So now here it is, the real beginning of the end.
There are 68 regular-season games to go in Derek Jeter's legendary career.
Though he is not the same vintage player, all eyes will be on him, waiting to see one more big hit or a youthful dive that will make everyone watching feel a little younger, like time turned back for a moment.
The Yankees would love to send Jeter out on top, but it is not their mantra, mostly because of how he has represented himself through the years. The pinstripes have always fit Jeter just right, because as a player, he is about the name on the front of jersey, and appropriately enough for him, there are no names on the back for the Yankees.
"The thing that means the most to me is to be remembered as a Yankee," Jeter said at his retirement press conference.
It is really impossible to have a realistic rallying cry for Jeter when Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte or his best friend, Jorge Posada, aren't around. At 47 up and 47 down, with four-fifths of their rotation out, the Bombers' greatest hope to win a World Series is, "Well, the AL East is pretty bad, so why not us?"
But winning is not just for Jeter, because as GM Brian Cashman noted, Jeter wouldn't even want it that way.
“We have been trying to win one on a yearly basis, regardless,” Cashman said. “It is not a win one for Derek. I think Derek would take offense to that. We are all trying to win, period."
Jeter, at 40, is not the same Jeter. He still has a flair as he showed in the home opener, just missing a homer, and at the All-Star Game, where he just missed completing a diving stop and throw of Andrew McCutchen before adding a double and a single to finish 2-for-2 on the special night.
While it would be poetic, the Yankees aren't playing the "win for the Cap" card. They are just trying to do what they always try to do -- make the playoffs and have a special October.
“It is really team-oriented,” Cashman said. “I don’t look at it individually. I really don’t focus on it that way. Obviously, we'd certainly like to send Derek out with a postseason berth and a chance at a championship.
"I haven’t focused on what [his retirement] means for me, except obviously watching a great player play for his entire career. But it really is just a team focus, not the last player of the Core Four. I’ve never really gotten into those storylines. Every time we have put a World Champion on the field, it has been because of all 25 guys, huge contributions coming from a large population. I’ve never focused on one, two, or three or four players instead of the group as a whole.”
That is the way Jeter talks, too. As the hourglass dwindles on his career, nothing is likely to change.
Pitching matchups: The matchups versus Cincinnati this weekend: