By Father Gabe Costa
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Well, the other shoe fell yesterday. The Yankees announced that their captain, Derek Jeter, was being placed on the Disabled List, and was essentially “out” for the rest of the year, the Playoffs notwithstanding.
The Season of 2013, of course, has been an extended nightmare for Jeter. Playing in parts of seventeen games, and logging 63 at-bats while batting a paltry .190 with one homerun and seven RBIs, Jeter was never able to “feel good” on the field. There was a “tentativeness” about him and he seemed always to be walking – make that running – on eggs. Time and again, he was forced to be shelved…and now he’s gone for the rest of the season.
Derek Jeter is an icon. He ranks in the top ten in Major League history for the all time leaders in base hits. He also holds a slew of club records for the Yankees. He has excelled in Post Season play and can claim five World Series rings. His quiet leadership and “intangible” qualities have endeared Jeter to his teammates and his fans. And even his opponents on the Diamond show him respect ungrudgingly. Nearly every poll places him among the “Top Ten Yankees” and to those who wager that his Number Two will not be retired, get ready to pay off your bets in a few years. And can a plaque in Monument Park be far off?
And no one can really believe that Jeter with not be enshrined into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown!
On a personal level, Derek Jeter can boast of a squeaky clean image, and has never really been associated with any type of scandal, either inside or outside Baseball. I suspect he has saved a few bucks and has a pretty busy social life.
And so, now what Derek Jeter do? Where will he go?
Jeter has played for the Yankees for nearly one-half of his life. He is to the Yankees what Joe DiMaggio was in the 1940’s and Mickey Mantle was in the 1960’s. While the Yankee Clipper retired pretty much at the top of his game, the Commerce Comet was not quite as fortunate. Thus the dilemma for Jeter: Does he walk (limp?) away now or does he stay on for another year or more and possibly perform in a sub-standard way?
My gut feeling is that there no way Derek Jeter quits at this time. He will work with his physicians, coaches and trainers with every bit of determination he can muster. His one burning goal will be to comeback as the Yankee shortstop. He, along with Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, are the last vestiges of the Core Five, with both Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada having already retired. And unless something happens very unexpectedly, both Mo and Pettitte will be gone after this season. And then only Jeter will be left.
I hope Derek Jeter comes back. He’s not the greatest Yankee ever, nor the most beloved. But he has been the heart of the Yankees ever since he came up in 1995. He has conducted himself with dignity and class on the field. There has never been the slightest hint of a link between Jeter and steroids, HGH or PEDs. He has been a quiet leader and a captain who has led by example.
I know there have been detractors; mostly dealing with Jeter’s fielding. Yet, he has been pretty durable during his career and has anchored his infield for more years than a number Hall of Famers who have played the same position as Jeter.
On the bottom line, when the dust settles, I believe strong arguments can and will be made proclaiming Derek Jeter as second only to the immortal Honus Wagner as the greatest shortstop ever.
One can pretty much make those arguments now.