We have already heard that Mariano Rivera is coming back for another go at it. Andy Pettitte seems on his way back as well. Derek Jeter is mending in Tampa and is said to be on target for the start of the season or soon after. For Yankee fans and baseball fans, the inevitable has been pushed back one more time. It looks like the old guys are going to work together at least one more time.
For any fan that has been born since 1990, a Yankees team without Rivera and Jeter has never been known. For those of us born any time before 1990, memories of Yankee teams without these players seem like the remote past. The internal fan inside us hold on to the championships already on the books with these players. And when the team hasn’t finished on top of the heap, there has never been a season when the team did not compete near the top or almost get there.
And for most of us, we hold on to the notion that these guys play the game to win and that only winning and the team matter. And maybe that notion has more than a kernel of truth. But let’s not forget that by the end of the 2013 season, these three players will have made a combined $555 million. This long-running baseball Camelot was built on money and these three players have earned fabulous riches beyond our wildest dreams. Even if the ideals we all hope are real, these players have also been terrific in the business world that Marvin Miller helped create for them. In the past, Babe Ruth wanted to manage and remain in the game. Ted Williams tried to do the same thing. The heck with that–Derek Jeter wants to own a team and run the show. In this Camelot, Lancelot can become Arthur.
This is not said to knock these players for what they have been paid. The brass ring was there and all of us would have grabbed it. When it is all over, Jeter and Rivera have already written their tickets to Cooperstown. Pettitte will get serious consideration because of his post seasons on top of his borderline season statistics. And that would have been true with or without another go at it for 2013.
From a personal standpoint, 2012 was a painful lesson that these three are not immune from injuries. When in their primes, our mothers seemed indestructible. Then they get old and we worry about them falling and breaking a hip. Obviously, the flip side is that all three players were injured in fluke ways. Rivera’s knee just twisted the wrong way while shagging in batting practice. Pettitte was hit with a line shot that broke a bone. Jeter hobbled for weeks on a damaged ankle before it decided it was not going to take any more and gave way. But still, after all these years and with all that has transpired, all we can do is hold our breaths and hope their muscles, bones and sinews can hold together one last time.
What hasn’t helped is that these three have also defied logic and age regression theories. In Pettitte’s last 33 starts covering 2010 and 2012, he has gone 16-7 and compiled 4.0 fWAR. Jeter, of course compiled 216 hits and a 114 OPS+ and won a Silver Slugger Award in 2012. Mariano Rivera has never had a WHIP over 1.00 in his forties covering 134 appearances. How long can these three defy time? Will we have a painful goodbye as they all get physically beyond the ability to perform at a high level at the same time? Can the game be lucky enough for all of them to go out on top? Logic dictates those chances seem slim. And yet we hope.
These are the dice the Yankees are rolling. Surround this old core with other old guys and hope they don’t all crap out at once. Isn’t it odd that age regression has only hit Alex Rodriguez, who undoubtedly was the best player among them? This old core will be supplemented by Raul Ibanez and Ichiro (if all indications are to be believed). The truth is that this could prove to be one last hurrah or one big disaster.
For many of us, those odds are worth playing if we can wish our old heroes on for one more triumph. The inevitable will happen some time. Perhaps we can cheat it for one more season.