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When Mariano Rivera announced that he was retiring, fans around the country genuinely wanted to celebrate his amazing career and the horrible, awful things he did to their team’s batters for nearly two decades. When Derek Jeter announced his farewell tour, it just felt forced.
Begrudgingly, we gave Jeter his farewell tour because we’re nice people and we don’t want to be rude. But it wasn’t anything like the outpouring of love that Rivera saw from the baseball world.
Rivera’s farewell tour was unlike anything we’ve ever seen in baseball, much like the Sandman himself. Jeter’s farewell just made us realize that 162 games is far too many to say goodbye to a shortstop who’s batting .260.
In his final season, Rivera saved 44 games while posting a 2.11 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. As he traveled city to city, receiving his corny gifts, he continued to impress out of the pen as he had for the previous 17 seasons.
As Jeter traveled across the country, he has posted a .621 OPS and 18 extra-base hits. Another painful reminder that Jeter should have saved us the trouble of making him a belated birthday cake and just retire a year or two ago.
While he’s well deserving of the spotlight one last time, there’s only so long a country can feign enthusiasm for an attention-seeking shortstop that ranks 35th at the position in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and 23rd in runs.
But really, the feigned enthusiasm for Jeter during this rapid decline is not unlike the false hope Yankee fans still exude for a team that lavishly overspends to finish third in a five-team division. Yankee fans and New York media march around the 2010’s like it’s 1999. Living in New York, you realize the same grins they sported as the Yankees dominated the league on the backs of long-gone stalwarts like Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez are the same ones they still boast when proclaiming their annual World Series aspirations before every inevitably disappointing campaign.
The final hurrah for Jeter should also serve as a final remembrance of a Yankee era that came and went, leaving behind an inflated payroll filled with aging stars that still have the same hefty expectations as the late-90’s Bombers.
Much like the New England Patriots, nearly a decade removed from their last Super Bowl win, the Yankees are far from the team that simply enters the season “expecting” to be in the World Series.
While the Yanks have won one World Series since 2000, they continue to be lauded as seemingly perennial championship contenders despite teams like the Red Sox, Giants, and Cardinals being considerably more successful over the last 14 seasons.
So on this “Derek Jeter Day” at the Bronx, let’s all bid farewell not only to the Hall of Fame shortstop, but also his Joe Torre-led Jorge Posada/Andy Pettitte/Scott Brosius Yankee era from which no one, save for manager and former backup catcher Joe Girardi, remains.
The Yankees, like Jeter, used to be great. But that was in a league with little parity, excessive home runs, and George Steinbrenner. While the Hal and Hank Steinbrenner Yankees continue to lead the American League in payroll by about $40 million, their $200+ million bill doesn’t even buy them as many wins as the Oakland Athletics ($83 million), Kansas City Royals ($92 million), or Seattle Mariners ($92 million).
Let’s say goodbye to the era of Derek Jeter, but also the era of “Yankee Pride.” Yankee Pride can be a thing when you win four of five championships, not one of 14.
And let’s not do this whole farewell thing tour anymore, because after like 94 games, it just gets embarrassing.
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