With the news last week that Yankee captain Derek Jeter was heading back to the DL, ending his season, the speculation began. Will he come back?
Of course, Jeter says he will. He’s a competitor. What else would you expect him to say?
For the record, I am not a Yankees fan. But, as a fan of baseball, it is hard not to appreciate what Jeter has done over his career. He has vaulted himself into Yankee lore as one of the all-time greats for the franchise. But that time has past for him, whether he’s admitted it or not.
Let’s be real for a moment. At the end of the 2013 campaign, the MLB career saves leader, Rivera, is done. The Yankees have a number of holes to fill both in the field and in the rotation. They have perhaps the biggest free agent in second baseman Robinson Cano, and he is no sure bet to re-sign with the Yankees. Your ace pitcher is in the midst of a season where he’s got an ERA close to 5. A couple former top pitching prospects may be lost for nothing in the off-season. And, let us not forget that their current third baseman still has a pending appeal of a 200+ game suspension.
In short, it’s going to be nothing short of a monumental task for the Yankees to contend in 2014. That’s not me hating on the Yankees, that’s just speaking the harsh truth. They were riddled with injuries this year, and things are already posing a challenge for next year. You may have a new second baseman and a new third baseman. You most certainly will have new faces in the rotation. And, since the Steinbrenners are working hard to get under the luxury tax threshold, it’s looking unlikely that GM Brian Cashman will go on a shopping spree this off season.
So, if you were Derek Jeter, what would you do? You’ve won multiple championships. Virtually every career milestone you could have dreamed of achieving is yours. Your team is beginning to look like one that needs a retooling if not a complete overhaul, and that likely means the Yankees won’t contend next year. Yes, they could find some diamonds in the rough and manage to be in contention, but if I was a betting man, I would not take that bet. Jeter is a gamer. He clearly doesn’t want to quit. It would seem like he’d want to go out on his own terms, not limping off into the sunset because of injury. But, the reality is he’s getting older and his ankle has dogged him for a year now. Even if he does come back and play in 2014, how many more years of baseball does he have left? And, if he does come back, will he have enough left in the tank to make it worthwhile? If I am Derek Jeter, I am pondering these things long and hard, and I would probably be opting to call it a career. With nothing left to prove, nothing left to gain, there would be no shame in hanging up the spikes.