Better shake a leg on those little boy pants, Mikey…there’s a mighty load coming.
The Yankees had Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams, and for a time it was as storied a five as the Knicks once had in the old days. One by one they all left, and now it is only Jeter left. And when he is gone at the end of this season, the Yankees will go on, the brand of the Yankees will go on, the big business of the Yankees sure will. But more than Jeter’s extraordinary career ends when he goes. The extraordinary culture that he and his own storied teammates helped create — or recreate with the Yankees — goes with him.
Oh, we will continue to hear about how the pinstripes and the uniform and the place will transform the new hired guns they bring in. That will happen just by hype and old glory, like the kind we get about Madison Square Garden still being a mecca of basketball after one victory in a playoff series in the past 14 years.
The Yankees have only had one World Series title over those same 14 years, even as they are constantly treated and covered like some sort of sleeping baseball giant about to rise up and roar again. But across that time, they have mostly made the playoffs, even as their old stars have left one by one, and more hired guns have been brought in to replace them.
But once Jeter is gone, there is no one who connects to any of that. There really is no one. It is why the notion that Jeter got too much money in that last contract scrum he had with the Yankees a few years ago was always so chowderheaded, and short-sighted. Or it was just people just thinking and saying what the people running the Yankees wanted them to think and say. You could never properly quantify what Jeter has meant to the brand, and still means.
...The current manager of the team is a good guy. CC Sabathia seemed to embrace the culture before he broke down this way, and the back end of his contract became the pitching version of Alex Rodriguez’s. We will never know how Robinson Cano’s presence and excellence — and the fact that he was actually the first star, homegrown position player since Jeter — would have factored into all of this, because the Yankees chose not to give him 10 years at a time when they gave Jacoby Ellsbury seven.
...The Yankees will go on, and will win again. It just won’t be like the winning they got from Jeter and Bernie and Mo, Pettitte and Posada. And Paul O’Neill. There will never again be a time like this. Jeter takes that with him. They can buy a lot at Yankee Stadium, maybe even one more postseason for Derek Jeter.
But when he goes, in all the ways that matter at the Stadium, there is no one.
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