By Jason Keidel
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So it’s over.
We can drown you in stats, but Derek Jeter’s career lay in moments and memories. Like the blue tarp of a summer sky for his final game, and all the Yankees fans who ambled through the Fenway stands, unmolested.
Like it being 46 years to the day since the last immortal, Mickey Mantle, played his final game in the same park. Like the conga line of luminaries who paid their respects Sunday in the most ornery territory on earth. Like Jeter being the last Yankee to wear a single-digit number.
But most important of all, you can’t count on the comfort of Jeter bringing his name and his game back to New York City next year. And that is leaving you feeling rather forlorn.
Just like that. A chopper down the third base line, safe at first, and the incongruous sight of a catcher jogging in to run for him. And so he retreats to Florida or wherever, no longer the main nerve of New York baseball.
What do we do now? How do we deal with the reality that Jeter took his bat and the baton to the dynasty with him? We went to the parades, waited in the clusters of humanity for the right chariot to roll by so we could get a glimpse of greatness.
And that’s what Jeter represented most. More than all his hits, all his stats, he was our last link to the glory days, the Torre days. We waited for that one moment when he could reach back and bring back the trophy. We got a taste in 2009, but the reality is we got just one World Series out of Jeter the final 14 years of his career. So we took solace in his symbolism.
Now we’re looking at the coldest winter in two decades. Jeter said he was ready to end his career. But what about us? What can we hang our helmets on? What will the Yankees look like next year? They will surely reside in the lower rungs of the prognostications. There’s no Jeter in the farm, no Matt Harvey arm, to crack the seal on a new, golden era.
We know, at least in the abstract, that these things end, that All-Stars and all stars die. Maybe we can take comfort in the fact that this isn’t the first time New York City said goodbye to an immortal. The Yankees have a rare penchant for plucking someone special from the stars.
That doesn’t help us now, of course. We only understand the immediate, the highlight, the soundbite, the world brought to us in high definition. Jeter belongs to a different time, a person of more profound pixels. Call it Yankee Pride, or the distinct, outsized outline only New York could provide our pastime. Whatever it is, we will miss Derek Jeter. Even those of us who didn’t think we would.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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