Derek Jeter plays his last home game Thursday night, with his first major league manager, Buck Showalter, in the opposing dugout. Plenty of people will point out that Showalter was Jeter’s first big league manager back in 1995, but few appreciate how Showalter has helped run Jeter out of The Show.
Showalter took over the Orioles in 2010. After a down year in 2011, the 2012 Orioles gave the Yankees a run for their money in the final month of 2012. It took New York until the final game of the season to clinch the division. Joe Girardi had to pencil Jeter into the lineup every day, despite the fact that he was dealing with a bone bruise in his ankle. The Orioles pushed the Yankees for 162 games, then pushed them again in a thrilling, five-game ALDS.
It took New York167 games to finally get past Baltimore. In Game 168, Jeter’s ankle famously gave out:
[Yankees GM Brian] Cashman said that himself, Girardi, [trainer Steve] Donahue and Jeter’s former manager, Joe Torre, as well as Reggie Jackson and Tino Martinez were all in the room when Jeter heard he was done for the playoffs.
” ‘It’s something you can’t play through.’ That’s something Doc had to emphasize, because Derek is as tough as they come,” Cashman said.
(Sidebar: It took six people – including two Hall of Famers – plus a doctor, to tell Derek Jeter: “No, sorry, Derek, after getting dragged off the field in Game 1 because your leg snapped, you will not play in Game 2.”)
After a season of rehab and re-injuries, Jeter announced his retirement after one more season. It was bound to happen eventually, but the lengthy effort to get back on the field let him know it was time to go.
This year Orioles are going to have no worse than the second-best record in the American League, and can boast three straight winning seasons.
Those are the Orioles, by the way. That may not seem so odd now, but the team hadn’t posted a winning record since the days of Cal Ripken and Armando Benitez. Their last postseason team had a rotation fronted by Mike Mussina and Jimmy Key (before and after the Yankees had them, respectively) and also had Scott Kamieniecki as another starter. Don’t remember Scott Kamieniecki? Neither does anyone else. Camden Yards was perennially a second home field for Red Sox and Yankees fans, and the Orioles were usually kind enough hosts not to put up too much of a fight. They were a lost franchise stuck in a loop of mediocrity like Sidney Ponson at a buffet an hour after the lunch rush.
Then came Buck Showalter, who scuffled with Tony LaRussa in his first year as Yankee Manager and hasn’t lost his fighting spirit yet. In inspiring that in his new team, he pushed his old team (and his old player) more than they had been pushed in some time.
In 1995, Showalter wrote out the first major league lineup card that included Derek Jeter’s name (a year earlier than the Yankees expected thanks to a rash of middle infield injuries). Twenty seasons later, Showalter had a big hand in hastening Jeter’s retirement.