Lance Berkman and Derek Jeter have both been great ballplayers during their careers. But for both of them that career may be ending.
This season has been very rough for both of these veterans and the injuries have mounted to the point that Berkman at least considered retiring, and the thought should at least have occurred to Jeter who again had a setback recently.
For Jeter, the road has been fairly brutal since he broke his ankle in the Yankees elimination game in the ALCS last November. He broke it again just before the season started and didn’t manage to return until just before the All-Star break when he promptly hurt himself again, straining his quad while running the bases.
The Yankees didn’t once again didn’t rush him back from the DL. But even after all the Yankees' caution, medical care and patience, they can’t undo age or make Jeter play differently than the all out play he’s made throughout his entire career. Because of that he only managed four more games before he went back to the DL once again, this time with a calf strain.
He’s rehabbing once again, but the question has to be lingering as to if Jeter can actually stay healthy enough to be a useful player anymore. It’s a question the Yankees front office has certainly been asking, and one which Jeter should be asking himself.
While Jeter has a contract with the team for next year, his role certainly isn’t assured, healthy or not. The Yankees know that it’s time to move on. Jeter will be 40 next year, and while his heart is as big as ever, his limited range has continued to decrease, his brittleness has become evident, and the Yankees are in the process of rebuilding.
It puts the ball in Jeter’s wheelhouse. Like teammate Mariano Rivera, Jeter can either choose to go out when he’s still got some of his mojo or he can let his skill set die a slow and lingering death. However unlike Mariano, Jeter isn’t still displaying the same level of excellence that would compel the Yankees to offer him extensions for as long as he wanted to play.
If Jeter decides that next year is his swan song, the Yankees will offer him a year-long fete and give him a farewell tour with plenty of fanfare and will allow him to reap the praise and tribute that he’s earned and been given. If he decides to linger on, odds are that he’ll have to either do it for a lot less money and from the bench or do it with another organization.
No doubt, if Berkman or Jeter hit a hot streak to finish the year and feel the skill set is still there, thoughts of continuing will surface. Both are certainly game enough to want to stay in the game. Both are rehabbing now, but will it be a final hurrah? Or do they believe that there is still enough in the tank to imagine they’ll still have careers in 2014 or beyond?
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