Derek Jeter announced that the 2014 season will be his last. He will retire after spending his entire career with the New York Yankees, winning five World Championships, seven American League Pennants, 14 division titles, and just two seasons out of the playoffs.
The first Yankee to join the 3000-hit club, Jeter has more base-hits than any shortstop in history. A 13 time All-Star, he is the only player to win the World Series MVP and All-Star Game MVP. When all said and done, he could be top six in base-hits and top 10 in runs scored.
His #2 will likely be retired at the end of the season, joining his life-long friend Mariano Rivera and the other Legends in Monument Park. The only question is if the Yankees can win their 28th World Series Championship this year, to do it for the Captain.
Derek Jeter never won an MVP. He never hit 30 home runs in a season. He has just one 100 RBI season. Just twice he had a season with an OPS over .900. He was never the greatest defensive player at the position and sabermetricians always decried him as one of the most overrated players in the game. Over his time, there were shortstops who had better years than him.
But this is what defines him: Like Mariano Rivera, he has stood the test of time. In the post-strike era of baseball, an era ravaged with PEDs, Jeter has been consistent year in and year out. He didn’t have to be a 30 HR/100 RBI/.900 OPS kind of guy to be great. He was simply consistent; in him you knew what you would get year in and year out.
Quite simply, his overall brilliance makes him the absolute greatest player of the last 20 years. In an era in which the game has been haunted by greed, lying, cheating, and corruption, Derek Jeter stands alone in time.
There have been plenty of shortstops that have put up better numbers than Jeter, but only he has been there for all these years. Back in the 90s, the four best SS in the game were him, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra and Rey Ordonez. A-Rod and Nomar won MVPs and batting titles and Ordonez’s defensive play reminded many of the recently retired Ozzie Smith. Jeter ended up with the rings, but many had him third behind those three.
Eventually, however, Jeter won the day. Only he has beaten Father Time and the temptation of drugs. A-Rod moved to third when he joined the Yankees and is now disgraced forever thanks to the steroid issue. Nomar kept getting hurt and was sacrificed by the Red Sox to break the Curse. Rey Ordonez couldn’t hit and was out of the league few years later.
Even in the latter part of the past decade, upcoming shortstops were placed above the Captain. But those guys like Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez have had their injuries and have yet to establish their own greatness.
Many stars have been better than Jeter, but almost all have had their tragic flaw (steroids!!!! and others I guess) or fell off. Jeter hasn’t.
Moreover, the Captain has done it all without drama off the field, just on it. Unlike Alex Rodriguez and many others, he never has been suspected of using performance enhancements drugs. He has never gotten into any legal trouble (save for a minor tax residence issue). He has always held his own with the media, reflecting his calm demeanor on and off the diamond. He has been a stand-up citizen in the community, always giving back through his Turn 2 Foundation.
When Derek Jeter plays his final game, it will be one of the saddest days in sports history. It will truly be the end of an era, not even just for the New York Yankees. For he defines everything that a baseball player should be. The era after the 1994 strike should be known as the era of Derek Jeter, for he stands alone after all these years.