When Derek Jeter speaks, the baseball world listens.
In his first formal setting since announcing plans, via his Facebook page, to retire at the conclusion of the 2014 season, Derek Jeter spoke with the media in Tampa, Fla., about his decision, the upcoming season and why he chose to deliver his message now.
Jeter at his press conference. pic.twitter.com/WTRWFibcCe— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) February 19, 2014
From the start, it was clear that Jeter didn't want the tenor of the questions or answers to take on a depressing or solemn feel. As he reiterated, the team is preparing for a season in which it hopes to compete and win the AL East.
What are the key takeaways from a tough day for the Yankees community? Let's take a look one by one:
1. Jeter Isn't Retiring Due to Health, Is Ready to Play 2014 Season
Jeter: "This is not a retirement press conference. I still have a season to play."— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) February 19, 2014
By the end of the season, Jeter will be done. For now, he's just like every other player in mid-February, preparing for the start of the regular season.
When the subject turned to his difficult 2013 season playing a major role in his decision-making process, Jeter was quick to remind his team and fans that his future has nothing to do with how he feels in the present. After playing in just 17 games last season, the soon-to-be 40-year-old shortstop explained that he feels great physically.
Jeter: this has absolutely nothing to do with how I'm feeling physically... I feel great #Yankees— Meredith Marakovits (@M_Marakovits) February 19, 2014
2. Timing, Execution of Announcement Was Jeter's Decision
Upon the news breaking of Jeter's decision, speculation began about why he would choose to announce it now, prior to the season and with a full year of baseball left before next winter. In fact, Jeter revealed that he wanted to do it sooner, even months ago.
“I wanted to make this announcement months ago. People advised me to take my time before I said it.” – Derek Jeter. #FarewellCaptain— MLB (@MLB) February 19, 2014
Yankees management, undoubtedly influenced by Andy Pettitte's return from retirement and Mariano Rivera's likely change of heart after a season-ending knee injury curtailed his 2012 campaign, encouraged Jeter to make sure he was absolutely certain before making it public.
When he did, the news came through Facebook.
After joking that many people didn't know he even had a Facebook page, Jeter explained the reasoning behind his decision to use social media to express his feelings and message. Not only would he be able to say everything at once, before a press conference where sound bites could be extracted, but the traffic to his Facebook account could lead to more awareness of his Turn 2 Foundation.
Jeter said he announced via facebook to control message, and to draw attention to his charitable foundation.— Daniel Barbarisi (@DanBarbarisi) February 19, 2014
The official one-page letter was crafted by Jeter himself, with no help from his agent or public-relations professionals.
Jeter wants it known that he wrote "each and every word" of his retirement statement— Daniel Barbarisi (@DanBarbarisi) February 19, 2014
In a rare glimpse into the off-the-field life of the Yankees star, Jeter talked about having ambitions and goals away from the game of baseball. That life after pinstripes includes having a family and becoming successful in a different area of business.
Jeter:"I want to have a family."— Erik Boland (@eboland11) February 19, 2014
Due to his insistence that he is in good health and expectations for success in 2014, the Yankees captain was asked why he felt this is the right time to walk away from the game. After 22-plus years as a professional, the Cooperstown-bound shortstop expressed a desire to have a career and life away from the field.
3. What's Next for the 13-Time All-Star?
Jeter says he could play more than one year, but 'I feel as though the time is right. There's other things I want to do. It's a hard job.'— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) February 19, 2014
As usual, Jeter was stoic. Over the last two decades, anyone around the New York Yankees has been privy to a different side of Jeter when cameras are present. When prodded about how such a life-altering choice has affected him, the man devoid of colorful answers presented a candid response.
Jeter on whether he gets emotional: "I have feelings. I'm not emotionally stunted. I've been pretty good at trying to hide my feelings."— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) February 19, 2014
4. A Look to the Past and Future
Eventually, the topic of conversation settled on his goals for 2014.
On his teammates wanting to win 1 more WS title for him: "Send us all out on top. It's not just me going out on top." http://t.co/4crcJwwzYq— WFAN Sports Radio (@WFAN660) February 19, 2014
When the season begins, the Yankees—buoyed by a cast of new talent—will attempt to win a championship. If they do, Jeter will go out on top. As he reminded everyone, any success for him means success for the team.
Asked for his favorite memory: "Every time we win. ... If you ask me what stands out the most, it's winning."— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) February 19, 2014
Due to leg injuries and diminished range at shortstop, it remains to be seen how much Jeter can play during the upcoming season. For his part, the 18-year starter expects to play every day for Joe Girardi's club.
When Jeter's continued run at shortstop was broached, he reminded the crowd that he's never, ever been asked to change positions and will prepare to do the job he's had since the day he was drafted in 1992: Play shortstop for the New York Yankees.
“I want to play every day. This year will be absolutely no different.” – Derek Jeter.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) February 19, 2014
There have been widespread rumors of a position switch, but nothing ever materialized.
Before departing, Jeter acknowledged that his difficult 2013 season, compounded by leg injuries in 2012 and the inability to work out last winter, made him reflect on his career and what should be next.
"It just became a job last year, especially with all the injuries" - Derek #Jeter on when he knew it was time to retire (LIVE on YES).— YES Network (@YESNetwork) February 19, 2014
Furthermore, watching other members of his generation—especially a close friend and fellow teammate like Jorge Posada—go through similar decline played a role in the timing and ultimate decision.
Jeter said that when Jorge Posada left, it made him start thinking of when the end might come for him.— David Waldstein (@DavidWaldstein) February 19, 2014
Within a year, Jeter will no longer man shortstop or bat atop the Yankees order. Yet, to him, he'll be a member of the Yankees forever.
"The great thing about being a Yankee is that you're always a Yankee."— Mike Axisa (@mikeaxisa) February 19, 2014
Looking Ahead to 2014
The Derek Jeter retirement tour has just begun, but don't expect to hear as many lengthy and impassioned comments from the soon-to-be former player. When the season begins, it will be time for the five-time World Series champion to get back to business, baseball and winning.
Jeter is just four hits shy of Paul Molitor for eighth on the all-time list, as Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com points out, and just 120 total hits would have him retire at sixth all-time behind Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker (list courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com).
Even a disappointing year from Jeter should net those 120 hits, but all he will care about is tasting October baseball one last time—which will happen if New York's high-priced additions perform as advertised.
It will be a whirlwind of emotional moments, but Jeter's farewell tour will hopefully prove to be a happy ending.
What was your biggest takeaway from Derek Jeter's press conference?
Quotes courtesy of MLB, WFAN, New York Post, YES Network, New York Yankees, Mike Axisa of CBS Sports, David Waldstein of The New York Times, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, Erik Boland of Newsday, Daniel Barbarisi of The Wall Street Journal and Meredith Marakovits of YES Network.