This time last year, Derek Jeter was batting over .300 and leading MLB in hits. He was no spring chicken at the age of 38, but the longtime New York Yankees shortstop still looked like, well, himself.
Now here we are in modern times, and Jeter is broken.
After playing in all but three of the Yankees' games in 2012, Jeter has only played in 17 games in 2013 due to various injuries and a significant amount of time spent on the disabled list. And in case you haven't yet heard, these 17 games are all there will be.
Here's Bryan Hoch of MLB.com:
The culprit is Jeter's left ankle. He broke it last October in the American League Championship Series, nearly a full year ago. Since then, it's helped lead to other injuries and apparently still hasn't fully healed.
Jeter himself had this to say:
That's the CliffsNotes summary of Jeter's 2013 season. For those of you interested in reliving the whole thing as it happened, you can read what lies below.
But be warned: 'Tis a tale of woe.
October 2012: It All Started When...
We flash back now to a familiar setting. It's October. Major League Baseball's postseason is in full swing, and the Yankees are in it. Because of course they are.
Specifically, it's the first game of the ALCS between the Yankees and Detroit Tigers. It's the top of the 12th inning with the Tigers leading 5-4, and look, there's Jeter out at short!
And then...it happened.
We were all doctors at that moment, and our diagnoses were the same: Something just broke.
That was indeed the case. The Yankees announced after the game that Jeter had fractured his left ankle on that play. It was to be his last of the 2012 postseason.
"I don't know the exact medical terms, but I'll just call it a broken ankle," said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, via MLB.com. "He has a fracture in his ankle and he's going to be down for this series and the remaining series, and it's about a three-month minimum recovery, from what the doctor tells us."
The rest of the ALCS played out about how everyone expected it would with Jeter out of the mix. Without their captain, the Yankees laid down their arms and allowed themselves to be swept. They became just another "wait 'til next year" ballclub.
On the bright side, it sounded like a lock that Jeter would be ready to go by the time "next year" rolled around. That was the case even after he had surgery and his estimated recovery changed to four to five months, according to Bryan Hoch. The Yankees anticipated that Jeter would be their shortstop again during spring training.
However, there was a catch. Hoch said, "If Jeter needs five months to recover, that would put him in the middle of the Grapefruit League exhibition schedule, so any setbacks will put his Opening Day availability in doubt."
It would be all too fitting if "Mark my words, fools, and mark them well!" preceded that sentence. Looking at it now from a position of retrospect, it does sound like a warning.
February-March 2013: Spring Training Comes, Optimism Goes
Pitchers and catchers are typically the first ones to report to spring training. But in 2013, Jeter beat them to it.
As reported by the Associated Press, Jeter was at the Yankees' minor league complex a day before pitchers and catchers were set to report for spring training, and he was busy taking a major step in his recovery: He was running.
"I've gotten the OK to do everything," Jeter said. "It's a progression. I haven't used my legs, so I've got to get back to using them."
From there, things progressed more or less as they were supposed to. Jeter wasn't ready to play when the Yankees opened their Grapefruit League schedule. But as expected, he was ready to go about midway through the schedule on Saturday, March 9. He found himself in the Yankees lineup as the designated hitter, and he got things started in a way that Derek Jeter would get things started:
Jeter took another big step forward in his road back a few days later, suiting up to play shortstop for the first time since it happened. Everything considered, things were looking good.
And then Jeter's ankle started barking.
A few days after Jeter returned to shortstop, he found himself heading in for some tests. Scott Miller of CBS Sports reported that only inflammation was found, but the writing was on the wall in big, bold letters that Jeter and the Yankees needed to take it slowly.
Not long after tests revealed inflammation in Jeter's ankle, the Yankees decided it was in their best interests to keep Jeter out of major league spring training games, just in case they needed to put him on the DL to start the season.
"I think we need to preserve the ability to backdate him in the event that he's not going to make it," Cashman said, via MLB.com.
Jeter, meanwhile, refused to use the "S" word.
"I wouldn't call it a setback," he said. "It's what's supposed to happen. That's what I've been told. The last couple of days I talked to the doc, and he said it's supposed to happen. It's all normal. Everything is fine. Ligaments, bone, everything is perfect. It's just, that's what happens after you have surgery."
He added that he was still planning on being in the Yankees lineup on April 1 against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. "Nothing has changed," he said.
And he was right...at the time. Things didn't actually change until a few days later.
As Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reported, it was toward the end of spring training that Jeter started coming to grips with the reality that he wasn't going to be ready for Opening Day, and that the disabled list was in his very near future.
"We're running out of days, man," Jeter said. "I just ran out of days. When is Opening Day, Monday? I just ran out of time."
Sure enough, Jeter went on the DL for the start of the season. At the time, it was his first DL stint since 2011 and only his second trip to the DL since 2003. Basically, Derek Jeter was going to a place where Derek Jeter does not go.
This being baseball, it's only natural he would find himself sticking around in that place and, eventually, unable to stay away from it.
April 2013: From Bad to Worse
The Yankees began the 2013 season without their captain. And in the beginning, things were surprisingly good.
The Yankees started things off by dropping two out of three to the Red Sox and four out of five overall, but then they dusted themselves off to win seven out of eight. It appeared they weren't a rudderless ship without Jeter after all. As it was, he was going to be back soon anyway.
Warning signs first appeared at the midpoint of April, as David Waldstein of The New York Times reported Jeter had suddenly reduced his workload and was taking it a little easier with his recovery.
This time, it was Yankees manager Joe Girardi who refused to use the "S" word.
"He’s going to want to do as much as he can as soon as he can, so we’re just trying to make sure he doesn’t go too fast. But there was no setback," Girardi said.
And then, a few days later, the word came down: Actually, there had been a setback.
As Bryan Hoch reported on MLB.com, a CT scan had revealed a small fracture in Jeter's left ankle. Small though it was, it was going to keep Jeter out until at least the All-Star break.
Fist, meet gut.
A few days later, there was Jeter in front of the media. He had nothing new to report. He was just there to quell unrest.
"When you have doubt, that's when you're in trouble," Jeter said when asked if he had any doubts about coming back in 2013. "I've been told this bone will heal, and when it heals, I'll be ready to go. It's frustrating that I can't magically make it heal sooner than it's taking, but I have no doubt I'll be back."
And he would be, but it was to be a winding road back and, ultimately, a short stay.
May-July 2013: Jeter Has Been Cleared to Do This, This, This and...He's Back!
The great thing about being a sports fan in the age of Twitter is that you know everything that's going on all the time.
To illustrate the point, we shall now tell the story of Jeter's road back via tweets (with a big assist from Rotoworld for putting them all in one place).
After being in a walking boot for several weeks, it was finally almost time for it to come off in mid-May:
Later in the month, Jeter was ready to play catch:
A short while later, he was ready to take the field for some baseball activities:
The next step was batting practice:
Then it was time to face real, live pitching:
Then it was time to run the bases:
And then, finally, he was ready for actual games:
Jeter played his first rehab game with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on July 6, going 0-for-2 with a walk. More importantly, nothing in the vicinity of his left ankle was smarting. Nothing happened in any of the next three games Jeter played, either.
And that, apparently, was good enough for him and the Yankees:
Jeter had fractured his ankle in October, refractured it sometime around April, spent several weeks working to come back and was good to go after only four minor league rehab games? The baseball world went, "Uh, OK..."
Jeter made his 2013 debut on July 11, DH'ing and batting second. His first plate appearance went a little something like this:
At that moment, things were good. The captain was back, and he could still hit. Sort of, anyway.
But then, as it was probably bound to on that day, things took a turn for the worse. Jeter exited the game early with tightness in his right quadriceps, an injury that put him in line for a visit to the old MRI machine.
"It's not frustrating yet. We'll see," Jeter said, via MLB.com. "They MRI everything around here. I'm going to get an MRI and we'll find out, but I hope it's not a big deal. I don't ever think anything is a big deal, so I'm hoping for the best."
The best? Psh. You wish, Jeter.
July-September 2013: Back to DL, Heroics, Back to DL, No More Heroics and...Scene
A day after he had to leave his 2013 debut early, Jeter was diagnosed with a quad strain that would keep him out of action through the All-Star break.
"It's frustrating," Jeter said in a statement, via MLB.com. "I don't know what else you want me to say. I worked hard to get to the point of rejoining the team yesterday. It's not how you draw it up, but hopefully, I'll be back out there soon and help this team win some games."
The whole "be back out there soon" bit failed to pan out. The All-Star break came and went, and Jeter was still hurting. So there he was, going back on the DL for a second time.
The good news? It was apparent even at the time that Jeter's second DL stint of 2013 wasn't going to be nearly as long as the first one. It was estimated he would be able to return in late July.
And return in late July he did. Jeter came back off the DL on July 28 against the Tampa Bay Rays. And this time, it looked like he was actually back. Like, for real this time.
If you call yourself a Jeter fan—and that's all of us, right?—the correct course of action now is to savor every second of the above video. Now that was vintage Jeter.
It's also the only time in 2013 that vintage Jeter made an appearance.
Following his big triumphant return game, Jeter collected just one hit in 11 at-bats in his next three games, with only one walk mixed in. And along the way, he got hurt. Again.
This time it was a strained right calf. And once again, the Yankees decided to play it cool at first, hoping a couple of days off would do the trick. But on Aug. 5, they had to give in and put Jeter back on the DL for a third time.
"It's probably a better idea to put him on the DL than to test it in nine days, 10 days, 11 days, and then have a setback," said Girardi, via MLB.com.
As for Jeter, well, he just came right out and said it: "It's been terrible. It's been like a nightmare. The whole season has been a nightmare."
Jeter sat for a few more weeks. Then there he was playing in minor league rehab games. Then, on Aug. 26, there he was back in the lineup again for the start of a three-game set against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
But to quote Ramsay Bolton from Game of Thrones: "If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."
There was no heroic return for Jeter in his (third) first game back this time. He took an 0-fer with a walk. In 11 games following that one, he collected only eight hits in 48 at-bats. He struck out nine times, and only one of his hits went for extra bases.
And through it all, he just didn't look right. Never more so than on this play, which occurred on Sept. 5 in the Yankees' 9-8 loss to the Red Sox:
A couple of days after that awkward display of how not to shortstop, Jeter found himself making yet another early exit. That was this past Saturday, Sept. 7, and it was Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports who dropped the bombshell:
For a few days, that's all there was to it. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that a CT scan came back negative. The YES Network's Jack Curry reported on Sunday that simply shutting Jeter down for the season was not being considered. That was the case as recently as Tuesday.
Cashman told the New York Daily News:
We don’t think that. It’s nothing like that. If it becomes that I’ll tell you, but otherwise, we’re more in a day-to-day mode. The bottom line is his mobility was definitely becoming more limited with the pain he was receiving so we backed off, and when he’s feeling better, we’ll turn him loose again. If he was moving around and he was pain-free, he’d be back out there.
But later on that evening, the Yankees suddenly decided they needed a shortstop. As the Seattle Mariners announced via Twitter, they had made a deal to send all-world defensive shortstop Brendan Ryan to the Bronx. The Yankees seemed to be preparing for something...
And that, of course, brings us right up to Wednesday's news. The Yankees weren't ready to do it on Tuesday, but Jeter has been shut down until 2014. He ends his season with 17 games played, 12 hits, one home run, one double and four trips to the DL.
Now what? Should we cue up The Doors? Is this the end?
Funny you should ask, because somebody actually did ask.
The 2014 season is going to be Jeter's age-40 campaign. According to Baseball-Reference.com, only four other players have played shortstop and gotten in at least 100 games at the age of 40. Only one of them, Luke Appling in 1947, hit over .300. The odds of Jeter doing his usual thing next season are slim even without his injury status taken into account.
In other words, the stage is set for him to remind everyone that he's Derek Jeter.
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