what God gave him. He didn’t create drama in the clubhouse, he never did one PED, he never opted out of a contract and demanded more money, and he always treated everyone with respect. Joe Torre was Mr. Torre, the Boss was Mr. Steinbrenner and of course who can forget the flip to Jorgie at home to save them from losing the ALDS to the As, who can forget him tearing up his face and body to leap into the stands to catch a foul ball, and of course all of the clutch hits to win playoff series and world series games. There won’t ever be another one like him.

    • Luisergi

      I’m pretty sure that ball of “the dive” hit by Troy Nixon was going to be a fair ball, probably a bloop double, wich makes the play more amazing.

    • yankeesrbest

      We will never be sure who cheated and who didn’t cheat the game with PEDs. Jeter was never caught doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. I hope that Jeter and MO did indeed stay clean all of their careers but at this point that ERA is so muddied that the best we can all do is hope that our heros stayed clean. I know people that have been to those baseball camps as guest that tell me many of these players including Jeter shrunk in size once the vendetta against Bonds(whom I couldn’t stand) was fully on.

  • adeel

    it’s a great write up but you can’t list yankee pre-jeter shortstops without mentioning espinoza. I wanted the Yankees to bring him back and get rid of these other shortstops that would flame out after a season. In the end, I think it was Rizutto making all of espi’s plays seem like Olympic feats that made an impression on my young mind.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I think he just stuck around long enough that we began to squint hard and tried to see him as someone he wasn’t.

    • Nick Social

      Alvaro Espinoza was the SS when I first started following the Yankees in earnest. Loved that dude.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    The Yankees had capable closers before Mariano Rivera. It was a revolving door throughtout the entire 1980’s and into the mid-90’s. The Yanks actually finding a regular shortstop seemed downright impossible for so long.

    While, honestly, my Yankee heart will always belong to Mariano a bit more than it belongs to Derek, he absolutely changed the way that position is viewed by this franchise.

    In an era of hyperbole and histrionics, his approach to everything he does is refreshing and just on the spot. You never rattle the captain. He is as all-business as can be.

    No matter what happens in 2014, there is no doubt he’ll leave it all out there trying.

  • 461deep

    Grew-up a Yankee fan in the 50’s. Like most was a big Mantle fan. Saw glimpses of DiMaggio on early TV but to young to appreciate him or baseball in general. Mays-Mantle-Snider were on TV a lot so great seeing them perform. Mays had great health and longevity with great skills in all 5 tool areas. Mickey matched him in his early years less good in the field but more power and no one was faster.
    Give Mays best ever all around player on lasting longer but DiMaggio and Mantle not far behind. Wrote a paper in college on Clemente who could do it all too. Hit ropes and super arm. His 71 WS showcased him wonderfully. Bonds-Griffey-A-Rod- also great 5 tool players who would I believe excel in any era. We missed seeing Satchel Paige & Josh Gibson in their prime.
    Hope Jeter can hit .280 or so and avoid slipping too far. He looks a little thin to me as he wants to move well but he may be sacrificing his main asset which is hitting. Let him beef-up a little to get bat speed up. SS range probably won’t change much and arm may be stronger.

  • mustang

    I been here since 2008 or so and hands down this is the best thread I have ever read. Not just about Jeter, but about what his era meant going from everything leading to the heartbreak of 1995 to the joy of 1996.

    Mike, good job doesn’t even come close thank you for so elegantly summing up Jeterism.

  • Darren

    1995 was and is a pain that no flags could ever take away. Jeter winning 6 rings is amazing on its own, but for me, still doesn’t make up for Donnie Baseball winning none.

    • Darren

      Lol #predictingthefuture

  • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

    Nicely done Mike. Enjoyed reading this article.

    As for…

    “I hadn’t suffered through enough Stankiewiczes and Gallegos to grasp how special Jeter was.”

    Good think you missed Bobby Meacham and Paul Zuvella. Many of us, longer on this mortal coil, were pining for a SS for a solid decade before you.

  • Mick rivers

    Nice piece Mike

  • Blake

    Very well done

  • Yankee Fan 1

    “We can put on the uniform, and we can play in the Stadium, but we’re not the New York Yankees unless Derek Jeter is playing shortstop.”—Mike Mussina, May 2003.

    Mussina nailed it. Last year was just plain weird. Felt like something was missing the entire year. Here’s to an awesome 2014 for Jeter and ring #6 ( last chance for him to tie with his buddy Jordan)

    • TWTR

      He nailed it for a moment in time, maybe (although I don’t think any one player is more important than the team), but as long as they have a lot of talent, they will still be the New York Yankees without him. But sure, win #28 this year, and then #29…

  • mike

    I was much like Mike in liking those guys ( Stanky, Gaillego, Leyritz, Kelly etc) because it seemed with Showalter at the helm he was building a system, and these guys would hustle or be held accountable.

    Brining in winners like Gaillego and Abbott and Key, and divesting themselves of talented but flawed players such as Kelly and Tartabull, allowed the Yanks to create an atmosphere of winning which really resonated with a fan base looking to find value in Mattingly’s hustle as a reason to stick with the team thru dark times.

    I thought Stanky’s attitude was representative of what Buck was trying to foster, and because the Yanks had true talent and money, it really set the foundation for the last 20+ years of success

    • TWTR

      Buck and Stick did all the heavy lifting to change the culture of team as well as adding veteran talent and developing young talent (as you suggest), but didn’t get to enjoy the true fruits of their efforts.

  • mike

    Pat Kelly in the + column, Roberto in the minus :)

  • PunkPitch

    Consider yourself lucky that you missed SS like Jim Mason. And BTW, Gene Michael was crappy too.

    • RetroRob

      Gene Michael is forgiven for his crappiness as a player. : -)

      Jim Mason. Yikes, but yes, related to what I wrote below.

  • Wheels

    Ha, Randy Velarde, haven’t heard that name in a while.

    • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

      Wayne Tolleson comes to mind. When you remember him as being one of the better SS options Post Bucky Dent (who wasn’t that good either), you know you’re hurting.

  • dkidd

    1996-2001

    what a truly beautiful ride

    my favorite jeter moment was his first pitch, hope-crushing dagger of a home run in the 2000 ws

  • dkidd

    this article reminds me how much time i spend thinking about the dynasty years. maybe too much time. at the end of this season, i’ll be ready for jeter to take his bows and start rooting in a different way (i.e. not comparing every years version with that era)

  • ben abba

    Mike great article that pretty much sums up what we are all feeling. Thank-you for that!

  • Joe

    Jeter is not only the face of the Yankees but the face of baseball. The game will miss him like no other player ever before. I shed a tear the day he announced his retirement. Don’t want to think how I will react when he plays his last game. It is only fitting for the Captain to get his 6th ring and ride out on top.

  • vin

    I don’t care how many rings, hits, memorable plays, women he has…

    Derek Jeter ain’t got nothing on Alvaro Espinosa.

    Great post Mike. Your work and dedication to the site is exemplary.

    Thanks.

  • steves

    Fan favorites come and go. So do All Stars, great players and Hall of Famers. Baseball immortals like Jeter are the rarest; they seem to descend and then reside in some kind of baseball Mount Olympus of the mind; always in their prime, their grace and skill seemingly remaining undiminished forever.

  • RetroRob

    I had a much different perspective on Jeter in ’95 since my memories of Yankee baseball go back to the mid-70s, with the ’77 team and Reggie’s three-HR game being the first championship. Yet, despite that, those late 90s teams are my favorites.

    As for Jeter, I followed him intensely through the minors after he was drafted. The Yankees just don’t have access to top-end draft picks like a Derek Jeter. It’s “easy” to get a Strasburg or Harper is you’re the Nats. You just gotta suck, and hope the baseball gods are with you that you’ll have access to some great talent those years. Same with the Astros right now, or the Twins. Just suck.

    The Yankees rarely suck, but there were those days in the early 90s and they did. They even once had the #1 pick. Brien Taylor destroyed his arm in a useless bar fight, as if there is any other kind, but they also nabbed Derek Jeter with the other top pick at #6. So when Jeter showed up to play some games in ’95, I knew he was a little bit early, but I was excided knowing he was getting close to taking over full time. Having lived through not quite 20 years of mostly horrible short stops, it was great to see. I remember him sitting on the bench for the ’95 ALDS. Not on the roster, but there to soak it in and learn. I still remember seeing him during a quick cut away and thinking he was going to be the next great Yankee. No, I never thought he’d be as great as he’d become. You don’t expect any player to be one of the ten best, or the five best in the history of the sport. I just was happy with the prospect that the Yankees would have a top short stop for a decade to come.

    Twenty years? Wow. Make no mistake about it. If you came of age during the Jeter years you have taken him for granted, even if you don’t realize it. You didn’t live with what came before, and you don’t know yet what’s to come. Whatever it is, it won’t be Derek Jeter. You will never see the likes of him again.

    I’ll say what I said when Posada was heading out. You’ll miss him more when he’s gone.

    The last twenty years have been a dynasty run from a dynasty organization.

    It is the Jeter Dynasty.

  • Jarrod

    Great article Mike, thanks for sharing!

    I am a late blooming baseball fan and really only caught on to the Yankees in about 2002/2003 (I live in Australia so baseball wasn’t easy to follow prior to then). To me, Derek Jeter IS the New York Yankees and I fear what it will feel like without him.

    I also agree with what you said about your favourite team being your first championship team because my favourite team is the 2009 team because I finally got the chance to see them win it all after hearing about 96-00 all those years.

    • RetroRob

      Did you catch any of the Dodger/Diamondback games a few days back, or are you in a different area of the country?

      • Jarrod

        Sure did. I went to the second game which was a Sunday afternoon here.

        It was awesome – my first ever MLB game and at the SCG which is a very very famous cricket ground here in Sydney.

        • RetroRob

          Great to hear. So just out of curiosity. How did you stumble into becoming a baseball fan and a Yankee fan in the land down under?

  • Capitol Y

    Nice piece, Mike. For what it’s worth, I had the same sort of feelings at 19 years old when Mantle retired. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see as great a Yankee again I’m my lifetime. But the Yankees have a way of sustaining legend through the years, don’t they?

    • RetroRob

      We’ll certainly see another great Yankee again, but just as we’ve never seen another Mantle, we won’t see another Jeter. The next great Yankee will be something different, and who knows when he’ll show up. Hopefully sooner rather than later. The team was so close on Trout.

  • Andrew j

    I took him for granted too until I saw him barely walk at the tail end of the 2012 season and every time he was asked by the media whether he is hurt he said I am playing tomorrow. Girardi wanted to rest him and jeter said I am playing. Tough guy. Great player.

  • http://www.twitter.com/thewallbreakers Scully

    Great article! Heartfelt and genuine.

  • yankeesrbest

    I guess all good things come to an end. He is one of the greatest Yankees of all time but he still not in the pantheon of Ruth, Dimaggio, Mantle and Gehrig. I was more upset to see Mattingly walk away because thanks to the Boss’ constant tampering with the team he only had two seasons with a shot at a WS. I hope Jeter does well this season and walks into the Sunset on top unlike MO and Andy.

  • RealtyCheck

    Great article. Those of us slightly older (started following the Yanks in 78/79), probably had a better inkling of what Jeter would be, not because we were older or more savvy, but because we lived through Bobby Meacham, the hope and disappointment of Andre Robertson, Wayne Tolleson, Paul Zuvella, Rafeal Santana, Alvaro Espinosa, Spike Owen, the hope that Velarde would actually turn into something (every year). We had seen so much bad, that the skinny kid, drafted #6 overall had to be better. He just had to be.

  • Mountain Yankee

    Great article, Mike. I assume we’re around the same age since this is around the time I started “obsessing” about baseball as well. I agree with you on all counts. I tend to lean toward catchers for some reason–probably because most seem so hard-nosed and have a huge responsibility on-field. So, I loved Posada. Jeter was/is always there though. He’s a favorite without having to pick favorites. Again, great article and thanks for sharing.

  • John D

    That was outstanding, Mike. Just outstanding.