The clubhouse was pretty quiet by the time Derek Jeter went to his locker and prepared to leave the park yesterday. He was already in his street clothes after another day of being a spectator, but he paused to ask whether any of the assembled media needed to talk him. I assume Jeter asked because he understood the situation.
Mariano Rivera’s retirement ceremony. Andy Pettitte’s last game at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees playoff chances taking a potentially devastating hit.
Jeter might not be healthy, but he’s still The Captain, and yesterday was the kind of day when he needed to say something. So Jeter said what he could say. He said the Yankees need to win. He said the ceremony was terrific. He said he was happy to see Pettitte have that curtain-call moment.
“Those guys are like brothers to me, so it’s pretty emotional at times knowing I’m not playing any more this year,” Jeter said. “I’ve played my last game with those two, but it was great.”
When did Jeter start to think about that?
“Today a little bit,” he said. “Before today, no. Our team is still trying to win games, but today when you’re standing out there for ceremonies and ovations for Andy, that’s when you realize it.”
Pettitte really was waving to the fans as if saying goodbye. Rivera really was having his number retired, a pretty sure sign of retirement. The Yankees really were unable to score more than one run against the Giants, undone by a lineup that really had to be overwhelmingly productive down the stretch to make up for all of the offensive struggles in the middle of the season.
Now the Yankees are four back with six to play. Jeter’s still hurt. Brett Gardner’s still hurt. Austin Romine’s still not ready. It’s hard to remember that Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner even played this season. And a week from today, Rivera and Pettitte will likely begin their retirement just as Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson hit free agency, and Alex Rodriguez moves closer to learning his fate in the Biogenesis scandal.
There’s a lot to be said for a team that stayed in the race this long with the injuries the Yankees endure, but in the end, Sunday brought a harsh reality for the end of this season and the beginning of next.
“These guys have been brothers to me,” Jeter said. “We’ve been through quite a bit together, pretty much everything you can experience on the field. My whole professional career I’ve been playing with at least one of them, so I’ll definite miss them. … Jorge’s been gone the last couple of years; you still had the other two. Mo was hurt last year; Andy was still here. This will be the first time all of three of them are gone, so it will be a little different.
“But I can’t tell you how it’s going to be.”
Associated Press photos