If you didn't watch the New York Yankees until October, you've probably already got a TOP CANDIDATE for the Yankees' Player of the Year: the single Bronx Bomber who best represents a campaign that ended with an embarrassing sweep by the 88-win, themselves-swept-in-the-World-Series Detroit Tigers. But what if we'd been watching the Yankees for six months, as many of us were?
There are two ways of looking at the Yankees' 2012. One way is to applaud their success; after all, they won more games than any other team in the American League. They also won a postseason series, which is not an easy thing to do. The other way is to lament their postseason failure; to that end, the Yankees' very owners have often said that a season without another World's Championship is, if not a failure, something less than success.
If you think of 2012 as a failure, to be laid upon the shoulders of the club's aging and overpaid hitters, then the obvious choice for Player of the Year is Alex Rodriguez, or perhaps Raúl Ibañez (see sidebar).
But the Yankees did win 95 games, and they did finish with the league's best run differential. And they did those things while their flagship player -- no, not Alex Rodriguez -- was leading the American League in hits.
Yes, I'm talking about The Captain: Derek Jeter.
Like the Yankees generally, Derek Jeter is old. But also like the Yankees generally, Derek Jeter was good. He turned 38 in June, and ultimately became the second-oldest player in major-league history to lead his league in hits. If he's healthy next season, Jeter will move into sixth place on the all-time hits list.
Ah, but will he be healthy?
It wasn't easy, but the Yankees won their tough Division Series with the Orioles and Jeter played his part, batting .364 and scoring four runs in the five games. But then came the League Championship Series against the Tigers. The Yankees got swept, of course, but their captain wasn't around for most of it; near the end of a marathon-length Game 1, Jeter suffered a terrible ankle injury; the prognosis is positive, but the timing and the extent of Jeter's recovery remains necessarily unknown.
We haven't seen the last of the Yankees in the World Series. But we might well have seen the last of Derek Jeter's great seasons.
In case you missed any previous entries in this EXCITING SERIES, here's the archive.