Jeter bows out in Queens with class and style
Yanks' Captain makes low-key exit in final game at Mets' home park
NEW YORK -- As parting gifts, the Mets gave Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter a plaque of white subway tiles embossed with his signature blue No. 2 in the middle of it, plus a white cream cake topped by a pair of silver subway cars.
"Is there any expiration date on this cake?" Jeter asked as he stopped for a quick photo op in front of it with Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon. "Or do I have to eat it all right now?"
Individual vanilla and chocolate cupcakes topped with Jeter's soon-to-be retired number were passed out to assembled guests, staff and members of the media. And a good time was had by all. But there's no truth to the rumor that the No. 7 train, which runs from Manhattan to Flushing just outside Citi Field soon will be changed to No. 2.
When Jeter is gone, he is gone. And for Mets fans, it's probably good riddance. Since the advent of Interleague Play and the annual Subway Series in 1997, Jeter has treated the Mets like his own play toy.
"This game is about competing against the best of the best. That's what it is at this level," Mets manager Terry Collins said after his club dropped a 1-0 decision to the Yanks on a night when Jeter went 0-for-4 and failed to hit the ball out of the infield. "When the great ones step aside, other great ones will come along, but it's always fun to compete against those guys."
With Jeter's retirement pending at the end of the season, Thursday night marked his 88th and final Subway Series game and 44th at either Citi Field or long-gone Shea Stadium. He finished as a .364 lifetime hitter against the Mets, tops among all active players and third all-time behind Rico Carty's .380 and Don Slaught's .376.
And that doesn't include the 2000 World Series, when Jeter spent five games demolishing the Mets by hitting .409 with a pair of homers. He was named MVP of that Series as the Yankees won the Fall Classic for the third postseason in a row and fourth time in five years.
"He's played a lot of important series in different places and he's never going to let on how he feels about it," Yanks manager Joe Girardi said. "But I'm sure he's going to miss these Subway Series games. There's a lot of energy. This is a big rivalry every year. It means a lot to the city."
Jeter may be best remembered for opening Game 4 of that World Series, across the parking lot at Shea, with a homer to left on the first pitch from right-hander Bobby Jones. The Mets had won Game 3 and were trailing, 2-1, in the best-of-seven series when Jeter took control of matters.
"It doesn't get any bigger than playing in the World Series against them," Jeter recalled about a Series in which all five games were decided by two runs or fewer. "That was something the whole city was pulling for as both teams went through the playoffs that year. We won that series, but a lot of those games could have gone either way. That probably stands out the most."
That, of course, was then, and this is now. All that's left of that moment are the memories, and all that is left of Shea is an outline of home plate where Jeter stood that night and during 36 other games in his stellar career.
Jeter's greatest moments in Queens against the Mets came in the old ballpark, which, like the last edition of Yankee Stadium, closed at the end of the 2008 season. He batted .321 with three homers and 18 RBIs during the regular season there. Jeter never hit a homer at Citi Field, and including a 1-for-8 over the past two nights, he finished 8-for-38 (.211) with three RBIs in 10 games here. He missed last year's Subway Series games recovering from a broken left ankle and subsequent surgery.
The Yankees, though, won both nights at Citi this week, allowing no runs on seven hits with 22 Mets strikeouts after dropping the first two games of this year's series on Monday and Tuesday in the Bronx, where the Mets scored 21 runs.
Overall, the Yanks were 56-42 against the Mets during Jeter's tenure, 4-1 in the World Series, and that's all that really matters.
The end in Queens came suddenly on Thursday night. Jeter was double-switched out of the game in favor of Brendan Ryan when David Robertson was brought on to record a four-out save with runners on first and third and two out in the eighth.
"I told him I was going to double-switch," Girardi said. "He understands."
It was an awkward way for Jeter to exit his last Subway Series game, and the fans didn't notice. Even Robertson didn't notice until David Wright smacked the last out of the inning on the ground to short.
"And I saw Ryan was there and not Jeter," he said. "But hey, it worked out."
It worked out just fine, like icing on the cake. But it was another indication that the finish line for Jeter is near. Before the game at a news conference, Jeter thanked the Mets for the plaque, the cake and a check for $22,222.22 made out to his foundation. There was no ceremony on the field.
"He's such a low-key guy, he didn't want anything special done for him today or else we would have done something more special for him today," Collins said. "I really think there's a time when the respect for the game takes over. You can't do what you once did. The game deserves all you can give it. If you can't, you have to step aside. Some guys have a tough time doing it. The really great ones don't. I told him the other day that it's been absolute pleasure to watch him play."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.