Derek Jeter downplays ‘under-the-radar’ retirement press conference
Derek Jeter is not known for a willingness to talk about himself and he was no different on Wednesday as the Yankee captain addressed last week’s announcement he would be retiring after this season.
Jeter made his best attempt to downplay the reason for speaking at a podium inside the media tent at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa Bay, Fla. He did not even prepare an opening statement.
“I didn’t want this to be a press conference,” Jeter said. “I tried to do this — I don’t know if you could really say under the radar — but I didn’t want this to be a press conference where I come here and read a speech. I wanted to get the message out to everyone the way I chose to do it.”
Jeter always holds media availability on the first day position players report to spring training but this was the first televised live after his 15-paragraph announcement posted to his Facebook page last Wednesday. The event was attended by all his teammates, general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi, the Steinbrenner family and former team trainer Gene Monahan.
Jeter said it took him a while to write the entire text, which expressed some of the thoughts he kept away from the media spotlight in New York.
“I know I haven’t been as open as some of you guys would have liked me to be over the last 20 years but that’s by design,” Jeter said. “It doesn’t mean I don’t have those feelings, it’s just that’s the way I felt as though I’d be able to make it this long in New York.
Like the written announcement, Jeter said he wanted to do different things besides playing baseball every day and that the frustration of four DL stints in 2013 and subsequent rehabs for each one prompted him to think about how much longer he wanted to play.
“It took a lot of time thinking about this,” Jeter said. “Last year I’ve been very vocal on how disappointing last year was, how hard it was for me to play, how hard it was for me to come the stadium each and every day. You start thinking about how long you really want to do this.”
The frustration of all the injury rehab — batting practice, live swings, tee and toss, throwing, running and playing in minor league rehab games — made Jeter say it felt like more of a job last year. And while emphasizing the game never came easy, the rehab activities took some of the fun away.
“It wasn’t fun because I wasn’t playing,” Jeter said. “I think it forced me to start thinking about how long do I want to do this and that’s how I came to my decision. It just became a job last year with all the injuries and basically not coming to work but coming to rehab. That was not fun at all.”
Besides the obvious question of why he decided to make the announcement was the one about his physical condition and Jeter went out of his way to offer his usual “I feel good.”
“This has nothing to do with how I feel physically,” Jeter said. “Everyone I told — when I first started speaking about this with family and friends — they all told me to make sure to take your time, don’t base this decision on what happened last season, wait until you’re healthy and make your decision. So this has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel physically. Physically I feel great and I’m looking forward to playing a full season.”
Jeter also clarified that his ankle started feeling around 100 percent toward the end of last year. The problem was the area surrounding the ankle was not strong enough and that caused muscle pulls.
Jeter’s retirement announcement means a second straight season of farewells for a Yankee icon following Mariano Rivera’s retirement. None of that factored into Jeter’s explanation though, as he wanted to make the announcement months ago but he was advised to wait.
“I think for me it would have been more of a distraction if I didn’t say anything because if I know that I’m not going to play next year and I’m getting asked this question each and every day — and not just here with the media but walking down the street people ask — because I missed last year. ‘Are you playing this year? How much longer are you going to play? How many more years you have?’” Jeter said. “You get tired of hearing it so it would been more of a distraction for me not to mention it.”
Overall, it was typical Jeter right down to the answer of a question about his favorite moment with the Yankees.
“Every time we win,” he said.
It was no different when he outlined his expectations for this season.
“I expect each and every year to be successful,” Jeter said. “That’s the bottom line. I expect to come out here, I expect to do my job, I expect to compete [and] I expect to help our team win. If my expectations ever changed, then I would have gone home a long time ago.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.