All Eyes On Derek Jeter As The Sands of Time Run Out On Sublime Career

All eyes will be on the New York Yankees this MLB season.

Then again, it usually is the case every year for the highest-priced franchise in all of professional sports. Yes, even higher than any of the NFL's top franchises.

But this time around, it's because this will be the final curtain call for Yankees' captain Derek Jeter.

The start of Jeter's end will begin on Tuesday night in Houston as the Yankees open the 2014 season against the lowly Astros.

And although the Yankees just went through this a year ago with Mariano Rivera, another Hall of Famer-to-be, this will be different.

Rivera, the best-ever closer in MLB history, was celebrated in cities over baseball in his final season.

Jeter, however, is out there every day. And Jeter is known by more than just baseball fans. He's a flat-star with name recognition on par with movie stars and world leaders.

Jeter is the captain, the main cog that helped turn the Yankees into champions again after a 17-year drought of winning a World Series.

Yes, when Jeter took the field in Cleveland as the starting shortstop in 1996, many thought he could be good, but not this good.

He's one of the best players of our generation. Sure, he doesn't hit homers and hasn't won a Gold Glove every year.

But he wins. And ultimately, that's what it's about. Jeter has helped the Yankees win five World Series titles. And it's harder to win now than when Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra were winning all of theirs. There are so many playoff rounds you have to go through just to get to the World Series.

Some experts don't think much of the Yankees' offseason moves and look at the team as old news instead of a title contender. Some have them out of the playoffs, winning more no more than they did last season when they finished tied for third with Baltimore in the American League East.

This reporter begs to differ. The Yankees won 85 games last year with a ton in injuries. But Jeter and Mark Teixeira are back healthy. CC Sabathia is in good condition and ready to go. Plus, the free-agent additions of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka – who was 24-0 last season in Japan – will help the Yankees win the AL East.

And some aren't sure what Jeter will have left this season after being hurt last year. He played in just 17 games and batted a woeful .190.

After all, Jeter will be 40 in June and he's playing shortstop, a young man's position. Will Jeter go out on a high note, a solid season? Or will he struggle and go out with a whimper, unable to hit or stay healthy?

It's hard to imagine the latter in a career written for a Hollywood movie.

Without question, Jeter is a living legend. You don't say that often. But when you honestly look at all he's accomplished on the biggest stage with the brightest lights, he's been amazing.

In 19 seasons with the Yankees, he has a lifetime .312 batting average, over 3,000 hits (just the 28th player to get there), he's has five World Series rings, he won Rookie of the Year, he won the 2000 World Series MVP, he's won five gold gloves and has been a 13-time All-Star.

Despite all the great players Jeter played with, there's little doubt he was the glue to the Yankees' championship run in the late 90s and 2000 when they won three straight titles and four in five seasons.

And when you talk about all the legends who have played in the South Bronx over the decades, Jeter fits right in. He is the Yankees' all-time career leader in hits (3,316), games played (2,602), stolen bases (348) and at-bats (10,614).

It's still remarkable how Jeter was able to not only survive New York for 19 seasons, but thrive. It's an incredible story.

It's not as if Jeter was a nerd, a recluse. He dated stars and models. He lived in the city and went out on the town.

Yet, there were never any scandals. Instead, Jeter was revered. He wound up being the ballplayer all kids dreamed about being.

In his 20th and final season in pinstripes, fans should pull the TV a little closer and get a good long look at Jeter. It will be a swan song worth savoring.

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