All good things must come to an end: Departing Yankees captain Derek Jeter leaving baseball at right moment

thesportsbloggers.com

Aaron Brezel, Editor-in-Chief

The winter after the 1959 season, reporters asked the 38 year old Stan Musial if he planned on retiring after his nineteenth season of Major League Baseball.  In a career where he never batted lower than .310, Musial  batted .255 in 1959.  Without hesitation he replied, “No.  I want to go out on a good year.”

To those unfamiliar with Stan “The Man” Musial, he was a lifetime St.  Louis Cardinal, a 24 time all star, a three time all star, a seven time National League Batting Champion, and widely regarded as one of the greatest hitters of all time.

However, at the beginning of the 1960 season he played like a shell of his former self earning him a spot on the St.  Louis bench.  In that era of baseball, it was common for players to gracefully step down towards the end of their career to finish with dignity.  Although Musial went on to play two more successful season in 1961 and 1962, Musial’s subsequent benching during the 1960 season became national news as one of baseball’s greatest dragged out his career by refusing to retire.

Fast forward 50 years, and the awkward soap opera between Stan Musial and baseball can now be applied  to a new generation of baseball greats facing the end of their careers.  Mainstays of the steroid era, Mariano Rivera, Chipper Jones, and Jim Thome have all retired in the last couple of years.  However, of all the marquee players of that era, Derek Jeter is the one of the few left standing.

He was the face of the New York Yankees for nearly 20 years, a 13 time all star, and a five time World Series champion.  Jeter defined a baseball generation.

However, at the end of the 2014 season, he will take his last at bat, field his last ground ball, and become a permanent part of Major League history.

While Jeter is no doubt destined for Cooperstown, he still stands at the same crossroads that all professional baseball players reach.  In his age 38 season, Jeter appeared in only 17 games.  Entering into the 2014 baseball season, Jeter made the frugal move of declaring that his age 39 season, the same age at which that Musial forever blemished his career, would be his last no matter the outcome.

This was undoubtedly a difficult decision to make.  The reason players like Stan Musial attempt to drag out their careers long past their natural conclusions is the tough transition into normal life.  After spending the last 20 years under the bright lights playing a game for millions of dollars, choosing to mow your lawn on a Sunday morning is not the easiest transition to make.

Fans often forget that the veteran players they idolize are only in their late thirties.  For players like Jeter, allowing themselves to let go of their sport is a decision requiring maturity beyond their years.

What lies in the future for Jeter is yet to be determined.  The vast majority, of ball players, melt seamlessly into the background.  After leaving baseball stardom in 2009,  pitcher Randy Johnson has since settled into a quiet life as a photographer in Paradise, Arizona.  Others find their home in the media as color commentators.  Several linchpin members of the Mets 1986 World Series Championship team including Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez now work for the SNY channel.  Having successful players commentate and analyze for the franchise they played for is a common theme in sports media.  Perhaps we will see number 2 in the broadcasting booth soon enough.17yankees_span