Derek Jeter will do the large-group media interviews, he’ll accept the lovely parting gifts, but please, the iconic New York Yankees shortstop requested before his last regular-season series in Angel Stadium, do not call this his “Farewell Tour.”
“I don’t like those words,” Jeter said before Howie Kendrick, John McDonald and Chris Iannetta drew bases-loaded walks in the eighth-inning of the Angels’ 4-1 victory Monday night. “I like ‘Final Season,’ because we’re trying to win. I’m not just walking around shaking hands and kissing babies. We’re trying to win games.”
For 11 games in April, Jeter, the 19-year veteran who will retire after this season, helped the Yankees win, batting .326 (15 for 46). Then came a four-for-30 slump that ended with 13 hitless at-bats and dropped his average to .240 on Sunday.
The questions turned to Jeter’s age (40 in June), declining bat speed, inability to pull the ball with authority and whether he will soon lose playing time to defensive whiz Brendan Ryan.
“He’s gone through slumps before and got it going and been productive,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “When you’re 39, people will ask more questions. But those questions weren’t asked two weeks ago, when he was swinging well.”
Jeter, who led the American League with 216 hits in 2012 but sat out most of 2013 because of a broken ankle, says he feels good, and that gave him confidence that he’d snap out of this funk.
Jeter singled to center in the fourth inning and doubled to left and scored in the seventh Monday night, but he grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the eighth.
“As long as I feel good, the results are going to be there,” said Jeter, who is eighth all-time with 3,341 hits. “I saw some media reports that I’m getting old. I guess I was young the first 20 games and old the last four or five, so I’m going to try to get young again in California.”
Though the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs here in 2002 and 2005, Jeter, who helped New York win five World Series titles, has enjoyed Anaheim because “the weather is always good, and a lot of Yankees fans show up.”
Those fans gave Jeter a lengthy standing ovation before his first at-bat. Well-deserved applause, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.
“He’s had a Hall of Fame career and anybody who has seen him understands it’s more than the numbers,” Scioscia said. “It’s the leadership, the clutch play he’s brought every game. He’s relentless with how he competes.”
Like Girardi, Scioscia fielded questions about an aging player who is struggling. Raul Ibanez, the 41-year-old designated hitter who has been a middle-of-the-order mainstay against right-handers, did not start against right-hander David Phelps.
Batting cleanup, in his third big league game, was 24-year-old C.J. Cron, who was called up from triple A on Saturday and could cut into Ibanez’s playing time.
“Shoot, I wouldn’t put me in right now, either,” said Ibanez, who is batting .144 with 30 strikeouts and is hitless in his last 14 at-bats. “I feel good physically, but I’m definitely disappointed with how I’ve performed. I’m going to keep fighting, grinding, and working to swing my way out of this.”
The Angels are patient because Ibanez has a .756 career OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) in April, his lowest of any month, and has driven in 17 runs with 13 hits. Ibanez, hitting for Cron, walked to load the bases in the eighth Monday night.
“He’s never been a guy who lights it up in April, but once he finds his timing, it’s there for a long time,” Scioscia said. “He’s trying to find his rhythm. Sometimes he’s out front, sometimes he’s a little behind, sometimes he’s swinging at some pitches out of the zone. He’ll find it.”