You: Don’t tell me this is another post about Derek Jeter.
Me: It’s not another post about Derek Jeter.
Me: Nah, it’s another post about Derek Jeter.
Steve’s post yesterday delved into the numbers, so I won’t re-hash them. However, it’s very likely that we’re finally seeing the beginning of the end of the career of Derek Jeter. In fact, we probably started seeing that in 2008 when he had a down year. Granted, he had a bad hand that he didn’t admit to and hit very well in 2009, but going forward, I think Derek Jeter’s seasons will look a lot more like the 2008/2010 versions than they will the 2009 version.
And while I’m not okay with that in one way–it makes the Yankees worse off–there’s nothing I, or anyone save for Jeter himself, can do about it. Decline is a natural part of the career of any player and we can’t do anything but sit back and accept it. This obviously doesn’t mean Derek Jeter can never be productive or valuable again. As long as he stays at SS, he’ll at least be a little bit valuable. It appears that even the worst of Jeter’s seasons are ones in which he puts up league average production at the plate, which is better than the average shortstop’s offense.
We’re into the falling action part of the novel that is Derek Jeter’s career. Soon, we’ll come to the denouement that ends when Derek gets a plaque in Cooperstown. Until we get there, though, we’ll probably just have to hold on for the ride downward. At that point, it’ll be hard to get through as we remember how great he once was. Those are the times, then, that we should obviously cherish. Looking back on Derek’s fantastic offense will be one of my fondest-old grandpa moments.
This doesn’t just apply to Derek Jeter, though. His partner on the left side of the infield may also be entering his decline phase. Epic power at the plate may help mask that, but that doesn’t last forever either. 2010 has seen a decline happen for Alex Rodriguez and we could see him slip farther if he doesn’t get fully healthy or rebound offensively.
The same will apply to Jorge Posada, though his exit is likely to be much more swift than that of Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez. His contract is up next year and it’s doubtful he gets another one after that.
Andy Pettitte has seemingly defied age but at the same time, in the back of my head, I’m still waiting for that other shoe to drop.
Mariano Rivera…well, let’s not even walk down that road. The Man hasn’t just seemed to defy age, but he actually has done so. With one pitch, he’s stayed almost exactly the same since the beginning of his career. Out of all the players in baseball, a steep–or even steady–decline for Mariano Rivera is the only thing that would shock me. Mo is the exception to the exception.
Leaving Rivera aside (for now), each and every player we root for and against will experience some sort of decline at the end of his playing career. As fans, there’s nothing we can do about it to help the players. Here’s what we can do, though. We can remember the best of times. We can remember what was fun about those players. We can also get along with each other. That means not jumping down the throat of any player who points out the decline phase of your favorite player. It means not pronouncing players dead after a bad month. We’re all guilty of both of these things, but that doesn’t mean we can’t change that.