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Posts tagged ‘Derek Jeter’

The Final Curtain

Just over twenty-four hours ago, I wrote that I didn’t have appropriate words to write a tribute to Derek Jeter. I was able to write a little something personal about what his career meant to me, but it was nothing special. There are a million other people out there who could write far better tributes to a legend than I can. But here I am again, writing about the same guy I couldn’t write about yesterday, because he played such an emotional final game in New York I couldn’t possibly ignore it.
Prior to last night’s game, I never thought any player could possibly top Mariano Rivera’s exit from the game a year ago. There was perfect weather and a wonderful ceremony for Mariano Rivera Day. A few days later, he was pulled from the game by his friends Jeter and Andy Pettite in a fitting end to his career. The whole experience, in my opinion, was perfect. I believe in God, and I believe all things happen for a reason – and I believe God blessed Mariano Rivera in 2013 with such a beautiful final series and exit from baseball.
Jeter’s last game looked like it might end up a disaster. Rain hit New York all day and was expected to go all night. There were doubts as to whether the Orioles and Yankees would even be able to play. The same rain storm hit DC the night before, cancelling the Mets and Nationals game I had tickets for. It didn’t look promising for Derek Jeter’s last game in the Bronx.
Looking back, there’s no doubt that God blessed another departing Yankee.
Joe Girardi said he had planned for Jeter to walk around the field, eventually joining former teammates to leave the field for the last time. It would be a symbolic way for his friends, who he considers his brothers, to say “the end is here, it’s time to come with us.” That ending would have been beautiful, and undoubtedly Yankee fans would have loved it. Some fans speculated that Jeter’s parents would somehow pull him out of the game – very fitting for the two who raised him, and who have been through every game of his life right along with him. But neither was meant to be.
Hiroki Kuroda (in maybe his last game ever?) started out by giving up two solo homeruns in the top of the first. Luckily, the Yankees answered right back and scored two runs of their own in the bottom of the first. Kuroda somehow goes on to pitch a magnificent game, as though it was completely normal to start a game by giving fans a heart attack and then be untouchable the rest of the game.
The homeruns go to right, and right center. Seeing Ichiro Suzuki in right field, I can’t help but wonder if this is his last game too – or maybe just his last game in pinstripes? He needs less than two hundred hits to reach 3,000 career hits in the MLB (not counting his hits in Japan). Does he call it quits now or make a push to reach that milestone? But that’s a thought another thought for another day.
We all know the rest of this story – even if you weren’t watching the game you have heard the rest of the story. Admittedly, I am a big fan of David Robertson, I think he’s done great job trying to replace the world’s best closer, and I want him back next season. As he gave up the two homeruns, blowing the save and potentially costing my team the game, I started to feel unsure about that. But that inning – the walk to Nick Markakis, the homeruns by Adam Jones and Steve Pearce – were meant to be. David Robertson was meant to fall apart on the mound. As pissed as Yankee fans were about Robertson “ruining” Jeter’s last game, their glimmer of hope was that The Captain would bat in the bottom of the 9th for (maybe?) one last time. We don’t know if we’re going to extra innings for bonus Jeter or not. Maybe he’s got a little more magic for the Bronx?
And as it goes, Jose Pirela hits a single. Antoan Richardson is the pinch runner who moves to second on Brett Gardner’s double, then scores the winning run on Jeter’s base hit. Ballgame over – history made.
Some people theorized that Evan Meek, Buck Showalter, and the Orioles played soft so Jeter would get the hit and his big moment. I am absolutely certain that did not happen – just as certain that no one on the Orioles team did any favors for Derek Jeter, the Yankees, or this historic night. This Orioles team plays hard no matter what the circumstances; that’s why they have been so successful this season, and that’s why they’re headed to the playoffs. (And good luck to them!)
More significant than Jeter’s hit – and it was a fantastic one! – was Richardson crossing home plate safely. Obviously he needed to score the run for Jeter to have the game winning RBI. But, I live in Orioles territory, have seen many Orioles games this season, and I thought for sure Richardson would be thrown out at the plate – because of Nick Markakis. Richardson certainly had the speed to make it – otherwise he wouldn’t have been the pinch runner – but Markakis has a cannon of an arm in right field. The throw he made to the plate was just about in time, but just a little off target up the third base line, and was merely average. I don’t consider Nick Markakis an average right fielder. (I’ve seen him throw runners out at the plate from a lot deeper.) I do not believe Markakis slacked on the play at all – but the throw wasn’t meant to be a typical Nick Markakis defensive throw.
The rain stopped. Robertson blew the save. Jeter hit a single. Markakis’ throw was uncharacteristic. Richardson crossed home safely.
Say what you will about the events that happened, but I believe it was a force bigger than anything on earth. If you ask, it was an act of God that so many things should line up so perfectly. No one could have scripted a better ending to Derek Jeter’s career in pinstripes, in the Bronx, and at shortstop.