History stacked against Derek Jeter

Updated: April 19, 2013, 12:32 PM ET
By Buster Olney

Derek Jeter was in the eighth grade when he wrote an essay in Chris Oosterbaan's class about his dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees. When he was in the 11th grade, the personal coat of arms he created for his English literature course included an image of himself in a Yankees uniform.

The odds of a kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., becoming a shortstop in professional baseball are astronomical, of course -- and the odds of a high school baseball prospect being drafted specifically by the Yankees in 1992 were diminished by a factor of about 28.

But Jeter has never concerned himself with odds, which is part of the reason why the teenage dreamer not only realized his vision of becoming the Yankees' shortstop, but will go down as one of the greatest ever to play his position. He is not wired to be preoccupied with the seeming boundaries of history.

That is why his conversation Thursday with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was typical for him. He and Cashman talked about the setback Jeter had suffered, the crack near the spot where he fractured his ankle last fall, and about the lengthened recovery time, and Jeter closed by saying, in so many words: OK, I'll see you after the All-Star break. Jeter has never allowed any doubt to enter his tone in discussing his recovery, or what he'll be capable of when he returns. You cannot accumulate 3,304 career hits if your habit is to fret over what might go wrong.

The lessons drawn from historical precedent suggest players of his age -- Jeter will be 39 by the time he would return after the All-Star break -- almost never come back after a year of diminished playing time.