Derek Jeter has had an incredible run. Rookie of the year, 12 All-Star selections, five gold gloves, four silver sluggers, voted seven times in the Top 10 for MVP and most importantly in New York, five World Series rings.
Jeter could add 3,000 hits to the list tonight.
But as with every star, age has caught up with Mr. November. The former World Series MVP can’t get the bat around like he used to, and isn’t nearly as quick and doesn't have as much range as he did four years ago. His .258 batting average so far this season is his lowest since being a September call up in 1995.
So the question stands, should Jeter retire at the end of this season?
It would be surprising, given what transpired after the end of last season. It just doesn’t seem like Jeter would retire one year into his three-year contract after how hard he worked to get it.
But maybe Jeter thought that last year’s .278 AVG was a fluke. Maybe he thought he still had three years of elite play in him. Maybe he thought he could make a run at 3,500 hits.
As it looks now however, Jeter’s play will continue to slowly decline. He still has value to any team, but is not nearly the player he once was, both offensively and on defense.
Jeter’s done a lot over his career that other stars have failed to. He could do yet another at the end of this year—go out on top.
Think about the retirements of superstars in today’s sporting world. As their skills decline, the team they’ve spent the whole career with has no more use for them. They end up retiring after mediocre seasons in front of unappreciative fans.
Jeter can be different—3,000 hits is the last major milestone the shortstop has in his sights, and he will most likely break the mark in the next few days. The Yankees are World Series contenders again this year, and there would be no better way for Jeter to go out than as a champion once more.
Although obviously under a different situation, Lou Gehrig retired at age 36. He left after hitting 29 HR and driving in 114 runs the season before. Gehrig played his entire career with the Yankees, and his retirement is the most memorable in the history of sport. Jeter is 37.
Who would replace Jeter as captain of the Yankees infield? How about Jose Reyes? Reyes will be a free agent this offseason, and could not only take over short for the Yankees, but also the leadoff spot. Mets fans have always been critical of Reyes, and he might enjoy hitting in the stacked lineup across town. If an unlikely trade between the two teams were to take place before the trade deadline this season, Reyes could provide much more offensive punch at DH than Jorge Posada does. Doing so would allow Jeter to play out his final season where he belongs—at shortstop.
Jeter has never been a player consumed by money, but whether or not he would walk away from $33 million over the next two years remains to be seen. He’s always done what was best for the Yankees, and would likely take on a diminished role if necessary over the next few years. But why not go out on top? Why not always be remembered as the elite player that he has always been? Why not?
Just as Brian Cashman said three months before Andy Pettitte’s retirement, I guess “We’ll just have to wait and see.”