Looking for the Next Captain
Even though we still have a long (and hopefully very successful) season of Yankees baseball ahead of us, it’s not too early to do what we do best and speculate about post-regular season on-goings. One of the topics on the table will certainly be the player-option of Derek Jeter, which is almost certain to be picked-up by the Captain. But with 2014 potentially being The Captain’s last year in Yankee pinstripes, the retirement of Mariano Rivera, and some other young guns up coming up for contracts- Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes, etc.- it begs the question: will this changing of the Yankee guard also bring a new captain, and if so, who would it be? We’re a long ways off from any captain being named, regardless of whether or not Jeter retired in 2014, but let’s take a look at a few nominees:
Sure, it was easy for the Big Guy to come to New York when the Yankees threw decidedly more money at him than anyone else back in the winter of 2008. But since CC has come to the Yankees, he’s pretty much been everything and anything the Yankees could have hoped for when they signed him to be an ace. He has carried himself well off the field, and has, at times, quite literally carried the team on the field, as well. He has been perennially in the Cy Young conversation, and his 20 wins on a team increasingly built on home runs and aging players cannot be understated. While CC would make a great captain, it would be questionable to have someone as the proverbial leader of the team who only plays every five days. CC is an integral part of the team, but his role would somehow lack the constant visibility that we have grown accustomed to seeing out of the Yankee captain.
The Captain. (Image: Kim Klement, US Presswire)
Cano is the easiest Yankee to select from the current roster. He isn’t a pitcher, so his presence is felt on the field every day, and his offensive contributions cannot be understated- in fact, with the loss of almost 200 home runs from last year’s team due to departure and injury, Cano may have to carry the Yankees in his own way in 2013. He is also the only other every day player not named Jeter who has come up completely through the Yankees farm system. While there is much made about being a “True Yankee” in this time of free agency, it does bear some noting that Cano’s entire tenure has been spent with the same team where he is now a bona fide superstar. However, Cano is not repped by Scott Boras, and will be gunning for a big payday, particularly if he will need to shoulder more of the load. It’s unclear how such a deal will fit into the Yankees plans to get below the $189 million dollar threshold next year, and while it would be great seeing Cano back, nothing is certain- and his return is in question, let alone eventually assuming the captainship.
Jeter is a once-in-a-generation player. He has been everything a professional athlete could be- respectful, free of steroids, always giving 100 percent, not to mention his off-field character and poise that has been synonymous with the Yankees. Those types of people, not just baseball players, are few and far between. And as wonderful as CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, or any other Yankee might be as a new captain of the team, it is also possible that the next Yankee captain is not on the major league roster as of yet. It was several years before Jeter replaced Don Mattingly; perhaps there is a prospect currently in the system that will assume that place of honor, but is still a ways off, and the Yankees will navigate without a captain for some time following Jeter’s eventual retirement.
No matter who, if anyone, is chose as the new captain of the Yankees, is going to compare to the image that the most recent generation of Yankees fans have of Derek Jeter. For a whole subset of fans, Jeter was and always will be the consummate captain, throwing his body into the seats for even the most routine of plays in the most inconsequential situations. Add that to the fact that Jeter, despite the New York tabloid reports, has been pretty squeaky clean on and off the field his entire career, one of the few pro-athletes that has always done “the right thing.” That said, a whole generation of Yankees fans also probably felt the same way about Don Mattingly before Jeter. There will be a new captain of the Yankees eventually, but who it is, and whether he will live up to the storied legacy of the captains before him will remain to be seen.