As always, Derek does it just right


Suddenly Derek Jeter is going, going, just about gone. A man of few words said goodbye in a 15-paragraph Facebook post, a poignant love letter to the fans who served as the soundtrack for one of the greatest careers a New York Yankee has ever had.

The Jeter news rocked a city bracing for a different kind of storm. The captain said he will retire at the end of the coming season, after he turns 40 in June, and he admitted -- for a change -- that mortality had finally hit him like a runner trying to take him out on a double play.

"Last year was a tough one for me," Jeter wrote. "As I suffered through a bunch of injuries, I realized that some of the things that always came easily to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle. The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward."

So yes, this is the right time for Jeter to follow Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte out the door. He never talks like this. He spent his career barely acknowledging a tweak of this muscle or that, forever refusing to blame a rare bad day at the office on his aches and pains.

But now? Jeter admitting his body has betrayed him to the point where he can't continue on in the only job he ever wanted, the job of his childhood dreams?

If you've watched his career from day one, watched him win five championships, watched him drive that magical home run for hit No. 3,000, watched him deliver 216 hits in 2012, two years after many figured he was done, you might've suspected that Jeter would try to play until he was 45. Or that he would somehow endure -- even thrive -- long enough to supplant Pete Rose as the most prolific batter of them all.

Not too long ago, Jeter wanted a crack at that Rose record of 4,256, according to a friend of his. It's among the few wants in his storybook career that weren't meant to be.

The busted ankle in the playoffs and last year's lingering leg injuries reduced Jeter to a shell of his former self, and he knew he needed to let go. "I know they say that when you dream you eventually wake up," Jeter wrote. "Well, for some reason, I've never had to wake up."

Until Wednesday, the first day of the rest of Jeter's life. He woke up and decided to go public with a decision he said he reached months ago, and yes, it was the smart call. Unlike some greats who stayed a season or three too long, Jeter had no interest in making a fool of himself in his old age. He understood that even another .300 season, another six months of fisting inside fastballs over some second baseman's head, wouldn't alter the unforgiving truth about his current place in the game.

He isn't the player he used to be, not even close, and the Yankees need to find a younger man to play short.

"It started as an empty canvas more than 20 years ago," Jeter wrote of his career, "and now that I look at it, it's almost complete. In a million years, I wouldn't have believed just how beautiful it would become."

Again, Jeter doesn't usually talk like this, not for public consumption. The last time he was this eloquent, he was holding a microphone on the field after the last game at the old Yankee Stadium, asking the fans to carry the memories across the street.

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