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Upon Further Review…Prolonged Farewells

Next Tuesday afternoon, Derek Jeter will emerge from the Yankees’ visiting dugout in Houston, walk towards the on-deck circle of Minute Maid Park, and await his first at-bat in his final season in Yankee pinstripes.

As soon as he digs a divot in the right-handed batter’s box, extends his right hand to the umpire to indicate the continuation of his prolonged routine and then readies for the first offering, he will begin what may become the second consecutive “farewell” tour in Major League Baseball.

Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Rich Pilling/Getty Images

Don’t get me wrong, Derek Jeter has accomplished just about everything a player could dream of: career .300 batting average, 3,000 hits, 13 All-Star appearances and 5 World Series rings. Still, are we really going to embrace yet another league-wide serenade?

In response to Mariano Rivera’s stellar career and prolonged sportsmanship, every team the Yankees played last season honored him with presents, along with opportunities to meet the tireless workers whose big league efforts often go unnoticed. As last season’s dog days of August subsided and September rolled around, “the Sandman” admitted that the nationwide tour was beginning to take a significant toll. The amount of effort exerted of being the center of attention in every road trip stop was enormous. Derek Jeter has also had a fantastic ride, but let’s not make this the norm.

Let’s not get carried away.

Last month, Jeter announced that this 2014 season would be the last of his baseball career. The larger-than-life superstar who seemingly won the competition with Nomar Garciaparra and Alex Rodriguez as the game’s best shortstop in the late 90s has succeeded in every aspect of the word. But as the thirty-nine year old captain calls it quits, let’s let the Yankees handle it.

Look, Jeter will have to copy the mold of his head for Cooperstown and Monument Park in the coming years, just like Rivera. But isn’t that enough? Why do we have to celebrate a great adversary for four stinking months?

The whole concept is strange. Teams are willingly embracing all of the great plays made against them. Is Oakland really going to feel nostalgic about Jeter’s flip in the 2001 playoffs? Is Baltimore going to smile when thinking about the fan that reached over the fence in right field during the 1996 ALCS to snatch what should have been just warning track power ?

I was completely baffled last August, when Rivera was given a standing ovation at Fenway Park when jogging in from the visitor’s bullpen. Not because he didn’t deserve it, but because cheering a great opponent during a pennant race felt strange, not to mention that he returned again weeks later. Rivera’s ceremony came in that final appearance and he will forever be remembered as a tremendous talent who was cheered as loudly as any Red Sox on Opening Day in 2005.

When Derek Jeter’s announcement was released last month, there were murmurs from the Bronx that the Yankees advised Jeter to come forward, potentially setting up a similar public relations love fest for the second consecutive year. Making this the precedent—the entire league swooning over any great player hanging up their cleats—devalues what Rivera modeled as a pitcher and person. If we do this again, it belittles what was done in the past.

Let the Yankees take care of Derek Jeter this year. We will all get the privilege to revel in his accomplishments in Cooperstown forever.