CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (02/13)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article TTO Scoresheet Podcast... (02/14)

February 13, 2014

Point/Counterpoint

Derek Jeter's Retirement Plan: Classiest, or Most Classless?

by Ben Lindbergh and Zachary Levine

On Wednesday, Derek Jeter announced that 2014 will be his final season in professional baseball, leaving us with only eight months to contemplate his career and wonder what we'll do without him. For now, though, we can only ask: Was that just the best retirement announcement we've ever seen, or what? BP's Ben Lindbergh and Zachary Levine weigh in.

Point: Jeter's Retirement Tour the Perfect Coda to an Incomparable Career
by Zachary Levine

The date was September 28th, back in 1787, when the new United States voted to approve the constitution, powering up the lantern that would illuminate all other nations. And it will be another September 28th, this one in 2014, when that light will dim just a little bit.

Derek Jeter, the American hero who will have played his entire career for America’s ballclub, will call it a career after this season, bringing to an end one of the great runs of any American athlete in any sport.

Where do we start with a player like Jeter?

Is it with the 3,316 hits, the 10th most going on probably the sixth most in baseball history?

Is it with the historically great defense that won him the five Gold Gloves at the most demanding position on the field?

Is it with the 200 playoff hits? The five rings? The 19 home runs in October baseball. And one that happened to fall in November.

No.

No.

No. No. No. No.

Those are just numbers—numbers that paint a portion of the portrait of Derek Sanderson Jeter—but only numbers.

The real story of No. 2 can’t be told through numbers.

It’s told through the stories of everyone he touched.

It’s told through the words of those who accompanied him on the journey, like Josh Reddick, who tweeted: “Derek Jeter was my first wow moment on field my first year. Came up to me and patted me on the back & said ‘welcome and congrats’ #rolemodel”

It’s told through the words of those who came before, like Bob Sheppard, who has passed on but whose voice still brings Jeter to the plate at Yankee Stadium.

And it will be told through the words that came after, those who’ll say they played shortstop because Derek Jeter did. That they wore No. 2 because of Derek Jeter. That they made that little hop on the play in the hole because they watched Derek Jeter, the greatest fielder of his generation, perfect the play.

When Jeter broke into the game, it was at an all-time low. The strike had forced the cancellation of the previous World Series. The nation had lost interest, and the game was thirsting for a hero to bring it back.

It found that hero in the unlikeliest of places—a kid from Kalamazoo, Michigan, with an 800,000 dollar signing bonus and a billion dollar smile.

Through the next 19 years, Derek Sanderson Jeter would give baseball everything he had.

He gave it his heart. He gave it his soul.

And perhaps most importantly, he brought class to an era defined by a distinct lack thereof.

In the year when Barry Bonds began his four-year, steroid-fueled rampage through the record books, Jeter made an impression in an altogether different way.

In October, he helped the Yankees defeat the Oakland A’s with one of the best plays in baseball history, known simply as “the flip.” Who needs more description than that?

And just seconds after the calendar turned to November, with a nation distraught in the wake of the September 11 attacks, it was Jeter who brought baseball fans back to delirium with his midnight miracle.

And most importantly he did it clean.

The only player whom I would swear on my life does not fall under the taint of the performance-enhancing drug scourge, Jeter did it the right way for 19 long years.

While it might have been tempting for the singles and doubles hitter to cheat his way into a tool that he didn’t have, Jeter never strayed from the right way to play.

It was the only thing he knew how to do.

For 19 seasons, that’s what he gave to baseball.

And now, for one glorious season and well-deserved victory lap, it’s what baseball is going to give back to him.

Always graced with a sense of timing, whether it was for cutting off bad throws or for homering to bring a hit total to 3,000 or now for announcing his exit with plenty of time for us to celebrate him, Jeter again picked the perfect moment.

Instead of the story of Alex Rodriguez, who felt he was bigger than the game, the story of the 2014 Yankees will be the story of a man who was the game.

From city to city, Jeter will be feted like his Core Four-mate Mariano Rivera, except to an even higher degree.

He’ll be out there for nine innings. He’ll be giving the game everything he has, just like he always has.

For us.

For America.

Counterpoint: Jeter’s Attention Grab a Disgrace to the Pinstripes
by Ben Lindbergh

You all know I’ve had my share of injuries and setbacks during my career. In recent years these have been too frequent to laugh off. When baseball is no longer fun, it’s no longer a game. And so, I’ve played my last game of ball.

Those were the words Joe DiMaggio chose when he said goodbye to baseball. Understated. Elegant. Effective. The same way he was on the field.

I couldn’t help but hear those words on Wednesday, when Derek Jeter confirmed his intention to retire at the end of the year.

As I suffered through a bunch of injuries, I realized that some of the things that always came easily to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle. The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward.

Sound familiar? It’s almost as if the Captain cribbed his farewell from a previous pinstriped icon, just as he mirrored DiMaggio’s graceful movements, his high average, and his affection for starlets.

That’s just as it should be. Jeter is the heir to the legacy of DiMaggio and Mantle, the latest link in an unbroken chain that connects the team of today to the plaques in Monument Park. And for the first 19 years of his storied career, he was worthy of the weight of history that was placed upon him.

Yesterday, he let that legacy down.

Sure, some of what DiMaggio and Jeter said sounded the same. But notice what they did differently.

DiMaggio needed only 84 words to cap off his Hall of Fame career. It took him 35 seconds to say them.

Jeter’s statement went on for 14 paragraphs. He recalled career highlights. He reminisced about bus rides. He thanked his friends and family. If he’d given this speech at the Golden Globes, they would have played the music and cut to commercial long before he finally got around to mentioning that it might be nice to win another World Series—after 729 words.

This was an overshare that would have made the famously private Yankee Clipper cringe. How appropriate, then, that Jeter delivered it not in front of a microphone, as DiMaggio did, but on Facebook, the ultimate look-at-me medium.

But it’s not the message or the medium that disappoints me the most. It’s the timing.

Jeter chose to tell us that he’s calling it quits before his last spring training started. DiMaggio made his announcement on December 11, 1951—two months after his final game. That was nothing. Mantle made his in March.

That’s right, kids. True Yankees used to walk away over the winter rather than make themselves a season-long story.

This way, of course, the Yankees get what they want: a retirement tour. That’s one way to sell tickets when you barely have a second baseman. And Jeter gets to spend his final season taking bows and getting gifts wherever he goes.

But since when is that what he wants? Jeter was always quick to put his own performance in the context of the team's. Talk to him after a loss in which he went 4-for-4, and he’d tell you that the day was a failure. Talk to him after an oh-fer that the Yankees won, and he’d call it a success. That didn’t make for the most interesting interviews, but Jeter didn’t care about quotes. He needed to be the best in October, not the best source of sound bites. So he did his talking on the field, one fist pump at a time.

And now, so close to closing out an immaculate career, he’s made his first off-the-field E-6.

Jeter? More like ME-ter. And that goes for ME-riano, too.

Jeter will say that he made his announcement now because he didn’t want his status to be a distraction. But DiMaggio’s uncertain status didn’t stop the 1951 team from winning a World Championship. And what could be a bigger distraction than the creepy sand sculptures he’s sure to receive? Far better to take a cue from Todd Helton or Ryan Theriot and walk away without fanfare.

Instead, he’ll soak in the standing ovations and leave the team to face the future without a proper successor in place. Ruth gave way to Gehrig, Gehrig to DiMaggio, DiMaggio to Mantle, Mantle to Murcer, Murcer to Munson. Who’s going to take the torch from Jeter? Eduardo Nunez?

But hey, what happens in 2015 won’t be his problem. By then, Joltin’ Jeter will be gone. “See ya,” as Michael Kay would say.

You’d think that a Captain would want to make sure that his ship could keep sailing. But Jeter just had to hang them up now, because baseball had begun to feel “like a job”—you know, that thing the rest of us do every day. If only we could all announce our retirements the second we stopped having fun.

Here’s the thing: We know when it’s time for the great ones to go, and not because they say so on Facebook. They tell us with their actions, not with their words.

Ken Griffey, Jr. went from electrifying fans to falling asleep in the clubhouse. Willie Mays went from winning Gold Gloves to stumbling in center. And Derek Jeter? He went from putting his team first to hogging the headlines.

There once was a time when Jeter could command our attention without even trying. Now he’s a nostalgia act desperately clinging to the spotlight. And that’s what makes this exit so sad.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here
Zachary Levine is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Zachary's other articles. You can contact Zachary by clicking here

Related Content:  Derek Jeter

41 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Myles Handley

Lindbergh wins.

FATALITY

Feb 13, 2014 05:58 AM
rating: 9
 
SC

With Jeter involved, it's more of a Babality.

Feb 13, 2014 08:36 AM
rating: 0
 
cubbiewankenobi

Agreed. With that said, I hope Jeter has a healthy 2014 and the Yankees lose every game.

Feb 16, 2014 14:02 PM
rating: 0
 
Johnston

Lindbergh wins in a blowout.

Jeter is classless to do this.

Feb 13, 2014 06:27 AM
rating: 1
 
palehose

Derek Jeter's announcement is a preemptive strike. If he had not announced he would be retiring after this year his every at bat and fielding play would lead to speculation about what his future would be. In addition if he has a good season, not likely by his standards, the Yankees would be faced with pressure about what they would do to sign their star for 2015 when he would be forty-one.

Jeter's decision not to play any position besides short stop predicated this move by him. If nothing else Jeter is about control, of his image and brand and his performance on the field. By announcing now he controls the story arc and the outcome for his final season. If he also makes the play offs it will be the perfect end to what has been a near perfect career.

Feb 13, 2014 06:37 AM
rating: 3
 
NJTomatoes

I agree. Ben's comparisons between 2014 and 1951 don't hold up. It's an entirely different world. The communications/media world does not sleep. With his approach, Jeter has said what he wants to say, has framed the message, and now as he goes forth and faces each city's media/pundits/opiners for the first time he circles his messaging back to his original statement; keeps it short and classy and miniizes the opportunities to wheedle and pry to get "an exclusive" or cover "breaking news." This will all die down for the bulk of the summer then pick up steam again in September as the big day approaches. If that concides with a pennant chase, playoff wins and World Series we can all embrace the term ad nauseam together. It is only because of our overexposed society's focus on Jeter and his ability to handle the situation well that some resent him. This is a very difficult world to be a "star" especially in a city like New York and no one handles it better than Jeter.

Feb 13, 2014 09:19 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Zachary Levine
BP staff

I bet Ben Lindbergh was also rooting for Slovakia this morning.

Feb 13, 2014 06:43 AM
 
Jim ONeill

I wonder if Ben's argument is akin the member of the debate club who when considering the topic "Mothers contribute so much to American life" draws the counterpoint position.

Feb 13, 2014 06:45 AM
rating: 4
 
NJTomatoes

Case in point, references comparing his situation's to Todd Helton's and Ryan Theriot's (Ryan Theriot!!!!). And criticizing him for leaving the team without an SS to succeed him? Ben, Puhleeze!!

Feb 13, 2014 09:28 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I can't tell if you're seriously mocking the satire or satirically mocking the satire. I guess that means this was a success.

Feb 13, 2014 09:31 AM
 
therealn0d

Win win

Feb 13, 2014 10:31 AM
rating: 1
 
NJTomatoes

Dying is easy, comedy (satire) is hard.

Feb 13, 2014 13:11 PM
rating: 1
 
fawcettb

Ben Lindbergh nailed it with the word count alone.

Feb 13, 2014 07:42 AM
rating: 1
 
oakiegu007

Meh. This has nothing to do with Jeter. I think we're going to start seeing this a lot more with athletes...just look at twitter. As a college professor, the "look at me" mentality is through the roof for young people, or perhaps the means are just there. It's a different time.

Feb 13, 2014 07:45 AM
rating: -1
 
Jamey
(208)

He may be a good leader (or that may be good PR), but Jeter has always had a strong "me" streak. Recall his refusal to change position for an unarguably better shortstop.

Feb 13, 2014 07:58 AM
rating: 5
 
NJTomatoes

Please cite the public reporting of his refusal. From my recollection Rodriquez proactively offered to make the position switch. Jeter didn't argue....is that the same thing as refusing?

Feb 13, 2014 09:21 AM
rating: 0
 
danteswitness

Probably the last time A-Rod made a better PR move than Jeter.

Feb 13, 2014 09:35 AM
rating: 6
 
GaryJohnson

"Is it with the historically great defense that won him the five Gold Gloves at the most demanding position on the field?"

Was this suppose to be satire?

Feb 13, 2014 08:23 AM
rating: 2
 
gweedoh565

It is the most satiriest satire.

Feb 13, 2014 09:23 AM
rating: 6
 
derflotr

Mr. Levine, you made me giggle in public. Congratulations. Loved it.

Feb 13, 2014 08:46 AM
rating: 1
 
maccapee

They're both such tempting narratives. Do I really have to choose? If pressed, I'd have to go with Zachary. I just can't argue with,

No.

No.

No. No. No. No.

Feb 13, 2014 08:46 AM
rating: 2
 
pandroid

Spot on, but can we readers caps-lock and mouth-breathe out the indignant-by-choice comment thread this article demands? Personally, I'd go with "BEN I AM OFFENDED JETER HELD THIS COUNTRY TOGETHER AFTER 9/11 WITH HIS STABLE HANDS DO YOU NOT CARE ABOUT NYC YOUR NOT A REAL AMERICAN" but even then the invective's unsustainable. Hopefully cleverer minds than mine can give this art its due.

Feb 13, 2014 08:56 AM
rating: 5
 
amazin_mess

Awesome. Entertaining piece. I look forward to a season full of ESPN melodrama.

Feb 13, 2014 09:33 AM
rating: 1
 
mszabel

Ben wins.

Plus I am already tired of the retirement tour and it is one day old.

Feb 13, 2014 10:08 AM
rating: 7
 
amaroon

Favorite sentence, and the one I can't wait to see an actual hot-take-spewing columnist use:

"Jeter? More like ME-ter."

Feb 13, 2014 10:14 AM
rating: 4
 
bigdonut

The only thing missing from Zachary's point piece was some gratuitous non-sequitor like, "To be sure, the Moneyball stat-nerds who don't like baseball will tell you that Jeter's defense wasn't any good based on confusing 'advanced metrics'...."

Feb 13, 2014 10:46 AM
rating: 7
 
misterjohnny
(925)

It's hard to tell satire from typical Yankee Fan hagiography.

Feb 13, 2014 10:58 AM
rating: 13
 
BirdlandPGH

this was especially true within the Yankee universe when Jeter broke "the record" for most hits. The *team* record, that is. The Onion put it best: "Derek Jeter Honored for Having Fewer Hits than Harold Baines" (http://www.theonion.com/articles/derek-jeter-honored-for-having-fewer-hits-than-har,2810/).

Feb 13, 2014 18:02 PM
rating: 4
 
Randy Brown
(189)

It's too bad that Jeter didn't announce his retirement near the end of spring training so this could have posted on April 1.

Feb 13, 2014 11:09 AM
rating: 2
 
blairmyers

I say classless.

I can see announcing your retirement maybe a month or two ahead of time, but a whole year is just ridiculous. There's no reason to announce your retirement now unless you're just in it for a headline-filling victory tour with gifts at every stop. I expected more from Jeter.

But for real, the whole gift-giving to a rival player is ridiculous. Especially when two players form the same team do it two years in a row. Get your heads out of your asses guys, the whole world doesn't look up to you.

Feb 13, 2014 12:14 PM
rating: 2
 
Luke in MN

There should be an unwritten rule of baseball that you cling to an MLB job, any job, with a deathgrip until it's pried away from you by the indignities of age, injury, etc. Mariano in no way should be retiring. He could still be a closer for Christ's sakes. Jeter needs to get over himself and land a bench job with the Indians or something after playing out his existing contract. If you can play in MLB at age 40-something, you owe it to the world to do it. It sends the message that playing MLB is the world's greatest privilege and that everyone who's good enough to sit in one of those 30 dugouts does it, and no one who's not good enough does.

Feb 13, 2014 12:59 PM
rating: 0
 
Pat Folz

I'll never begrudge anyone for making a decision like that either way, it's their life to lead. That said, I have so so so much more praise for people like Ricky Henderson and Ken Griffey Jr., who wrung out every last drop their careers and then drifted away quietly into the night. That is just beautiful, powerful dedication to a chosen path, and that is what should be celebrated above all. "Retirement tours" are bullmalarky.

Feb 15, 2014 18:38 PM
rating: 1
 
jfranco77

Decision goes slightly in Levine's favor, and then commentor 'palehose' comes flying over the top rope and takes out both competitors.

Feb 13, 2014 13:22 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Congratulations to BP for predicting the demise of Derek Jeter. Its only after being WRONG for 10 years.

In the 2009 Prospectus "By 2010 his bat won't play anywhere else."

Jeter just went on to post an .871 OPS in 2009.

After an OPS of .710 in 2010 the 2011 Prospectus used terms like embarrassing, 'lacks Joe Dimaagio's dignity' and said 'even if one makes the optimistic assumption Jeter can turn his offensive game around .."

Well Jeter did just that increasing all of his line stats for 2 years.

And here again are the attacks against of the classiest athletes in any sport.

You put him down for his glove a decade ago, predicted his bat would disappear years ago, and now, knowing no good bounds, attack his character.

And how many times in the last 10 years have we had to listen to BP defend pill poppers.

Pathetic BP Pathetic

Feb 13, 2014 14:44 PM
rating: -4
 
BurrRutledge

I can tell that you read BP for the pictures.

Feb 14, 2014 05:08 AM
rating: 15
 
radarbinder

As an all-around player, Derek Jeter is possibly a first ballot Hall of Famer and certainly a HOF-worthy player. He did not let the biggest of games stop him from being his consistently effective self as a hitter, base-runner and leader. With a bat in his hands, a foot near a bag or sitting in the dugout, he was a class act and a winner.

But defense and Jeter do not belong in the same sentence...or paragraph...or article UNLESS you are pointing out that he might be the most over-rated defender in the history of the great game of baseball. He deserves to be considered as a great shortstop because of his consistent bat, his ability to perform under pressure and also base-running. He does NOT deserve to be considered as even an average defensive shortstop. He made great-looking jump-throws on balls most shortstops would grab routinely and he let many balls that a good shortstop nabs get past him for hits. His total zone rating for his career was 147 runs below average and his BIS defensive runs per year was minus 14 per year. Every year he won a Gold Glove was a slap in the face to the better defensive shortstops. Yes, his fielding percentage was above average. I will remind you that Ken "Hawk" Harrelson once fielded 1.000 as an outfielder (for 132 games in 1968 for Boston). No one will accuse the Hawk of being a great fielder. Please cease and desist with the Jeter-as-great-fielder assertions. Admire him for what he was rather than what he was not.

Feb 13, 2014 16:53 PM
rating: 1
 
touchstoneQu

I give this one to Levine. Lindbergh's almost seemed genuine....

Feb 14, 2014 05:43 AM
rating: 3
 
Johnston

Derek Jeter: .365 career wOBA, minus defense at SS

Barry Larkin: .360 career wOBA, plus plus defense at SS

Feb 14, 2014 12:14 PM
rating: 3
 
R.A.Wagman

Jeter has close to 3000 more plate appearances.

Feb 14, 2014 12:19 PM
rating: 0
 
Johnston

And which one of them would you rather have had playing shortstop for you?

Feb 14, 2014 15:04 PM
rating: 2
 
R.A.Wagman

Rephrase the question. Are you asking for a given season? For their whole careers?
I would take Jeter's career without doubt. Durability over such a long time counts for a lot.

Feb 14, 2014 15:38 PM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (02/13)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article TTO Scoresheet Podcast... (02/14)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
The BP Wayback Machine: Can Spring Training ...
Fantasy Article The Adjuster: Relief Pitchers
Fantasy Article Fantasy Three-Year Projections: Relief Pitch...
Fantasy Article The -Only League Landscape: American League ...
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Don't Call It A Committee!
The Lineup Card: Nine Ways to Improve Your F...
Fantasy Article Player Profile: David Robertson

MORE FROM FEBRUARY 13, 2014
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Phillies Sign Burnett,...
Premium Article Skewed Left: Fun with 2014 PECOTA Comparable...
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Catching Up with Catcher News
The BP Wayback Machine: Derek Jeter's Career...
Fantasy Article Get to Know: Third Base Prospects
Fantasy Article Tale of the Tape: Evan Longoria vs. David Wr...
Feature Focus: PECOTA Weighted Means Spreads...

MORE BY BEN LINDBERGH
2014-02-17 - Baseball Prospectus News: The New Pricing Pl...
2014-02-27 - Premium Article Skewed Left: What it Means to Move Off Catch...
2014-02-26 - BP Unfiltered: Sabermetrics Goes MOOC
2014-02-13 - Point/Counterpoint
2014-02-13 - Premium Article Skewed Left: Fun with 2014 PECOTA Comparable...
2014-02-13 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 3...
2014-02-12 - Premium Article Overthinking It: Where the Remaining Free Ag...
More...


INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2014-02-13 - The BP Wayback Machine: Derek Jeter's Career...