Jeter Respect

No, Jeter’s final season isn’t that much better than Mantle’s, DiMaggio’s and Mattingly’s

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Weird column from Mike Vaccaro at the Post today. In it he looks at Derek Jeter’s swan song and compares it to Mickey Mantle’s, Joe DiMaggio’s and Don Mattingly’s. The upshot: Mantle, DiMaggio and Mattingly all had their glorious careers end rather ignominiously, with their bodies hobbled and their production a shadow of what it once was. Jeter, on the other hand, is “sticking the landing” better, still being reliable and atoning nicely for his 2013, which was lost to injury:

Could he have a skid like the one that nearly obliterated Mattingly’s last go-round? He could. He’s had stretches of ineffectiveness this year. But again, when you’ve watched Jeter as long as you have, you understand something: There’s no way he will allow himself to become a burden. It seems he’s come to peace with who he is at age 40: a contributor, a leader, a captain, a player you’d certainly rather have on your team than not, a star by reputation rather than repetition. Reliably reliable.

I guess he’s certainly in better physical shape than those other guys were but it’s not like they were chopped liver while Jeter remains some prime contributor:

  • Mantle’s final season by OPS+: 143
  • DiMaggio’s final season by OPS+: 116
  • Mattingly’s final season by OPS+: 97
  • Jeter’s final season by OPS+ 81

I get that the optics were bad for those other guys given that they were hobbled physically while Jeter is not, but I feel like the stories told about the end to their careers — and careers like that of Willie Mays and other major stars — are often misleading. Mantle was still an extremely valuable hitter and most people who say otherwise don’t appreciate how good an offensive season he was actually having in 1968 given that it was The Year of the Pitcher. The other guys weren’t what they used to be, but to say they left on a terrible note says more about what we thought of them in their primes, not what they actually were in their last year.

Jeter really isn’t that different than them. He’s still useful given how thin shortstop is in major league baseball, but he has fallen off just as much if not more than the other retiring Yankees legends have. It’s the same story that can be told about most players when they reach this point, actually. Not a different one in any notable respect.

It just feels like yet another instance of telling stories we want to be true rather than stories that actually are true. We were sad that Mickey Mantle didn’t look like Mickey Mantle anymore so we overstate his decline. We’re generally OK with how Jeter looks now so we overstate the value of his final season.

The White Sox will retire Mark Buehrle’s number this June

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 27:  Starting pitcher Mark Buehrle #56 of the Chicago White Sox waves to the crowd after being tasken out of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field on September 27, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Mark Buehrle last pitched in 2015, for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was still pretty effective and toyed with the idea of pitching last season, but he never signed anywhere and is, for all intents and purposes, retired.

Now at least his number will be retired officially. It will be done by the club for which he had the most success and with which he is, obviously, most associated:

Buehrle pitched for the White Sox for 12 years. He was the model of consistency and durability in Chicago, logging over 200 innings a season in every single season but his rookie year, when he was primarily a reliever. He was a solid defender, a multi-time All-Star, tossed a perfect game in 2009 and helped the Chisox to their first World Series title in 88 years in 2005.

He was also one of baseball’s fastest workers, so I’m going to assume that, in his honor, the number retirement ceremony will last, like, a minute 20, after which everyone can get on with their dang day.

Terry Francona isn’t sure how long his health will allow him to manage

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 19:  Terry Francona #17 of the Cleveland Indians reacts during batting practice before a game with the Boston Red Sox on August 19, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Terry Francona just won the American League pennant, the Manager of the Year Award and his Cleveland Indians will likely be among the favorites to win it all in 2017. Between that and his 17-year track record as one of the best managers in the business, he will have a job, somewhere, for as long as he wants one.

He said yesterday, however, that his body will likely limit how long he manages:

“It gets harder and harder physically. It really does. It takes me longer to recharge every year . . . I’ve had a lot of surgeries, a lot of health problems. It just takes a toll on you. I love [the game of baseball]. I really do, but I can’t see myself doing something else. But there is going to come a day when I feel like I’m shortchanging the team or the organization. That’s not fair.

“Even now, during batting practice, I’ll come in and get off my feet a little bit. I think everybody understands. But when there comes a day when it gets in the way, I’m going to have to pull back, and it’s not because I don’t love managing. You have to have a certain amount of energy to do this job right.”

Francona experienced some chest pains and had an elevated heart rate that caused him to leave a game early last season. In 2005 a similar episode caused him to miss three games while managing the Red Sox. He also has a history of embolisms and blood clots, some of which have hospitalized him.

With multiple World Series rings there isn’t much more in baseball that Francona can accomplish, but here’s hoping he sticks around and accomplishes a lot more before he trades in his baseball spikes for golf spikes and calls it a career.