Jeter: I can’t OPS+ any more.
Sixty-eight games to stick the landing.
You don’t have to wander very far to know how challenging that can be. Mickey Mantle long regretted how it ended for him, a 1968 season in which he could barely walk, in which he hit .237 and knocked four points off his career average, leaving him at .298.
...Jeter, of course, is equipped with certain unique elements that will steel him from such problems. For one thing, he would have to go 0-for-428 to drop his career average to .2994. So that’s safe. He has long been exposed to unflattering reports — whether from statheads or a vocal anti-Yankees faction that has forever targeted him as overrated and overvalued — that would make what the Brooklyn scout said of DiMaggio read like a Hallmark card. That won’t affect him.
Could he have a skid like the one that nearly obliterated Mattingly’s last go-round? He could. He’s had stretches of ineffectiveness this year. But again, when you’ve watched Jeter as long as you have, you understand something: There’s no way he will allow himself to become a burden. It seems he’s come to peace with who he is at age 40: a contributor, a leader, a captain, a player you’d certainly rather have on your team than not, a star by reputation rather than repetition. Reliably reliable.
That probably explains why he knew this year would be it, because that’s not a function he could long be comfortable with. But it allows an image far more satisfying than the one we would’ve been left with this time last year – or the one we’d likely have this time next year. He has a chance to stick the landing. Who’s betting that he won’t?
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