The 2010s meant the end of an era as many fans saw their baseball heroes give their last hurrahs. The “core four” of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte (twice) all exited stage left. All four were cemented in New York Yankees’ immortality as well.
Jeter will surely give us another moment with this presumed election and induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020 but for now, we look back at the top 10 on the back nine of their careers.
10.) RINGING IN THE NEW DECADE
After winning their fifth World Series championship together in 2009, the four celebrated one more time. On Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, April 13, 2010, they received their rings against old friend Hideki Matsui and the Los Angeles Angels. Jeter homered. Posada collected three hits. Pettitte fanned six and Rivera wrapped up a 7-5 victory.
I’m coupling these all together. While still playing, Mo had his No. 42 retired with Metallica in the house in 2013. Their skipper Joe Torre had No. 6 retired in 2014. Along with fellow homegrown star, Bernie Williams and his No. 51, Pettitte and Posada saw 46 and 20 retired respectively in 2015. Jeter capped it off with No. 2 in 2017.
8.) POSTSEASON TWINNING
The 2010 postseason was the last which saw all four united to repeat. As they did in 2009, the Yankees dispatched the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS. New York completed the 3-0 sweep, Rivera recorded two saves, Pettitte won Game 2 with a solid seven frames, Jeter hit .286 and Posada batted .273. It was their final playoff series victory together.
7.) MISSION COMPLETE
You can go home again. Pettitte, who left for Houston in 2004 and retired for the first time after 2010, tossed a gem in his 2013 swan song. Facing the Houston Astros in Houston, the southpaw hurled a complete game in a 2-1 Yankee victory. Pettitte fanned five and scattered five hits, retiring 11 straight at one point and was a true hoss on the hill. With Mo saying, “I’m done,” it was up to Pettitte to finish the job and he went out with a bang.
6.) HIP HIP CHAMPAGNE
The 2011 campaign was a tumultuous one for Posada. His catching duties were all but stripped and he was basically relegated to designated hitter, even getting moved to ninth in the lineup at one point. Yet, on Sept. 21, 2011, Posada came through again against the Tampa Bay Rays. The switch-hitter ripped a two-out, two-run single to right in the eighth and the Yankees captured the American League East with a 4-2 win. Posada also finished strong in those playoffs with a .429 average against the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS.
No, wins don’t matter as much as they used to but it’s a nice round number to notch in your belt. Again, fittingly facing the Astros, this time at Yankee Stadium, Pettitte sealed the deal. On June 11, 2010, the southpaw became the third pinstriped pitcher to reach the mark. Pettitte fanned four in 7.1 frames of work. He would win 219 in pinstripes when all was said and done.
There were a few Mo moments I could’ve gone with here. There’s the 2013 All-Star Game in that other New York ballpark. Mo’s sendoff with Jeter and Pettitte pulling him from the game. Rivera ultimately recorded 652 regular-season saves and an appropriate 42 more on the postseason but this one set the new bar. On Sept. 19, 2011, the best closer of all-time cemented his name in that spot statistically bypassing Trevor Hoffman with career save No. 602. Mo clamped down on the Twins with a 1-2-3 frame and a strikeout to wrap up the win.
3.) HISTORY WITH AN EXCLAMATION POINT
Battling injuries and scuffling to that point with a .257 batting average, Jeter went down to Tampa and regrouped with hitting guru Gary Denbo. The Captain, with 3,000 hanging over his head, finally hit his stride on July 9, 2011. Facing the Rays and David Price, Jeter smashed a full-count offering in the third inning, into the stands in left for DJ3K. Jeter joined former teammate Wade Boggs as the only other player to reach the milestone via the home run. The 5-for-5 afternoon lifted the shortstop’s average to .270 and he finished the season at .297. Jeter would finish with 3,465 career hits, ranking sixth on the all-time list.
2.) FANTASY BECOMES REALITY
One couldn’t have scripted it better. In his final game at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 25, 2014, Jeter was on cue. Facing the Baltimore Orioles, with the game tied at five in the ninth and one on with one out in the ninth inning, captain clutch delivered again. With his pattened inside out swing, Jeter singled to right, plating Antoan Richardson for the 6-5 walk-off winner.
OK, so this one didn’t come on the field but it’s both parts cool and historic. The Babe Ruth of his era at his position, Mo became a breakthrough pioneer in Hall of Fame voting. On Jan. 22, 2019, Rivera’s name was listed on all 425 ballots and became the first unanimous selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The all-time saves leader and Yankees legend was inducted in Cooperstown on July 21, 2009.