Derek Jeter’s final season playing Major League Baseball begins on Tuesday, so there will be six billion stories this year lauding his Hall of Fame career. Jeter enters the 2014 season with 3,316 hits (most all time for the Yankees). The 13-time All-Star has won five Gold Glove Awards (all 100% deserved, you swine), the 1996 American League Rookie of the Year Award and five World Series titles. Jeter’s been part of some all-time great moments (flip throw, every jump throw) in the history of baseball, and he has avoided basically any off-the-field drama. He’s also made a boatload of money and spent quality time with many lovely ladies.
When Jeter announced that 2014 would be his last season, this — #FarewellCaptain – started popping up on the Twitter. This is the name of a biography written about Jeter by Ian O’Connor. The Yankees’ official shop sells this (my favorite), this and this, among other items.
Jeter became the Yankees’ captain on June 3, 2003. Since that date, the Yankees have the most wins (1,019) in MLB. They have missed the postseason just twice during that span, and have won a World Series title. Jeter has 1,901 hits, 136 homers and 77 game-winning RBIs (important stat) since becoming captain. However, how-ev-er, it has not been only good times since Jeter was named captain. In fact, one can make a
strong case that the Yankees were better off when Jeter wasn’t burdened with the captainship.
A brief, out-of-order collection of some fond memories of the Yankees with Jeter before he was captain:
World Series titles (1996, 1998-2000); Hideki Irabu joins the Yanks; David Wells and David Cone throw perfect games; El Duque joins the Yanks; Roger Clemens joins the Yanks; the Red Sox win zero World Series titles; the Mets win zero World Series titles (even losing to the Yanks in the 2000 Fall Classic); everything Bernie Williams does during this period; Don Mattingly receives a Don Mattingly arcade game at Don Mattingly Day at Yankee Stadium; old Yankee Stadium still exists; Shea Stadium still exists; Daryl Strawberry hits a homer while the Yankees play some home games at Shea Stadium; Jose Canseco plays for the Yankees; George Steinbrenner calls Irabu a fat, pussy toad; basically everyone ignores PEDs in baseball; Jeter makes the flip throw; Jeter hits a walk-off homer against the D-backs in the 2001 World Series.
Now, since Jeter has become captain, here is a somewhat in-order collection of bad memories:
2003: Pedro Martinez brutally assaults Don Zimmer; Marlins beat Yankees in World Series, smoke cigars on Yankee Stadium infield.
2004: Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte leave Yankees for Astros; Red Sox come back from down 3-0 in ALCS; this image becomes a thing; Red Sox win World Series title.
2005: Randy Johnson joins Yankees, assaults photographer; Yanks lose to friggin’ Mike Scioscia and the Angels in the ALDS.
2006: Jaret Wright starts elimination game in ALDS; Yanks are eliminated by Tigers in ALDS.
2007: Carl Pavano starts Opening Day; Joba Chamberlain is attacked by midges; Red Sox win another World Series title; Joe Torre (Mr. Torre, as Jeter calls him) is fired.
2008: Billy Crystal given Spring Training at-bat; Generation Trey is, in fact, not here to stay; Yankees miss postseason for first time since 1993; Final games at old Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium.
2009: Things went well during 2009.
2010: Randy Winn released by Yankees.
2011: Jeter does not name Bartolo Colon assistant captain.
2012: Colon no longer pitches for Yankees; Alex Rodriguez benched during postseason; Jeter fractures ankle in ALCS.
2013: Jeter can’t stay healthy; Brian Cashman says A-Rod “should just shut the f— up.”; Mariano Rivera pitches final game with Yankees; Pettitte pitches final game with Yankees; Phil Hughes pitches final game with Yankees; Joba pitches final game with Yankees; Yankees miss postseason.
Now, could Jeter, as captain, have prevented all/any of this from happening? Outside of the Billy Crystal thing, I don’t know. But were the Yankees better off when Jeter was just a shortstop and not Captain Clutch? I think the answer is clear.