Derek Jeter’s near-magical ability to hit his mark in the big moment, to rise to the occasion, has been the subject of some of this century’s worst sports writing, and sparked an understandable backlash in baseball fans who got sick of hearing him slobbered over. But even those who rolled their eyes when the sports media went off on one its over-the-top paeans to Captain Clutch would concede that Derek Jeter deserved a large percentage of that slobber.
So this season — a “nightmare,” as Jeter has repeatedly called it — has been jarring, even though we all know even the most larger-than-life stars are just people, and that people age and their bodies change, and that the end of the road for athletes is rarely neat or easy.
When Jeter came off the disabled list for the second time this season on July 28 (after just a one-game return earlier in the month), he did it yet again: In the very first pitch of his very first at-bat, he homered. “He’s back!” crowed the headlines. But he wasn’t; Jeter strained his calf four days later. Determined to help the Yankees with their tantalizing playoff hopes — only one game out of a wild-card spot, going into Thursday, despite everything — he came back in late August… this time for all of 12 games.
That makes 17 total games played in this lost season. And Jeter is 39. The number of players who have performed at a high level at that age, let alone those who’ve come back from very serious injury to do so, is not very large.
[Picture via It’s About The Money]