TAMPA, Fla. — Derek Jeter wanted to make at least one thing perfectly clear. He still has one more Major League Baseball season left to play.
"This is not a retirement press conference," he said Wednesday at New York Yankees spring training camp. Seemingly against his will, Jeter addressed a few hundred people — mostly media, teammates and other Yankees personnel — in a tented banquet room just outside of George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Jeter's message wasn't much different than that of a week ago, when he announced on Facebook that 2014 would be his final season. He was limited to 17 games in 2013 after breaking his ankle during the playoffs in 2012. The drudgery of coming back from that helped him decide that the time to stop playing was coming.
On Wednesday, he added a couple of details, including:
"I wanted to make this announcement months ago, I really did," Jeter said. "But they — I don’t want to say ‘forced’ — but they (friends, family, agent) advised me to take my time. I think, for me, it would have been more of a distraction if I didn’t say anything. Because if I had known that I’m not going to play next year, and I’m getting asked this question each and every day — 'Will you come back?' — I would have gotten tired of hearing it."
He also would have had to lie.
"I feel as though the time is right," Jeter said. "There’s other things I want to do."
Again, like he said on Facebook. That really was him, by the way. He went that route because of the attention it might give his Turn 2 Foundation, which has quite a Facebook presence.
"I wrote each and every word of it," Jeter said, adding, "it took a while" to write.
Given the chance for a "Q&A" before cameras, there were no tears — it's still an assumption that Jeter has tear ducts — and it will be news if he cries during the season or at the end, when it really is over. Like any other perfunctory moment in his life, Jeter was eager to move on to the next thing.
"You trying to get me to cry?" Jeter asked, on the verge of being indignant, after a question. "Yeah, I have feelings. I’m not emotionally stunted. There’s feelings there. I just think I’ve been pretty good at trying to hide my emotions over the years."
He has hidden himself quite well, better than most other players in the big media era. Other than Jeter's achievements on the field, personal and team, almost never giving away bits of himself is his second-greatest accomplishment. (That's a nice way of saying he's never been a great quote, which is a nice way of saying he's almost never said anything.)
Jeter hasn't actually been a robot, but he admitted to acting like one.
"I know I haven’t been as open as some of you would have liked me to be over the last 20 years, but that’s by design," Jeter said. "It doesn’t mean I don’t have any feelings. It’s just, that’s the way I felt I’d make it this long in New York."
If I make it there... it's because I've eliminated as many variables as possible.
Doesn't have the same ring as the original Sinatra.
Jeter said he "wanted to do this under the radar," which was (unintentionally?) funny, given who he is and which team he plays for. That was his hope, anyway. So, people you'd expect at an official Jeter good-bye were not there. The Steinbrenner brothers, the team's owners, were there, as were manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman. All of them likely would have been around, anyway, because it's spring training. Otherwise, it was just another day — which is how Jeter liked to live life as a baseball player.
But his parents, and former teammates like Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez and Mariano Rivera, along with former manager Joe Torre, were not there. No high school coach. No "could have been" dorm mate from the University of Michigan. Jeremy Giambi didn't show up to help re-enact "The Flip" of 2001. It definitely wasn't a "Derek Jeter: This Is Your Life!" moment.
All of that will come — like with Rivera during the '13 season.
"He might not want it," Cashman said, "But he's going to get it."
We're still waiting for someone to top the chair of broken bats the Twins gave Mo as a going-away present. Hopefully, some team will be clever with its Jeter gift basket.
As for what Jeter expects in 2014, it's to be the shortstop, just like (most) every season since 1996. He says he's healthy. He wasn't in 2013, being limited to 17 games, after breaking his ankle in the 2012 playoffs.
Jeter can hide. But can he still run?
"This [retirement announcement] had absolutely nothing to do with how I feel physically," Jeter said, referring to his ankle and/or his age (40 on June 26). "Physically I feel great and look forward to playing for a full season."
Only one more full season to go. Maybe he'll make one more All-Star team, maybe the Yankees will win one more World Series. This much is certain: Jeter has only a few months to go, so he finally can come out of hiding for good.
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