On Sunday, June 26, Derek Jeter had what may have been the least rewarding birthday of his 37 years.
He spent it in Tampa, at the New York Yankees' physical-rehab facility where he is healing an injured calf. He had time to consider what is shaping as his poorest statistical season since he became the Yankees' everyday shortstop at the beginning of the 1996 season.
How long ago was that? Remember, Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole to regain the White House that year. Clinton was politics; Comeback Kid. Does Jeter have a comeback in him, too? Don't bet against him.
The Yankees, who were flailing along before Jeter got hurt a few weeks ago, have suddenly turned it around and moved into first place in the competitive American League East. Jeter's replacement at the top of the Yankes' batting lineup — young, speedy Brett Gardner — has been a catalyst for the offense.
Jeter seems to have a baseball version of a midlife crisis. He may feel unloved, even unwanted as he is a handful of base hits shy of a milestone mark — 3,000 for his career.
To make matters worse, the Yankees held their annual Old Timer's Day festivities on Jeter's birthday. He missed the ceremony because he was recovering in Tampa, far from the Big Ballpark in the Bronx.
Jeter would have had a chance to hang out with the greats — Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, and his now-retired ex-teammates David Cone, David Wells, Tino Martinez, and Darryl Strawberry, among others. Perhaps they could have coached Jeter into understanding the baseball player's aging process through the years.
Jeter is having a subpar season and the fans are becoming restless. He looks like he has slowed down in every facet of his game. But don't feel sorry for him. He signed a huge, $17-million-a-year deal before the start of the 2011 season. He has a glamorous, movie star girlfriend, Minka Kelly. He is beloved in the biggest city in the world and a media favorite.
But none of that helped ease the hurt he may have felt on his least enjoyable birthday. Jeter could, of course, reverse his midlife crisis by picking up his game and finishing the baseball season with a strong comeback. He would prefer yet another world championship ring. He has been at his best in pressure situations, thriving when the tension is highest.
Don't bet against him.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here read his latest column.
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