10:20 am Jun. 27, 2012
One year ago, Derek Jeter's extraordinary career seemed to be winding down, as a New York Times Magazine cover story at the time made clear.
He had just turned 37. He was near the 3,000-hit mark, but was also stuck on the disabled list with a calf injury. His O.P.S. was .649, which, from a player with a career mark of .830, suggested steep, irreversible decline.
All of which made the year that followed that much more remarkable.
Jeter returned from the D.L. on July 4, and from then until the end of the 2011 season, his O.P.S. was .831.
He got off to an even better start in 2012, before slumping a bit. But his two hits Tuesday night in a 6-4 victory over the Indians, on his 38th birthday, pushed his O.P.S. to .766 on the season. That's solidly above average for all hitters, fifth among all regular shortstops.
Incredibly, Jeter is among the best at his position, despite his age: If he finishes the season at this O.P.S.+, it will be the 10th best season for any shortstop 37 or older, and the best ever since 1949.
Even that stat makes his accomplishment seem misleadingly common. Of those nine seasons above his 2012, eight were logged by Honus Wagner or Luke Appling. The ninth came from Jimmy Austin, in 1918.
Jeter has already done more than enough as a baseball professional to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But his age-defying late-career surge may turn out to be his most spectacular feat of all.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Another bad loss to the Cubs, 5-3, with errors and even some ejections. In what seems like a practical joke, the Mets are responding to Jenrry Mejia's struggles in relief work by changing his role again.
Pat Cummings, a Knick from my childhood, died at 55.
With free agency set to begin next week, the Nets left a huge happy birthday sign outside Deron Williams' apartment. Expect Mikhail Prokhorov to show up on July 1, the first day of free agency, with a boombox.