Things were looking bleak for Derek Jeter heading into his final homestand at Yankee Stadium. He was in an 0-28 slump, his season OPS had dropped below .600, and his team had slowly and sadly withered and fallen off the postseason race radar. It seemed like there was going to be an almost pitiful feeling to Jeter's last 6 home games; a team trying to pump meaning and energy into a situation that had none, a player trying to not go out in underwhelming fashion, and a fanbase just trying to be polite and pay respect to the memory of the better times for the player they loved.
Then Jeter picked up a hit in the final game of the last road trip, breaking the hitless streak and giving himself a little momentum heading back home. Then he hit a deep home run on Thursday night in the first game of the homestand and finished with a 2-hit game. Then he had another 2-hit game on Saturday. And another on Sunday. And wouldn't you know it, the old man did it again yesterday.
Jeter looked less like an old man and more like the Jeter of old over the weekend. He was swinging the bat with authority, running the bases hard and smooth, and honestly looking like the version of himself from 5 years ago. He was 8-17 in the 4 games against Toronto and is 9-21 in his last 5 games overall with 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 R, and 3 RBI. It's his longest consecutive multi-hit game streak since he went 4 in a row from June 10th-13th and only the second time this season he's had extra-base hits in consecutive games, the other coming in early August. He even stole a base yesterday for good measure, the first time he's done that since August 20th.
For tons of Yankee fans, these last 4 games have been the best moments of the season. The Captain rising to the occasion one last time, putting the team on his back, and leading them to victory. With the rest of his older rostermates breaking down or already broken down and on the bench, Jeter continues to soldier on, leading the team out of the dugout every night and leading the offensive charge from his customary spot at the top of the batting order.
I don't know how it translated over to TV, but The Stadium certainly felt like it had a little more energy in it than usual on Saturday afternoon, and that was the game the Yankees lost. For those few hours, everything else melted away into the background and the only thing that mattered was watching and cheering for the player we all loved. And not out of politeness or feelings of nostalgia, but because he was playing the kind of baseball we've watched him play for years.
It's fitting that the player who's given Yankee fans so many great memories over the last 20 years is the one to step up and provide one last positive one from a season of mostly negatives. Jeter may not be the player he was 15, 10, 5, or even 2 years ago, but he's proven he can still dial up the old magic one last time and go out on a high note. Given everything he's done in his career up to this point, I don't know why I expected anything else.