By Jessica Beebe
On the night of Oct. 13, as I sleepily watched the Yankees trying to scrape a win against the Detroit Tigers, I gasped as Derek Jeter lunged to his left to catch a grounder, fell to the dirt, and did not get back up. My dad exclaimed, “Is that Jeter on the ground?” He was probably pleading with the Yankee gods that the captain would get up and brush it off, but Joe Girardi, the Yankees’ manager, had to help Jeter limp off the field. After several slow-motion replays of Jeter’s fall, which showed the baseball soaring out of the glove and his face wincing in pain, the game continued and the Tigers won. Later it was confirmed that Jeter, who has had ankle problems in the past, broke his ankle and would need several months of recovery. Yankees fans shook their heads and thought that there would be no hope of the Yankees winning the series without him.
Jeter’s ankle injury perhaps saddened Yankee fans so much because it happened in light of other unfortunate events: the recent end to “the Core Four” (Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter). These four debuted as Yankees at the same time and played together for 17 consecutive years, leading the Yankees to victory in the World Series on multiple occasions. Now, Posada has left the Yankees, Andy Pettitte missed the first half of the season due to an ankle fracture and Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texiera, and Nick Swisher have not performed up to par with their usual standards. Rodriguez, who fans fear has lost the mentality of a Yankee, was benched. So Jeter, the face of the team, seemed to be the last shred of hope for fans. Because he was this season’s hit leader, his medical leave has seemed to leave the Yankees in the dust, with Eduardo Nunez fulfilling his role as shortstop. It has also reminded the fans that he is in fact 38 years old, and his time as a Yankee is almost over.
The hard, true fact is that it is the end of the “Jeter Era,” with only a couple more years left on his contract. Oct. 14 was the first playoff game since 1996 that neither Jeter nor Rivera played in. With Hideki Matsui gone for a few years, and Rivera’s and Posada’s absences leaving a hole in the team, other faces are stepping up to the plate. Players like C.C. Sabathia, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, Eric Chavez and the speedy Ichiro Suzuki (whose first homerun as a Yankee I saw in the flesh) hold the faith of Yankee fans.
I know that Yankee games still aren’t the same for me without my dad yelling “Hip hip, Jorge!” or “Maaatsuuiiii!” But maybe it’s a good thing that other players are getting their chance at bat, because the others have had their years of glory as “the Bronx Bombers.” Fans will learn new players’ names, think up nicknames and memorize statistics and facts about them, because they’ll love the Yankees no matter what and will always bleed pinstripes. The question remains, though, who will fill Jeter’s shoes as team captain?