Teams will always have players. Players who can hit, players who can field, it’s just a fact. These players will all be similar, and very different at the same time. Some will be hard workers; others will be natural talents. Some of these players will desire to win, while the others’ aspirations relate to paychecks and stardom. Humble ones will be scarce, but humility is a dying art itself. The New York Yankees will always have a full team, but is that always good enough?
Icon, according to the dictionary is someone regarded as a representative symbol of something. Iconic players represent winning; they represent hard work and modesty. A rare breed in baseball; they come about with no sign warning, winning over teammates, fans and America.
1920, 1923, 1936, 1946, 1951 and 1995 are the years that changed the Yankee’s organization. These were the first years of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter. These six Yankees are special. They’ve changed the franchise forever. They are iconic Yankees.
The end of Mantle’s career in 1968 was the end of the Yankees having an iconic player—until Jeter. When he came on the scene, the Yankees were given hope again. And not just the hope they had during the 1970s when they won back-to-back World Series; hope that let all fans exhale and feel comfortable. This hope let everyone know that Yankees’ winning was in the near future and a dynasty was to be born.
Fast-forward 20 years and look at the accolades achieved in the Jeter-era. Five World Series in seven trips; only two years without reaching the playoffs. These are the achievements Jeter would tell you. Not how many all-star games he’s been voted to and not how many hits over 3000 he has.
But now it all comes to an end.
The Yankees’ golden era is over. It took almost 30 years for Jeter to replace Mantle as the iconic Yankee’s leader, and now the Yankees must wait.
Their roster has talent, but lacks the special player teams need to win championships. A dark age may be upon the Yankees. The term rebuilding process may correlate with Yankees’ baseball for the first time in a long time.
What’s scary this situation is that we can never be sure it’s going to happen. There might be a player in the Yankees’ farm system ready to take on the role as leader. It’s possible that player hasn’t been born yet and a championship drought is imminent.
When the next iconic Yankee comes along, be ready. We’ve seen Ruth to Mantle to Jeter; the next will be just as special—maybe even more unique than the past few.
We can call the next hero the chosen one, the gifted one or any other notable name, but when it comes, as Yogi said, “It will be deja-vu all over again.” And the Yankees will be on top.