Jeter to retire following 2014 season

Derek Jeter - KSN File Photo
Derek Jeter - KSN File Photo

NEW YORK (AP) — Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter says he will retire after this season “with absolutely no regrets,” ending one of the greatest careers in the history of baseball’s most storied franchise.

The 39-year-old New York captain posted a long letter on his Facebook page Wednesday saying that 2014 will be his final year.

A 13-time All-Star who has led the Yankees to five World Series championships, Jeter was limited to 17 games last season while trying to recover from a broken left ankle sustained during the 2012 playoffs.

“I know it in my heart. The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball,” he wrote.

“I have gotten the very most out of my life playing baseball, and I have absolutely no regrets,” he said.

Jeter was the last link to the powerful Yankees teams that won three straight World Series crowns from 1998-2000. Longtime teammates Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retired after last year.

“Derek Jeter is Mr. Yankee of his era,” Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press. “He was the face of one of the greatest teams ever.”

But Jeter’s joyride hit a big speed bump recently.

“Last year was a tough one for me. As I suffered through a bunch of injuries, I realized that some of the things that always came easily to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle,” Jeter wrote. “The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward.”

“So really it was months ago when I realized that this season would likely be my last. As I came to this conclusion and shared it with my friends and family, they all told me to hold off saying anything until I was absolutely 100 percent sure,” he wrote.

“And the thing is, I could not be more sure,” he wrote.

Jeter hit just .190 with one homer and seven RBIs last season.

His agent, Casey Close, said Jeter wanted to declare his intentions before the Yankees start spring training later this week so that his future status wouldn’t be a distraction.

“I’m excited for him. It’s kind of nice to see him go out on his own terms,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said at spring camp in Glendale, Ariz.

Mattingly finished up his All-Star career with the Yankees in 1995, the same season Jeter made his big league debut.

“I saw him when he first showed for spring training. I always think about spring training when I think about him, just because he was this 17-year-old kid right out of high school who looked out of place. He was skinny, but he was tough. He’s been winning since the day he got there,” Mattingly said.

Jeter is the Yankees’ career hits leader with 3,316. He is a lifetime .312 hitter in 19 seasons, with 256 home runs and 1,261 RBIs.

Jeter has scored 1,876 runs and stolen 348 bases. He also is a five-time Gold Glove winner.

Added up, his numbers put him among the greats in Yankees history, with fans often invoking the names of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and others when mentioning Jeter’s legacy.

As for rating Jeter’s place with the Yankees, Mattingly said: “It’s hard. You’re talking about DiMaggio, Gehrig and Mantle. But he’s right there. He’s got to be one of those.”

Plus, No. 2 is defined by so much more than his numbers. His backhanded flip in the playoffs, his diving catch into the stands, his speech to close old Yankee Stadium and his home run for career hit No. 3,000.

As for rating Jeter’s place with the Yankees, Mattingly said: “It’s hard. You’re talking about DiMaggio, Gehrig and Mantle. But he’s right there. He’s got to be one of those.”

An October presence for so many years — he’s a career .321 hitter in seven World Series — he also became Mr. November in 2001. His winning, 10th-inning homer came shortly after midnight in a Game 4 that began on Halloween.

“Just as DiMaggio represented his era, Mantle represented his era and Ruth represented his era. And Reggie represented the 70s teams,” Steinbrenner said.

Jeter was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1996, the season the Yankees won their first World Series and re-established themselves as a major force. He was the MVP of the World Series.

Jeter has said he’s fully ready for spring training this year and set to play.

Jeter worked out at the Yankees’ spring training complex on Wednesday and left around noon, giving no hint that he was about to announce his plans.

Commissioner Bud Selig said that during his tenure, “Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter.”

“Derek has represented all the best of the national pastime, on and off the field,” Selig said in a statement. “He is one of the most accomplished and memorable players of his — or any — era.”

“Derek is the kind of person that generations have emulated proudly, and he remains an exemplary face of our sport,” he wrote.

A staple for so long in the Yankees’ lineup, Jeter missed the first 91 games last year after setbacks in spring training and the early months of the season.

Even after his 2013 debut, things didn’t go well. Jeter felt pain in his right quadriceps when he returned July 11 and again went on the disabled list.

Jeter returned July 28 for three games, but strained his right calf. He played from Aug. 26 through Sept. 7, leaving for a pinch runner after hitting a single against Boston. Four days later, the Yankees said Jeter was done for the year.

The Yankees will open the 2014 regular season on April 1 in Houston. Their home opener is April 7 against Baltimore.

Like Rivera last year, Jeter is sure to be saluted wherever he goes in this final season.

“Now it is time for the next chapter,” he wrote. “There are many things I want to do in business and in philanthropic work, in addition to focusing more on my personal life and starting a family of my own. And I want the ability to move at my own pace, see the world and finally have a summer vacation.”

“But before that, I want to soak in every moment of every day this year, so I can remember it for the rest of my life. And most importantly, I want to help the Yankees reach our goal of winning another championship,” he said.

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