By JESSE KIRSCH
College Contributor Network
Derek Jeter may have some trouble throwing these days. Not because of age, but because his hand is weighed down by five World Series rings. The veteran shortstop looked like baseball royalty virtually from the moment he stepped on the diamond in 1995; even in his final season he has continued to climb to 6th on the MLB all-time hits list. He holds the Yankees' franchise all-time hits record, has won two Gold Gloves, and has been a perennial all-star across two decades.
Yet for all of his achievements, the Captain will likely end his career on a dilapidated roster unfitting for such an athlete. Jeter is receiving standing ovations and commemorations everywhere he plays this season, all while the baseball legend is being shortchanged by his own team.
For such a storied sports franchise, the New York Yankees cannot seem to ever do farewells the right way. From 1996 through 2007, the Bombers amassed six American League pennants and four World Series titles. So it had to be a twist of fate when 2008 went so poorly. If the year does not ring a bell, that's because the Yankees failed to make the playoffs for the first time in this millennium. It also just so happened to be the year the "House that Ruth Built" closed its doors forever.
Just as Jeter's first full season ended with World Series victory, the new Yankee Stadium cozied up with a championship trophy right away. But while the Yankees know how to throw serious welcoming parties, 2012 is further evidence they don't know how to send off legends in style.
Jorge Posada spent most of the 2012 season exclusively as a hitter and the long-time catcher was clearly running out of steam by the time the Yankees headed into the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers. "Jorge-y," even at the end of his career, managed to scrap up six hits in 14 at bats - but that was not enough. The Tigers beat the Bombers in Game 5 and Posada announced his retirement just a few months later. Maybe it was this last-minute announcement that somehow enabled the Yanks to make the post-season cut, an honor not afforded to the legend they call "Sandman."
Mariano Rivera, another Yankees great (and frankly the greatest closer of all time), announced 2013 would be his last season less than a month before opening day. Each ball club Rivera visited saluted him (as they have Jeter) and the 2013 All-Star Game became a beautiful tribute. But when October came, Mo traded in his cutter for a Halloween costume as the New York Yankees failed to make the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years.
Andy Pettitte also turned in his pinstripes at the conclusion of the 2013 season, making Jeter the last standing member of a legendary baseball dynasty: the "Core Four." The first three have retired after disappointing seasons. So why should Jeter get different treatment?
He exemplifies the New York Yankees philosophy. The man looks like a champion, sounds like a champion, and plays like a champion. He has lasted longer than the rest of these greats because he has always been tough, durable, and committed to his team.
The Captain has shined in the post-season: recording a .353 average in the 1998 World Series, .375 across the entire 1999 play-offs, and a .409 average and a home run in the both of the last two games of the 2000 World Series. They even named him Mr. November after a walk-off home run in the 2001 series. The men in pinstripes need to find a way to will themselves into a wild card spot because Derek Jeter has earned the opportunity to retire in the autumn air where he has always felt at home.
Jesse Kirsch is a sophomore in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. The New Jersey native studies Broadcast Journalism and International Studies with a focus in Diplomacy. He loves the Yankees, Knicks, and Jets (even when they play terribly). Follow him on Twitter: @JesseRKirsch
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