Thursday, January 26, 2012

For Derek Jeter, laughter through tears

Derek Jeter did his best to put on a happy face at Jorge Posada’s farewell press conference, but the captain of the New York Yankees was clearly saddened by his best pal’s departure.

The Yankees shortstop said all the right things about his dear friend, about how happy he was to see Posada move on to the next phase of his life, but how sad he was for selfish reasons that he wouldn’t have him around anymore. Jeter made a lot of jokes at his pal’s expense, about how Posada had to switch positions from second base to catcher because Jeter refused to try to turn double plays with him, about how Posada could be a big-league manager, as long as Jeter himself didn’t have to play for him. But Jeter seemed so sad during the press conference, looking quite pained as he watched Posada unsuccessfully try to get through all his thank yous without crying.

Jeter recently revealed that he and Posada had breakfast and lunch together every day on the road since they both became big leaguers. Can you imagine that? That’s 20 meals worth of conversation on a 10-day road trip. I personally find that a little weird as I don’t think there is anybody whose company I enjoy that much. You would think at a certain point, they would run out of things to talk about. Apparently, Derek and Jorge never did.  

So what is Jeter going to do on those long road trips without his pal? He could, of course, become friendlier with some of his other teammates and take them out to breakfast and lunch (on Jeter’s dime, of course). But I doubt that’s going to happen too often with any of his teammates, especially his frenemy Alex Rodriguez. As Ian O’Connor noted in his Jeter biography, the Yankees captain puts up barriers that are almost impossible to scale. ARod violated Jeter’s trust and got banished for it. While they eventually called a truce, their friendship never recovered. Perhaps that’s why Jeter and Posada spent so much time together because his long-time teammate was one of the few people Jeter could bring himself to trust.  

But I think the key question is will Posada’s retirement hasten the day when Jeter is no longer the shortstop of the Yankees? I would imagine Jeter will continue to play until he feels he can’t play up to his notoriously high, self-imposed standards. But with Posada gone and Mariano Rivera hinting that his own retirement could be coming soon, Jeter may decide he doesn’t want to be the lone member of the last Yankee dynasty and walk away. By his own admission, Jeter is not as outwardly emotional as Posada so there will be fewer tears as his own farewell press conference, even if the rest of us are crying. 

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