This week marks the final week of the illustrious baseball career of Derek Sanderson Jeter. Over 3,400 hits, .309 career batting average, 5 World Series championships, 14 all-star appearances, a shoe-in first-ballot Hall of Famer, all while playing shortstop for the New York Yankees. Jeter won’t retire as one of the greatest Yankee players of all time. He will retire as THE greatest Yankee of all time. But even at age of 40, he has shown that he can continue to play at a high level and maybe play another season and go after one more World Series ring.
There is a constant argument in sport as to whether an athlete may have played a little longer than he or she should have. Many have not played up to the level in the latter part of their career compared to when they began playing. Steve Carlton had a great baseball career, much of it spent with the Philadelphia Phillies. But during his last three years, he bounced around from team to team eventually finishing up with the Minnesota Twins in 1988. Brett Favre is another name that comes to mind. Was his reluctance to hand over the quarterbacking reigns of the Green Bay Packers to Aaron Rodgers and walk off into the sunset put a dent in his career? Both Favre and Carlton would have wished it had ended much differently but the futility they experienced in the last few years shouldn’t overshadow their accomplishments.
Two players come to mind when I think about athletes leaving the game at perhaps the right time: Ray Bourque and John Elway. Bourque capped off a 22-year career by winning his first and only Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. Elway did the same by winning Super Bowl 33 in 1999 for the Denver Broncos after 16 seasons in the NFL. Must being something in that Colorado air (prior to that state legalizing marijuana!)
It is difficult to determine what time is the right time to leave. Ultimately, it is up to the player to decide whether to hang it up for good. It is also rare that anyone can write their own farewell journey. Jeter, like Mariano Rivera before him, was able to that. Thanks for the memories Mr. November. We’ll see you in Cooperstown in 2019.
UPDATE September 22nd:
One of the great things about writing sports is the kind of arguments and debates it leads to, even if it is not related to the topic. Here’s one example below. Feel free to add yours:
(ED: Please respect people’s Facebook wall. If you want to get into a debate with another person on a post, do it on their wall.)