Saturday, March 9, 2013

Now Batting-Number 2-Der-ek Je-ter

So much of what went on with the Yankees over the last few months and what will be happening in the upcoming season has been unsettling. It's not all about the wins and losses. It's about the injuries, a different look and approach, and what the future holds.

We've been able to look out on to the baseball field for 19 years and see numbers 2 and 42, and except for a handful of years, number 46. The last links to the mini-dynasty that formed from 1996-2001 (yes, you can lose during a dynasty).

As time has gone by over the last decade and my hair has grayed, we've seen O'Neill, Bernie, Coney, Tino, Boomer, Posada, and others fade away from the game. Players come and go, some successful, some not, but most do not have the longevity of the players those three numbers belong to.

It's difficult not to feel melancholy about the 2013 Yankees. With injuries and inexperience, it will be a difficult 162 days from April through September. More difficult will be the day that number 42 (the last 42), baseball's version of Gandhi, Mariano Rivera steps away from the game. The setup for a press conference that will take place shortly is underway. Mariano's family has flown in to announce that this will be the last season for the greatest reliever (Not just closer) in baseball history.

Likely to be sitting at that press conference as well will be number 46, Andy Pettitte, who stepped away from the game once already and may very well join Rivera in saying good-bye to the Bronx after this season. He and Rivera have been linked together forever since Mariano has saved more games for Pettitte than any other reliever-starter in baseball history. 

Since he's a spring training instructor, Jorge Posada, who donned number 20 until he hung it up after the 2011 season, will probably be in attendance this morning too. And then there's the Captain. What lies ahead for him?

Derek Jeter has gotten the clearance to step into the batter's box in real game action, his broken ankle sufficiently healed. That day may be today or possibly tomorrow (Sunday). And whenever the 2013 season ends for the Yankees, Jeter might just be the lone man standing from those 1996-2001 years. I don't even want to think about the off-season that leads into 2014.

Jeter is to make $8MM next year, with incentives that could pump it up to $17MM. That is if the Yankees greatest shortstop decides to exercise the option for the fourth and final season of his current contract. I don't believe for a second that at this moment in time Jeter has any ideas of not playing next year. But what if he doesn't pick up that option and wants a brand new contract? The contentious negotiation that took place in 2010 could be repeated and that would be horrible.

So for now let's just enjoy what lies ahead. Mariano being celebrated, not only in the tri-state area, but to each road ballpark he enters and listening to Bob Shepard's voice over the Yankees' PA system introduce Derek Jeter.

So many wonderful memories to look back on, so many still to be written.

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