TAMPA, Fla. — Deter Jeter’s press conference to discuss his impending retirement at the end of this season was what you’d expect.
Nearly 200 media members were on hand in the Yankees Pavilion at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday, the day the full squad reported to spring training. Jeter’s teammates also attended along with the Steinbrenner family, general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi.
And, of course, the man of the hour said nothing of note.
In fact, it might have been the most unemotional retirement press conference in the history of professional sports. Jeter’s voice never wavered in 25 minutes of taking questions. He not only never came close to crying but was so composed that it was doubtful his eyes would have watered if he had been poked in them.
It didn’t matter that he was officially beginning his 20th and final season in pinstripes. Jeter stayed true to himself and almost certainly will do so until the end.
“I know I’m not always as open as you guys would like me to be,” Jeter said. “I decided to be that way when I first came up in 1995 because I thought it would be the best way for me to survive in New York. Taking that approach has served me well, I think.”
It has. Jeter has never been connected with an even a hint of scandal despite dating some of the most famous and beautiful women in the world. So that leaves us to report the more practical news surrounding him.
After being limited to 17 games last season by a variety of leg injuries, the most serious being the re-breaking of his left ankle that he originally suffered in the first game of the 2012 ALCS, Jeter says he is healthy and ready to be an everyday player.
The Yankees believe Jeter will be productive in his final season, a necessity for their hopes to contend in the American League East. There are no sure things in a Yankees infield that includes declining first baseman Mark Teixeira — who played just 15 games himself last season before succumbing to wrist surgery — always-injured second baseman Brian Roberts and second baseman-turned-third baseman Kelly Johnson.
“I think shortstop is less for a question for us than second base or third base,” Cashman said. “Derek is in great shape, as he always is, and we expect him to be our shortstop and have a good season.”
Two seasons ago, Jeter played in 159 games and hit .316/.362/.429 in 683 at-bats. He also led the AL with 216 hits and belted 15 home runs.
However, there are a number of factors to consider before Girardi can think about writing Jeter’s name on the lineup card 159 times in 2014 and receive anything near Jeter’s 2012 production. Chief among those factors are his age and recent injury history. Then there is the case of reserve Brendan Ryan being a far superior defensive shortstop in the estimation of every advanced metric in the sabermetric world.
Would Girardi consider using Ryan as a late-inning defensive replacement when the Yankees have a lead? Would he give Jeter more time off in order to get Ryan’s glove into the lineup for an old team that is defensively challenged? How would Jeter, long sensitive to chatter about switching positions, react? And what about the balancing act of giving Jeter enough rest but making sure he is in the lineup enough for fans to get one last look at him?
“It’s my job to get the most out of every player and the most of the team,” Girardi said. “I’ll try to do that with Derek just like I would any other player.”
Thus, Jeter wasn’t the only one who was unrevealing.