How Seriously Should We Take The ‘Derek Jeter Might Have Played His Last Game’ Rumor?

  • Eric Goldschein

derek jeter looks thrilledDerek Jeter is suffering from a sore left ankle, and he may be shut down for the season if his newest ailment doesn’t heal in the next few days. Considering 2013 has been a “nightmare” for the Yankee legend, many expect Jeter to exercise his fourth-year player option and return to the Yankees for another run in 2014. He is Derek Jeter, after all, and Derek Jeter wouldn’t end his career on that note. Right?

Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote a story today that made a simple argument: Derek Jeter doesn’t care about money (as much, anymore), but he does care about his legacy.

Here’s the most intriguing segment:

But two people I believe know him well — or as well as you could know such a guarded person — said there are circumstances in which Jeter walks away from his $9.5 million player option for next season.

They said Jeter would not let money dictate his decision. He has made a quarter of a billion dollars on the field, tons more off it and remains incredibly marketable. Instead, the Jeter-Joe DiMaggio comparison was cited. DiMaggio retired when his production and body betrayed him because if he couldn’t be Joe DiMaggio, he didn’t want to play. His dignity and legacy meant too much to him.

Jeter is about dignity and legacy, as well. Right now, he is hitting .190, moves haltingly at shortstop and — most worrisome — has incurred at least a fourth setback with his legs since the beginning of spring training. Usually stoic, Jeter has spoken in broader strokes about his frustration. Joe Girardi said it is eating up Jeter not to be on the field during a playoff chase, and other insiders describe Jeter’s disappointment/dismay quotient as more palpable than they ever could have imagined.

Possible? When you put it as Sherman does, of course. But likely? No way. Unlike most players who reach the ends of their storied careers and have to decide whether to hold out/on for a chance at more glory, Jeter can (or at least, will) ascribe his struggles at the plate and in the field to his broken ankle from 2012. Another full offseason to recover will mean a fully healthy Jeter, and the chance to say the kind of goodbye Mariano Rivera has said this year.

Derek Jeter is as competitive and passionate as any player in the league. Leaving baseball on the lowest note of his career — and possibly without leading his team into the playoffs — is way too much to ask of possibly the greatest Yankee ever.

Final verdict: Expect to see him in pinstripes again next year.