After almost a full month rehabbing in Tampa last year, Derek Jeter returned from the disabled list on the Fourth of July. He was hitting .260/.324/.324 at the time. Five days later, he got his 3,000th career hit, and through those final 69 games, he hit .331/.384/.447. It’s part of Jeter lore at this point. Just when he seemed to be finished, he was back.
Now he’s 37 years old. Still the everyday shortstop. Still the leadoff hitter. Still the Captain. Is it reasonable to think he could carry those second-half numbers through a full season this year?
“Yeah, why not?” he said. “I think if you work hard and you’re dedicated — which I’ve always tried to do — I don’t see any reason why not. I don’t think you ever go into a season saying you’re not capable of doing something. I’ve always tried to stay positive, you guys know that, and I have a lot of confidence in what I’m able to do. It’s just a matter of going out there and doing it. If I didn’t feel as though I was able to do it, then I wouldn’t be there trying.”
All around him, Jeter’s seen old friends give it up. Bernie Williams was ushered out of the game years ago. Andy Pettitte retired last year, Jorge Posada retired this year and Mariano Rivera has hinted that he’ll be done after this season.
Players get older. Their skills suffer. It’s hard to play a young man’s game forever.
“If I didn’t’ think I was still capable of doing everything, I wouldn’t be playing,” Jeter said. “If I didn’t think I was capable of playing the game at a high level, I would go home. If I wasn’t enjoying myself, enjoying the competition, then it’d be time to go home. Right now, I think I’m capable, and I’m enjoying myself. I can’t comment on what would force me to retire, go home, stop playing. But I have a lot of confidence. I’ve always had a lot of confidence. If that starts to waver, then I wouldn’t do it.”
Associated Press photo from the minor league complex