By Jason Klein
Derek Jeter grew up on the national stage.
Next Tuesday could be his final performance there.
Prior to 2014, his Yankees teams have made the playoffs in 17 of his 19 years in the league. They have won 7 American League Pennants and 5 World Series. During that time, Jeter has methodically built his name, his brand, his reputation, and his legacy as one of the most clutch and consistent winners in sports history.
As this season’s pinstriped pieces continue to crumble around the 40 year-old shortstop, so do his chances of adding more postseason success to his remarkable resume. Injuries have decimated his teammates, claiming 4/5 of the Yankees pitching rotation, and forcing key position players to miss considerable time.
Once a right of passage for The Captain, his place in October is not guaranteed this year. For that reason, his appearance at this year’s All-Star Game, the 14th of his career, could be America’s last real opportunity to say goodbye to the future Hall-of-Famer.
At times, those who follow Jeter on a regular basis thought he might play forever. His youthful appearance, consistent demeanor, and will to win have never waivered. He’s kept us all feeling young, even as he got old.
There was a time, in the late 90s, Jeter had a legitimate shot to catch Yogi, and match his ten rings. If the Yankees miss the playoffs for only the third time in the last twenty seasons, Jeter’s title count will be permanently frozen at five.
If there are no more postseason evenings in Jeter’s future, there will also be no more legendary flips, dives, or signature jump throws. We will have seen the last of his October heroics and his November home runs. Never again, will we witness a Pennant clinching fist pump or a World Series clinching, arms raised, leap into baseball lore.
Typically a meaningless sports charade, Tuesday’s All-Star game becomes must-see-TV, if, in fact, it’s Jeter’s last appearance in the national spotlight. A sport, and an entire country, will get a final opportunity to honor one of the game’s most respected ambassadors.
Derek Jeter grew up on that national stage.
Can he rally his ailing Yankees towards another playoff run?
If not, the All-Star Game could be his last performance before the entire country.
No October encore.
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