You could say the Yankees’ fabled Core Five dynasty wouldn’t have happened if Gene Michael—the Yankee general manager who was inadvertently allowed to build it, and who died of a heart attack 7 September at 79—hadn’t had something in common with Phil Rizzuto, other than being Yankee shortstops a couple of generations apart.
Ending a professional baseball career depends on the circumstances that provoked it. You’d like to see every player go out the way that’s most comfortable for him, but you know without being told that it won’t always work like that.
We hardly begrudged men like Chipper Jones, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and David Ortiz taking their bows all around the circuit, as happened when each announced the forthcoming season that would be their last. We also wondered whether it made the sting of retirement easier to bear while wondering just how far into self-congratulation those men might fall.
Three decades ago, when Boys of Summer author Roger Kahn bought the minor league Utica Blue Sox, one of the first people he told was “my cherished Brooklyn Dodgers friend” Carl Furillo. “You? An owner?” Furillo replied in amazement. “You’ll be lucky if you don’t have two ulcers by Opening Day.”
Kahn sold the team after a year. But he was (and is) a writer. Players turning owners is almost as rare. The latest possibility may be Derek Jeter, who’s reported to be interested in becoming a major player in any push to buy the Miami Marlins.
Boys will be boys, in baseball and elsewhere, and grown men will be boys, too. But some of what the Show Me State’s boys and girls seem to be showing don’t seem to be the kind of thing you’d like showing.
If the St. Louis Cardinals’ front office isn’t facing an investigation into whether people therein hacked into the Houston Astros’ internal data networks, Kansas City fans are gleefully stuffing online All-Star ballot boxes in favour of the Royals regardless of whether the players in question deserve to be in the starting lineup.
In microcosm, Derek Jeter’s final at-bat Tuesday night slammed home both the point of what he’s no longer able to do and that the Yankees can’t afford even a single loss in their final five games if they want to get to the postseason even through the back door. For in a moment that once might have meant a final bell miracle, Jeter was hopelessly, almost embarrassingly overmatched.
“[H]ere I was, eleven picks [later], able to get my time in the big leagues,” wrote Doug Glanville, outfielder turned baseball writer (and a fine one), in The New York Times two years ago, remembering his draft (first round, 1991, to the Cubs) and the number one overall pick therein. “I made my major league debut, earned a multiyear deal, had a locker next to Alex Rodriguez’s. [Glanville played for the Rangers for part of 2003.] I try to tell myself that it was because of my better judgment about what risks to take, or my Ivy League opportunities, but comfort does not come. For me, reading about Brien Taylor is haunting.”
We could see a 2014 baseball season and maybe more without Alex Rodriguez, after all. The original 211-game suspension didn’t hold up, but on Saturday independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz imposed a ban of 162 games plus any postseason competition into which the Yankees enter. As no few observers have noted already, that’ll be an easier jump to justify than a 211-game jump, the thinking being that losing a season is more defensible on appeal than losing an unprecedented season and a third.
Derek Jeter will earn $2.5 million more than the 2014 player option he could have picked up would have paid him. ESPN’s Andrew Marchand reports the Yankees have signed Jeter to a one-year, $12 million deal for 2014.
A source with knowledge of the negotiations told ESPN New York that the talks were largely held between Jeter and team owner Hal Steinbrenner, who both live in Tampa. Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, handled the details of the contract.
The game meant nothing to the Yankees otherwise. They staggered out of the postseason picture one day earlier. These mostly old and mostly battered Yankees had nothing but will to get them far enough that they held onto postseason hopes by a frayed thread at best. Behind 4-0 to the Rays Thursday night in Yankee Stadium, a deficit that would hold up, there was only one reason for manager Joe Girardi to bring in his closer at all, never mind in the top of the eight.
Sometimes the gesture seems futile, sometimes not. The least the Yankees could have done for one of their best-liked and most productive players was to sign him for a day and let him retire as a ‘Striper. Which is exactly what they did with Hideki Matsui Saturday—on a day his old teammate and friend Derek Jeter returned from the disabled list with a Matsui-like bang, hitting the first major league pitch he’s seen all season over the right field fence.