Jeter announces 2014 season will be his last
Yankees captain releases statement on Facebook, thanks fans and organization
TAMPA, Fla. -- Derek Jeter started his career as a fresh-faced rookie shortstop hoisting the World Series trophy in his first full season. He would go on to collect five championship rings, more than 3,000 hits and the celebrated title of Yankees captain.
As Jeter prepares to enter what will be his 20th season in the big leagues, he has acknowledged that the ride is coming to an end. Jeter announced Wednesday that the 2014 season will be his final one, doing so via a lengthy Facebook post.
Jeter will turn 40 in June and said that the numerous injuries that he has recently battled -- beginning with a left ankle fracture sustained in the 2012 American League Championship Series -- have taken their toll, making the game more of a struggle and less enjoyable for the 13-time All-Star.
"The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward," Jeter said. "So really, it was months ago when I realized that this season would likely be my last."
Commissioner Bud Selig issued the following statement on Wednesday: "In the 21-plus years in which I have served as Commissioner, Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter. Since his championship rookie season of 1996, Derek has represented all the best of the National Pastime on and off the field. He is one of the most accomplished and memorable players of his -- or any -- era.
"Derek is the kind of person that generations have emulated proudly, and he remains an exemplary face of our sport. Major League Baseball looks forward to celebrating his remarkable career throughout the 2014 season."
Jeter's announcement comes months after longtime teammates Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera took off their uniforms for the final time. The fourth member of the "Core Four," Jorge Posada, walked away after the 2011 season.
"Derek called me this morning to tell me that he planned to retire following the season," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. "In our conversation, I told him that I respected his decision because I know he put a lot of thought into it. I also let him know that I thought it was great that he was letting fans know now so they will have a chance to say goodbye to him."
"He is unquestionably one of the greatest Yankees ever. He has meant so much to fans, the organization, my father and our family. I'm glad we have this year to celebrate everything he has meant to us and all the great things he still stands to accomplish."
A five-time Silver Slugger Award winner and five-time Gold Glove Award winner, Jeter has spent his entire career in Yankees pinstripes and thanked the Steinbrenner family for giving him the opportunity to play for their team.
"Derek Jeter has been a great representative of what the Yankees have stood for over the years," manager Joe Girardi said. "He has been a team player who has only cared about winning. He has also been a fine example both on and off the field over his long tenure as a Yankee. It has been a real pleasure to manage him and play alongside him."
"It has been an incredible honor having a front row seat for one of the great players of all time," general manager Brian Cashman said. "Derek has been a winner every step of the way. I am already looking forward to an exciting final chapter of his storied career."
Jeter has been working out for several weeks at the Yanks' complex in Tampa, Fla., taking ground balls and batting practice to prepare for what he has repeatedly called "a normal spring." He left the Himes Avenue complex before Wednesday's announcement was published, but agent Casey Close confirmed that it was legitimate.
In his note, Jeter suggested that he has been wrestling with the decision and the best way to announce it for some time.
"As I came to this conclusion and shared it with my friends and family, they all told me to hold off saying anything until I was absolutely 100 percent sure," Jeter said. "And the thing is, I could not be more sure. I know it in my heart."
Jeter's career has long carried something of a storybook aura. He grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich. fantasizing about playing for the Yankees, having been introduced to the team by summer visits to his grandmother's New Jersey home.
Jeter was selected by the Yankees in the first round of the 1992 First-Year Player Draft and made it to the big leagues by the end of 1995, taking hold of a starting job to begin the '96 campaign. Jeter said that he has been "living my dream every single day" since.
That dream included reaching the 3,000-hit milestone, which Jeter did in style. His third-inning home run on July 9, 2011 was good for No. 3,000, and it came in the middle of a game in which he went 5-for-5 and drove in the game-winning run.
"I've experienced so many defining moments in my career: winning the World Series as a rookie shortstop, being named the Yankees' captain, closing the old and opening the new Yankee Stadium. Through it all, I've never stopped chasing the next one. I want to finally stop the chase and take in the world.
"For the last 20 years I've been completely focused on two goals: playing my best and helping the Yankees win," he continued. "That means that for 365 days a year, my every thought and action were geared toward that goal. It's now time for something new."
Coming off a season in which he was limited to just 17 games and served four stints on the disabled list, Jeter's actions have suggested that he was uncertain how much longer he would play.
Jeter negotiated a one-year deal at $12 million after the season, which in hindsight may serve as a window into his thinking. Jeter announced that he was launching a book publishing imprint in partnership with Simon & Schuster last November, and also joined an Atlanta-based food company, Luvo Inc., in January.
"I have achieved almost every personal and professional goal I have set," Jeter said. "I have gotten the very most out of my life playing baseball, and I have absolutely no regrets. Now it is time for the next chapter. I have new dreams and aspirations, and I want new challenges.
"There are many things that I want to do in business and philanthropic work, in addition to focusing more on my personal life and starting a family of my own. And I want the ability to move at my own pace, see the world and finally have a summer vacation."
By making his announcement so early, Jeter has ensured that 2014 will likely serve as a sendoff celebration of his career -- similar to the tour that Rivera enjoyed last season, with ceremonies held in each city that the Yankees visited. His final games would be played in Boston, against the rival Red Sox on Sept. 26-28 at Fenway Park.
Jeter will have milestones to chase: He enters the season as the Yanks' all-time leader with 3,316 hits, three behind Paul Molitor for eighth place on the all-time list. Carl Yastrzemski (3,419) and Honus Wagner (3,420) are also within reach. By retiring at the end of the 2014 season, Jeter would be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration in 2020.
Jeter's past actions and career-long mantra suggest that he will not find the increased attention to be distractions from his ultimate goal. Rather, Jeter seems to be welcoming it.
"I want to soak in every moment of every day this year, so I can remember it for the rest of my life," Jeter said. "And most importantly, I want to help the Yankees reach our goal of winning another championship."