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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Yankees' Derek Jeter will play his final season healthy and on his own terms

By on 2/12/2014 07:00:00 PM

After suffering that grueling broken left ankle in Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter spent all of that following offseason and then all of 2013 trying to recover and return to action. Last season did not go anywhere nearly as well as planned for the Yankee captain as he became one of many Yankees to miss nearly the entire season to multiple injuries.

By Keith Allison, via Wikimedia Commons
Jeter made it to Spring Training until he re-fractured that same ankle. He played in one game just before the All-Star break and strained his right quadriceps, putting him back on the disabled list. He tried again to play in August but suffered another leg strain and served DL stint #3. Finally, in September, Jeter had more ankle problems -- this time his right ankle -- and ended his season on September 8.

In all, Jeter played a total of 17 games in 2013. He hit a very un-Jeter-like .190 with 1 HR and 7 RBI in 73 at bats. Speculation began about whether or not he would even return for another season. He has, but as's Bryan Hoch reports, 2014 will be Jeter's last season.

Obviously, Hoch is not the only one covering Jeter's announcement that he will retire at the end of the season. All sports and even many non-sports outlets will cover Jeter's pending retirement. One thing the rest may or may not announce is that Jeter will play this year healthy barring any unforeseen circumstances.

On February 7, we described Jeter's latest reports from his pre-Spring Training workouts. He started his own training program at the end of January. His ankles and legs are fully healed, and even his teammates say that he looks very good. In fact, pitcher David Phelps said Jeter "looks amazing" in his workouts.

Jeter started regular batting practice on February 3 and performed as well as if he had not missed any time the season before. He has said that he will have the normal Spring Training that he did not get last year, and doing so will help him prepare for the season physically since he will not have to worry about returning too soon from injury.

Both Jeter and manager Joe Giardi expect the captain to start on Opening Day, March 31, and play the bulk of the Yankees' games at shortstop a midst speculation that Jeter would DH more than play the field. Of course, that implies that Jeter experiences no further injuries.

In his 19-year career (all with the Yankees) since 2005, Jeter has a career record of .312/.381/.446 with 256 HR, 1261 RBI, and an average WAR of 3.8. Count only his full seasons from 1996-2012, and that average WAR jumps to 4.3. He is ninth all-time in career hits with 3,316, and with 104 hits, he would climb to sixth place. It will take 199 hits for him to crack the top five, but if anyone can do it, Jeter can -- even at age 40. His postseason numbers are just as impressive: .308/.374/.465, 20 HR, and 61 RBI in 158 games against the best pitchers each time. These totals make Jeter a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Some may ask why Jeter did not retire with all of last year's injuries. A player of his caliber -- and class -- deserves to go out on his own terms and get the type of year-long recognition that fellow Yankee Mariano Rivera received last year. Fortunately, Derek Jeter gets that opportunity in 2014.

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