Edited by: Tommy Parrill (@DearTommy)
A few days ago, I wrote an article about how Derek Jeter may be one of the most respected and hard-working baseball players to ever play the game. The feedback that I received was very positive and I truly thank you all for that. I also received another positive comment today, but it questioned my statement that Jeter would die in the Yankee pinstripes. As I continued to read this comment, I realized very quickly, that this guy knew his stuff and it was starting to make sense. So as he deserves a reply from me, I figured that this topic deserved another article as well.
The question that was brought to my attention was, is Jeter going to retire as a New York Yankee? If it were his choice, then absolutely he would, but after the facts were brought to me about his comparison to Mr. Pete Rose, the Yankees may have something to say about that. At this point in Jeter’s incredible career, he is currently 952 hits away from matching Pete Rose’s all-time career hits record, which has to make you wonder if Jeter is more concerned about the record or riding off into the Bronx sunset. I personally think that Jeter has set enough records and earned enough hardware in NYC, that breaking Rose’s hit’s record might not be as high on his priority list that it would be for other players. Think about it this way though, Jeter needs to play 7 more years to play as long as Pete did, and if he keeps up his average of 200 hits per season, he will fly right by Rose. The only problem is that the chances of a man aged 38-45 still recording 200 hits per season is highly unlikely, and depending on how much Jeter does decline, will the Yankees be willing to pay a 42 year-old designated hitter (he will not be the Yankees short-stop by that time) his salary to hit .240 or .250? I’d say no.
If push comes to shove, of course depending on his decline in performance, Jeter will have two options after his contract is up after the end of this year...or next if the Yankees pick up the option. Option #1 will be to play out the last two years of his contract and retire as a New York Yankee. No, he will not have 952 hits in two seasons, but if you have paid any attention to Jeter over his career, he has always been more of a team player rather than a personal award kind of guy. Was the 3,000 hit plateau important for him to reach, you know it, but something tells me that the 5 World Series rings that Jeter has were just as important. Probably more so because it was a team award and victory just as baseball has always been, a team game. As I pointed out in my first article, Jeter is one of the few players today that plays like the players of old. When the likes of Gehrig, Robinson, Mays & Koufax played, personal awards were one thing, but they all played for each other. It was a team game, and that is how they played it for every pitch and every hit. That is the exact way that Jeter plays the game, and if he continues to hold onto that value, then Jeter will be a Yankee until both sides agree that it is time to hang it up.
The second option would be that Jeter sets his sights on passing Rose. That would most likely mean that Jeter would wrap this season up with the Yankees, decides that he still has plenty left in the tank, and then they would decline his option for next year making Jeter a free agent for the second time in his career. Knowing how competitive the Yankees are, they are not going to pay Jeter to play DH when he is pushing 40 as it is! That’s what they have Travis Hafner for now (good luck with that Yankee fans). So if Jeter’s production is down, and Jeter wants to keep playing, he will most likely be looking for work somewhere else. Do I believe that Jeter will be able to surpass Rose before he hangs up his cleats? No I do not, but he will give it one hell of a try. He will either go to a young crap team like Houston (the reader's suggestion) where he can bring people to the ballpark and be a veteran to help the younger guys, or he could head to a place like Detroit where I really believe that they are one experienced player away from being legitimate World Series contenders. At either destination, Jeter would provide a little pop, a lot of experience and a ton of advice that would help out any ball club.
Truth be told, I believe that Jeter doesn’t care too much about passing Rose and he will die a New York Yankee, but it makes for great discussion. Either way you look at it, Jeter has been one of the most impressive players that I have ever witnessed and because of his talent and style, the respect that he has received league-wide, hell, world-wide, is by far his highest accomplishment.