Derek Jeter, the Yankees captain who has been their starting shortstop since 1996 and led them to five World Series titles, announced on Facebook Wednesday that he will retire after the 2014 season.
"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," he wrote. "So really it was months ago when I realized that this season would likely be my last...and the thing is, I could not be more sure. I know it in my heart. The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball."
Jeter will turn 40 in June and is coming off a 2013 season in which he played just 17 games because of a series of injuries to his legs and ankles, the latter related to the fractured ankle he suffered in the 2012 American League Championship Series. With Jeter sidelined -- and a number of other key players missing for long stretches as well -- New York failed to reach the postseason for just the second time in his career.
Jeter has played in 158 postseason games, hitting .308/..374/.465 with 20 home runs, 61 RBIs and 18 stolen bases, numbers that compare favorably with his 162-game regular season averages of .312/.381/.446 with 18 home runs, 79 RBIs and 22 steals. His 3,316 regular season hits are the most in Yankees history and the 10th-most in baseball history. Though he never won an AL MVP award, he was the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year, finished in the top-10 in MVP voting eight times (including two third-place finishes and a runner-up in 2006) and was named MVP of the 2000 World Series and the 2000 All-Star Game. He has made 13 All-Star teams (winning the MVP award in 2000), won five Silver Slugger awards and, though his defense was often criticized and became a flashpoint in the statistical revolution that swept through baseball during his career, five Gold Gloves for his defense at shortstop.
The Yankees drafted Jeter with the sixth overall pick in the 1992 draft, the same year they finished below .500 for the fourth straight season. Jeter arrived in New York for a 15-game cameo in 1995 then took over as the team's starting shortstop in 1996 at just 21 years old. He batted .314 that year and led the Yankees to their first division title and pennant in 15 years and eventually to their first World Series championship since 1978.
They returned to the postseason each of the next 11 seasons, winning the World Series in 1998, '99 and 2000 and reaching the Fall Classic only to lose in both 2001 and 2003. After missing the playoffs entirely in 2008 -- a year remembered best as the last at the original Yankee Stadium, which closed with a memorable speech from Jeter -- New York won the World Series again in 2009.
By then, Jeter's status as a first-ballot Hall of Famer had long since been established. In addition to his remarkable consistency, he produced some of the most iconic plays of his era: the Flip Play against the Oakland A's in the 2001 ALDS to prevent the tying run from scoring; a walk-off home run that same fall against the Diamondbacks in the World Series that earned him the nickname Mr. November because it came just minutes after the clock ticked past midnight on Halloween night; and a full-sprint catch and dive into the stands to catch a pop up in an epic regular season game against the Red Sox in 2004.
Longtime teammates Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada joined with Jeter to become known as the Core Four because they had all been developed in New York's farm system, debuted in 1995 and been key pieces of four world championship teams. Jeter is the last of the Core Four still playing; Posada retired after the 2011 season and Pettitte (who had an abbreviated retirement after the 2010 campaign) and Rivera stepping away last year. When this season concludes, Jeter will join them in retirement, ending a Hall of Fame career and signaling that the Yankees dynasty that ruled baseball for much of his career is over, too.