It is the one foe every athlete faces, but no athlete can beat. Each knows that the end will come, that age is undefeated in the annals of sports. The trick is to make summer last as long as possible, to put off reality for another day.
The New York Yankees’ best players have done this better than most, with another World Series title at stake this month. Yet bit by bit, and in devastating fashion, the team’s aging stars are falling.
Derek Jeter, the centerpiece for the last 17 years, is the latest victim, following Mariano Rivera and the since-recovered Andy Pettitte. Jorge Posada retired after last season, and Alex Rodriguez is mired in a deep slump.
The Yankees have lost the first two games of the American League Championship Series to the Detroit Tigers, and Jeter was not there for Sunday’s meek 3-0 defeat. He had further tests on the left ankle he fractured in the 12th inning of Game 1, just after midnight. He is done for the postseason, and his next trip, the team said, will be to see a foot and ankle specialist in Charlotte, N.C. Jeter, who is using crutches and wearing a splint, faces at least three months of recovery at age 38. He has company among the aging and ailing.
Five months ago, Rivera, the Yankees’ 42-year-old closer, ended his season by tearing a ligament in his right knee while chasing a ball during batting practice in Kansas City. Pettitte, 40, is starting again, but he missed almost half the season after a line drive shattered his ankle in late June. Posada, the longtime catcher, retired after last season, when he was 40. Rodriguez, 37, is healthy but has suffered a steady decline in production, finding himself benched for one game this postseason and removed in three others.
“Sometimes, as we all get older, we all feel that we’re the same as we used to be,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “It’s not really the case. I think, at times, players maybe need a little bit more rest than they would have if they were 25-30, and you have to guard against that — and also try to win.”