Last week, the Yankees were dealt yet another blow on the homefront when Derek Jeter was placed on the disabled list for the remainder of the season after experiencing continued pain and discomfort in his surgically-repaired ankle. With the news that Jeter is done for the year, there comes another important realization: with the DL classification and an impending retirement for the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter will never play another game together. And with that news, it’s time for an entire generation of Yankees fans- myself included- to say goodbye to our sports childhood.
If you’re a member of the under-25 set, there hasn’t been a time in your life where the starting shortstop hasn’t been Derek Jeter, nor another closer besides Mariano Rivera (outside of last year’s injury). Those championship years? Every series featured an incredible throw or hit or play by Jeter. They always showcased Mo’s ridiculous precision, the final out to another ring and parade down the Canyon on Heroes.
There’s been no other combination of sports icons in recent memory that have been so enduring, so successful in their efforts over an intertwined career. Every big moment, every single victory, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter have been on the field together.
In looking back at the teams of my childhood, and all the memories of watching sports, the Core Four were always there: Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Rivera and Jeter. Posada has retired. After coming out of retirement, and crossing the 40-years-old threshold, Pettitte will likely be done after the 2013 season. Mariano will walk away from the game at the end of this season as the greatest closer of all time. Jeter will likely the be only member of those iconic teams of my childhood left next year, and the jury is still out on how the 39-year old will rebound from his injury-riddled 203 season.
If this is the end, it has been a wonderful ride. My sports life has been spoiled more than anyone can even fathom: an obscene amount of playoff appearances; seven American League pennants; five world championships; seven World Series appearances. That is just unheard of in sports these days, and yet, myself and entire generation of Yankees fans were able to see all of that, with Jeter and Rivera on the field. These memories will not, however, make saying goodbye any easier to the only players that we have ever know.
On some level, we all knew this day was coming. Players do not play forever, things always change. And at the end of this season, we will say goodbye to two of the three remaining members of the Core Four, and our baseball childhood as we know it. So thank you, to the Derek Jeter-Mariano Rivera tandem for some awesome childhood sports memories. Here’s to hoping that the next 18 years will be just as great.