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BRONX, NY – Derek Jeter’s lavish celebration had everything you could think of and even some things you might not have thought of.
It had a cavalcade of former Yankees, an endless supply of video tributes, lavish gifts, and even a humorous moment when he answered a reporter’s phone during the postgame press conference.
“The fans are the ones that made this fun,” Jeter said after the ceremony. “It’s been an extremely fun 20 seasons. When you’re out there playing, you’re out there trying to do your best. You’re playing as hard as you can, and you’re doing it for the fans, because the fans, Yankees fans in particular, they pay attention. It means something to them. They push you. They push me. They’re hard. They’re tough. But I think they’ve helped shape who I am.”
The way things are going for the Yankees, there isn’t likely to be another one of these ceremonies honoring anyone from the recent past anytime soon. They will honor Bernie Williams next year and Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada will certainly get their days at some point as will Jeter when his number gets retired.
After that who knows?
Which is further proof of how difficult it is to get it right like the Yankees did when they won four times in five years even with the advantages of having the most money in the sport. As we’ve seen recently, the Yankees cannot buy their way to this, they need to develop the kind of icon like the Angels have with Mike Trout, the Dodgers have with Clayton Kershaw.
There’s virtually no shot of getting either of them since both players signed long-term contracts before hitting free agency. Right now, there’s nobody in the Yankee farm system being compared to those two superstars which is among the problems for the Yankees.
Jeter’s day was about celebration of the latest Yankee icon but also about closure. Unless the Yankees have some kind of miracle run in them and make up 4.5 games in the next three weeks, the official closure for Jeter’s illustrious career will be without a postseason berth.
That would be two years in a row for the Yankees, an occurrence that last happened in between 1982-1993 when the Yankees won a lot of games but still missed the playoffs.
It’s unique to have ceremonies for active players with a team still mathematically alive and a hard thing to balance. It’s also the first step in acceptance that Jeter’s career is winding down and may conclude without another chance at October baseball just like the Yankees did not have for a decade before Jeter’s arrival.
“It was very strange,” Jeter said. “It was kind of a different situation. It was a unique situation. I don’t know if there’s been many people who have been in that situation so it’s kind of tough to explain how you feel. You appreciate all the support, all the kind words people are saying but at the same time you’re still trying to play a game. It’s difficult to juggle at times but it’s a very, very, unique situation.”
For those that followed the Yankees in the 1980s, the script of team building is remarkably similar with massive spending and although nobody would have second-guessed the signing of Brian McCann at the time, it’s one move that hasn’t worked out. Another is giving a 38-year-old Carlos Beltran a three-year deal.
Injuries don’t help either and the Yankees have been unlucky in that area, case in point with Masahiro Tanaka. This explains how each of the last two years, they have tied a team record with 56 players used and employed a combined 87 players over that span.
McCann mirrors the stops and starts of the team. On Wednesday he had a four-hit game and that might have been when you thought he was going to really get going but since then he is 0-for-10 in three games, two that have been shutouts.
You can go on about the Yankee offensive woes, the eight shutouts, the 89 games they’ve been held to less than five runs.
The list goes on and on and that’s without mentioning Jeter’s .260 average, which is where you might expect it to be at his age coming off ankle surgery. The ceremony took the Yankee fans’ minds off the realities of the lineup but once it ended the stark reality returned.
“It was awesome,” Jeter said of the ceremony. “It was something I’ll always remember.”
Awesome and something to always remember are not going to be phrases used with this Yankee team. Now it’s up to Brian Cashman (assuming he comes back) to properly change the description of future Yankee teams.
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