The Captain’s Twilight Years: How Derek Jeter Made Me Realize I Was Old

It was 1995. The first year I ever got a glimpse of baseball. My mom was sitting in our new Long Island house bitching about a Yankee game. At this point in my life I didn’t know who they were facing and I wasn’t old enough to comprehend the sport. While I didn’t start watching yet, this was my introduction to the human psyche when fandom wreaks having on ones emotional immune system.

All a younger Joe wanted to do that night was play Street Fighter II: Championship Edition and my mom shoo’d me away. Never in my life up to this point had I been shoo’d away when I did nothing wrong. As a kid I was a real whiny bitch so I probably cried when it happened. Looking back I now realized I completely deserved the cold shoulder. I was probably interfering in some historic moment like Don Mattingly’s last stand against the Seattle Mariners.

It wasn’t until my Uncle moved in a year later did I finally understand the game of baseball. I respected my Uncle. He watched the Batman animated series with me and successfully slung it all around as a single man chasing skirt. Back then he was mixing superheroes with dating way before it was cool to wear slutty Harry Potter costumes at Comic-con. Even as a kid I respected the game. Naturally if my uncle liked something then I had to too. If he was a Met fan then I would have been a Met fan also. Thankfully he had a taste for the evil empire that is the New York Yankees. In less than a year I went from bugging my mom to play Street Fighter, not knowing what baseball was, to hopping off the school bus wearing a Yankee hat looking like Colegio from A Bronx Tale when Papa DeNiro dropped him off at the stoop. (Sadly there were no cool Mafioso types for me to hang around with.)

Mandatory Credit: Andrew Mills/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Andrew Mills/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

A big chunk of my baseball viewing as a kid was at my dad’s pizza place in Park Slope. There was this really popular rookie everybody talked about at the pizzeria named Derek Jeter. I didn’t know it then but Jeter’s arrival came at the right time. Don Mattingly had just retired and the Yankees needed another homegrown talent to lead the way. The Jeter kid’s timing was impeccable. He had an edge. (Yuck. What terrible commercials.)

I have two vivid memories of the 1996 playoffs and one of them involved Jeter. I remember a bunch of people standing around a little pizzeria TV going absolutely crazy over what was to be called the Jeffrey Maier incident. Jeter’s lucky homerun placement along with Maier snatching up a homerun ball, which should have been an out, crippled the Orioles so badly; they only just now started to recover. I got mad when the news showed Baltimore fans talking about wanting to kill Maier. He helped the Yankees win. Why would anybody want to go against them? A younger me couldn’t fathom the Yankees being anything other than heroic.

The other memory was of David Wells riding the police horse around Yankee stadium. My first experience with baseball involved guys I was told were heroes who rode horses. Of course I was going to be hooked. By 1998 you couldn’t take a Yankee hat off my head.

Now that I’m an adult (alright, kind of an adult) it’s hard to think how fast time passed. Derek Jeter is kind of like a measuring stick of time for me. He looked like he was dipped in the Lazarus Pit for years now and the ankle injury he suffered in Detroit during the ALCS not only showed his body is acting its age, but it also showed the Captain is human. I see him getting old and I feel old too now. I still remember him winning Rookie of the Year when I was I was eight years old. How the hell am I 25 now? More importantly, how is Derek Jeter staring at the twilight of his career?

After injuring his ankle again recently it seems like Derek Jeter’s career is running on fumes. Brian Cashman announced earlier this week Jeter is out for the rest of the season. At the age of 39, those leg injuries aren’t healing like they used to. The days of diving into stands and turning around in midair to throw to first are behind him.

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Now before I continue on with some sports journalistish stats, I would just like to pay tribute to Derek Jeter the pimp. His play off the field is as impressive as the one on it. Since the end is near for Derek Jeter, so too is the millions upon millions of dollars in Yankee shortstop paychecks. How lucky is he for figuring out at a young age not to put a ring on a chick’s finger? A lot of athletes get all googoogagga over a woman the second a big payday comes in for the first time. They stupidly agree to a deal where she gets half if it doesn’t work. The worst part about this union the government calls marriage is athletes never factor in that with great superstardom, comes great vaginability. (Athletes should be handed Wilt Chamberlain textbooks in college.)

Derek Jeter should be commended for knowing in his twenties -aka prime goofy-guy-let-me-marry-this-girl-in-tribute-to-her-sticking-around years- it’s the cheaper option to hoe yourself out there. On the Patrice O’Neal Hotness Scale of 1 to 30 –with 30 being a hot-ass-hot-chick, 15 being an aite-looking-aite-bitch, and 10 being an ugly-looking-hot-chick- Mariah Carey was a 16 compared some of the women Derek Jeter messed around with. You can debate me but I don’t have a problem with sticking Mariah Carey one notch above aite-looking-aite-bitch. Google image Scarlett Johansson, Vanessa Minnillo, Minka Kelly, Adrianna Lima, and Jessica Alba, before you form an argument.

My favorite part of Derek Jeter’s anti-monogamous stance isn’t the top notch superstars he has been linked to. I’m more in awe of his gift baskets. A few years ago the New York Post reported that Jeter has representatives hand women a basket full of Yankee memorabilia the morning after he slept with them.

What this shows is Jeter has had so much sex; he’s tired of the same small talk conversations about winning the World Series five times. Instead of wasting breath by telling a girl how great the 1998 Yankees were, he just hands her some Yankeeography DVD’s. Everybody wins. He doesn’t have to repeat himself and she gets her star struck questions answered in depth. This genius idea alone should give Derek Jeter a nomination for the A Pimp Named Slickback Hall of Fame. (And now back to the regularly scheduled sports journalistish stats portion of this article.)

Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Jeter’s been around for so long it’s weird to see him show physical vulnerability. Here’s the guy who battled bigots like John Rocker, legends like Pedro Martinez., and immortals such as Cal Ripken Jr., and he can’t even walk on his own right now.

Just four years ago it seemed Jeter would be hitting balls longer than pink energizer bunnies can thump on a drum. It was his thirteenth year as a starter and here he was having the best year of his career –completely clean at that. In 2009 Jeter was an MVP candidate. He had a .334 batting average, 18 home runs, 66 RBIs, 107 runs scored, and 30 stolen bases. He was the type of lead off man the Mets thought they would have with Jose Reyes for the rest of his career.

The amazing part of the 2009 season wasn’t the World Series Ring or even becoming the all-time hits leader for a shortstop. No, the most memorable part of the season was Jeter achieving the rank of New York Yankees hit king on September 11. He recorded close to 100 hits that month to reach the 2,722 hit milestone. Turn on the Yes Network when there isn’t a Yankee game. What you will probably see is a documentary on Lou Gehrig, Don Mattingly, Mickey Mantle, or Joe DiMaggio. Derek Jeter out-hit them all.

Of course I could also be over-romanticizing the moment. When it happened I heard the radio call while baking out a car with my friend Bobby and our girlfriends. It was one of those romantic Notebook-esque double dates.

Jeter’s next season was one of his worst. Still, the Yankee Captain ended strong with hitting .342 in his last 72-at-bats. Jeter rebounded in 2011 with a .297 average, and then went on to hit Stone Cold .316 last year.

2012 might be the last great year of Derek Jeter’s career. Right now he’s at a point where Spider-Man was at the end of issue five in Death of Spider-Man. The final panels of the issue featured Spider-Man suffering a terrible injury after getting shot by the Punisher. It took every inch of his body to move himself from the ground his blood painted. To make matters worse the sinister six was after Spidey and his loved ones.  You can equate the bullet wound which tragically leads to the wall crawler’s death to Jeter’s ankle injury.

Death of Spider-Man ends with the obvious death of Spider-Man but in a way, it closes off on a high note. The Green Goblin was all set to kill Peter Parker’s loved ones when out of nowhere he smashes a truck on the monstrous villain’s head. Taking out the Goblin the way he did sapped the last bit of energy Peter Parker had and he died majestically in his Aunt May’s arms after saving the day.

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

At the age of 39, with a nagging ankle injury, Derek Jeter is closing in on the end of his career. Despite this I predict he’ll go out with a majestic bang the way Spider-Man did. When a warrior gets shot in the ribs he doesn’t call it quits. He finds the nearest truck and wins Comeback Player of the Year. While Jeter won’t be as spry as he used to be, don’t be surprised if the Captain’s final season(s) ends with some awards and a sixth World Series ring. The legends tend to go out in a bang. (Some Yankee catchers have taken that statement literally.)

Following Peter Parker’s death in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, a kid by the name of Miles Morales took over as New York’s lead wall crawler. With death came rebirth. In Yankees lore this tends to be a constant. When DiMaggio stepped down, Mantle took over. Once Mattingly had enough with George Steinbrenner’s shit, the golden boy Derek Jeter stepped in. These back-to-back legends usually come in twos but who knows, maybe someone else in that minor league system will take over? (Or maybe I should stop going for dramatic effect and just say the obvious of Robinson Cano.)

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