With a pair of exhibition games against the Miami Marlins in Panama City, the New York Yankees ensured that the first act of Derek Jeter's farewell tour paid respect to Mariano Rivera, Jeter's longtime teammate who embarked on a memorable farewell tour of his own a year ago.
Getting no-hit at the hands of Miami's Brad Hand and three relievers while watching Jeter go 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts certainly wasn't exactly what anyone had in mind, but this was more about celebrating a pair of baseball legends than the on-field results.
Farewell tours are rare in any sport, reserved for only the greatest and most iconic figures, and, as such, they only happen a handful of times in a lifetime. Having two in back-to-back seasons is not only unusual, it's unheard of.
Yet that's the position that we find ourselves in, and it brings with it the inevitable comparisons and debates. Whose farewell tour was better? Which player got the better gifts? Who was more beloved?
It's all subjective, with no right or wrong answers to those questions, most of which can't be answered until the regular season—and Jeter's farewell tour—comes to an end.
How's it all going to play out? Here's how we see things going for the Yankees captain, one of baseball's all-time greats.
Monetizing the Madness
Within minutes of Jeter's announcement on Facebook that 2014 would be his last season, ticket prices for Yankees games skyrocketed, especially for his last regular-season home game at Yankee Stadium Sept. 25 against the Baltimore Orioles.
As I'm writing this, there are roughly 4,800 tickets available on Stubhub, the cheapest of which are two seats in the right field upper deck, 13 rows up—in a dry section of the stadium (407A)—for $175.50 apiece.
You might want to sit down for this next part.
The most expensive seat, located in the exclusive Delta Suites, will run you $244,202 for one ticket. Don't worry, there are two available. And there are no fewer than 20 other listings for tickets around the ballpark starting at $11,000 a seat.
Tickets for Rivera's final game at Yankee Stadium, while they too started out high, never reached those kind of insane numbers.
Per Forbes' Jesse Lawrence, the average price for Mo's last home game on Opening Day 2013 was $378. On Sept. 8, the average price had dropped to $238, and by the time Sept. 26 arrived, tickets were going for $103—only 10 percent above the team's regular-season average price.
It's not a stretch to say that prices for Jeter's grand finale will drop as well, but those hoping to get into the Captain's last stand at Yankee Stadium for around $100 a seat aren't going to have those wishes granted.
Of course, ticket prices are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the money-making opportunities that a legendary player's farewell tour provides, something that noted author and award-winning columnist Richard Sandomir of the New York Times summed up succinctly:
The Derek Jeter farewell tour is coming, with the inevitable merchandising: caps and T-shirts with a Jeter-centric logo; dirt from his shortstop area packaged in vials; autographs; signed bases, balls, home plates and, well, almost anything else imaginable.
Like Rivera, Jeter has never been known as a player who was into milking his fame for every possible dollar. But there was no shortage of merchandise celebrating the reliever's career on his farewell tour, including a pair of commemorative caps from New Era, one during the regular season (h/t ESPN's Darren Rovell):
And a limited edition cap after Rivera's career had come to an end:
It's fair to say that for as beloved and respected as Mo was around the game, those sentiments are even greater for Jeter—both in the bleachers and in the boardroom.
It's why some of those responsible for licensing, producing and peddling such products, including Steiner Sports' CEO Brandon Steiner and Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president for business, tell Sandomir that they'll ask for Jeter's blessing before doing anything.
But ultimately, fan demand and the almighty dollar will win out, especially if some of the proceeds wind up going to charity, something that Steiner was quick to note: “I would expect him to be reluctant, but raising money for his foundation is always a premium for him.”
Both intensely private individuals playing in the largest media market in the world, Jeter and Rivera managed to stay out of the spotlight as well as any celebrities in history. Access to these legends has always been closely guarded and difficult to obtain.
Rivera let down his guard during his farewell tour, meeting with fans, front office personnel and ballpark workers around baseball, a plan that he arranged with Jason Zillo, the Yankees director of communications, according to The Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough.
Jeter certainly has had talks with Zillo and the Yankees front office about how he'd like to handle his final tour of baseball, but don't count on the kind of unprecedented access that Rivera provided. It's just not Jeter's style.
It doesn't make him a bad guy—it just makes him Derek Jeter.
One of the best parts of Rivera's farewell tour was the gifts that each team bestowed upon him during his final visit to its ballpark.
From five custom beach cruisers from the San Diego Padres (one for Mo and each member of his family), presented by Trevor Hoffman, the man whose all-time saves record Rivera broke, to Metallica playing "Enter Sandman," Rivera's entrance music, on Mariano Rivera Day at Yankee Stadium before presenting him with an autographed, custom amplifier, there was no shortage of gifts bestowed upon Mo.
The standout gift for many (myself included), however, was the "Chair of Broken Dreams" that he received from the Minnesota Twins, a rocking chair made out of broken bats—bats that Rivera had a penchant for shattering with his cutter, the most unhitable and overpowering pitch in baseball.
Of all the gifts that Mo received, none better epitomized his dominance—and his effect on opposing teams—than that chair.
To be sure, Jeter has played as large a role—if not larger than Rivera—when it comes to shattering the dreams of fans and opposing teams alike over the past two decades.
But it's hard to imagine any team beating Minnesota's offering to Rivera when Jeter makes his rounds, and while the gifts that he receives will be wonderful and unique in their own right, they'll pale in comparison to Rivera's.
Final Game at Yankee Stadium
Even the most ardent Yankees haters couldn't help but be touched by Rivera's final moment on the Yankee Stadium field, as the generally stoic reliever broke down in the arms of two of his closest friends, longtime teammates Andy Pettitte and Jeter, dispatched to remove Rivera from the game instead of manager Joe Girardi:
It was a powerful, emotional, perfect sendoff for Mo, with fans, teammates and the opposition cheering as he made his way back to the dugout for the last time. Without question, Jeter's exit from the Yankee Stadium field will be met with an equal amount of emotion and celebration.
But how will he leave the game?
He's not a pitcher and, as the last remaining active link to the Yankees dynasty, there's little chance of having members of the Core Four (which should be the Core Five—that Bernie Williams has been omitted from that group is laughable) come out to remove him from the game.
That leaves us with two possible options: Either Jeter is removed with one or two outs in the top of the ninth inning for a defensive replacement (Brendan Ryan), or Yankees manager Joe Girardi calls him back to the dugout for a pinch hitter.
If the Yankees had their shortstop of the future on the active roster, it would be easy to see him trotting off the field in the top of the ninth, passing the torch to the youngster given the unenviable task of replacing a legend.
But they don't, so after hearing the immortal Bob Sheppard introduce Jeter as he steps to the plate one final time, Girardi will call him back to the dugout, and the floodgates of emotion will open, both on the field and in the stands.
Rivera didn't see Jeter's retirement announcement coming, and when asked by reporters shortly after Jeter made his future plans known, Mo wasted little time in stating that his former teammate's farewell tour should—and would—be better than his own, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN):
I didn't see this coming at all. I didn't see it. For sure I was one of the guys that said they would have to pull his uniform off his body to take him out. But I was wrong, and this was a surprise to me.
It (Jeter's farewell tour) will be better. He deserves it. He has given everything for the game of baseball, and when you have a player like that, he deserves that and more.
Really, comparing Rivera and Jeter on any level—including their farewell tours—is an effort in futility.
They are unique individuals who happened to come up around the same time, in the same organization and, together, they made some unforgettable memories.
Whose farewell tour will be better? It doesn't matter. Rather than compare Jeter's final lap around baseball to Rivera's, embrace it.
Take your children and grandchildren to the ballpark when the Yankees are in town so that they can say they saw Jeter play, the same way that you took them to games last season so they could get a glimpse of Mo in action.
For there's only one Derek Jeter, like there's only one Mariano Rivera, and all of baseball, not just Yankees fans, will be worse off when he's gone.