It's perhaps the most-anticipated game of the 2014 regular season on Thursday night as "the Captain," Derek Jeter, plays the final home game of his first-ballot Hall of Fame career. The Yankees opened as -121 favorites on MLB odds vs. the Orioles.
“The shortstop, No. 2, Derek Jeter, No. 2.”
Most "experts" believe Jeter is the fifth-greatest Yankee of all time, behind Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. That sounds about right to me, although I would argue Jeter was slightly overrated overall simply because he played shortstop for the Yankees. We aren't getting all weepy if Jeter was playing his final game at, say, Camden Yards as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. Jeter isn't close to being the best shortstop ever -- his own teammate, Alex Rodriguez, was better at the position. Baseball Reference ranks Jeter at No. 12, behind even Alan Trammell. Not sure about that, but you can't argue with guys like Honus Wagner, A-Rod, Cal Ripken, Robin Yount, Ernie Banks, Ozzie Smith and Luke Appling ahead of Jeter.
This will be the 2,745th game of Jeter's career, which is easily the most in Yankee history. He is one of just eight players ever who played that many games all for one team. The record is 3,308 by Carl Yastrzemski for the Red Sox. Jeter had 3,461 hits entering Wednesday, more than 700 more than Gehrig, who is No. 2 on the Yankee list with 2,721. Jeter will finish sixth on the all-time hits list behind Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker. ESPN's Jayson Stark has some pretty cool Jeter numbers to sum up his career. One is that Jeter has 1,103 multi-hit games, which is more than Tony Gwynn or Wade Boggs and fourth all time in the modern era. That surprises me.
The Yankees' No. 6 overall pick in the 1992 draft out of Kalamazoo, Mich., Jeter is a 14-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion. In 158 postseason games Jeter had exactly 200 hits, 20 homers, 18 steals and a .308 batting average. He was the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year, 2000 All-Star Game MVP and World Series MVP that year as well. He won five Gold Gloves (dubiously in my opinion) and had eight 200-hit seasons. Just one 100-RBI campaign (1999).
Incidentally, this will be the last time Yankees fans here the legendary voice of late PA announcer Bob Sheppard announcing a player coming to bat. He retired in 2009 and died in 2010 but Jeter requested the Yankees keep his voice when announcing Jeter coming to the plate.
Bovada has a handful of props for Jeter's last Yankee Stadium game. He is given an 'over/under' total of two hits, runs and RBIs combined. The 'under' is a -150 favorite. That he will get at least two hits in the game is +250 with no at -325. It would be quite an ending if Jeter did homer, especially in his final at-bat. However, yes is a +1000 long shot with no at -2000. He has only four homers this season. There are final at-bat results as well: single (+275), double (+1500), triple (+3000), homer (+2000), walk or hit by pitch (+1000), strikeout (+500) or any other result (-145). By the way, it's not impossible Thursday will be his final game. Maybe Jeter chooses to sit out the final three in Boston. Mariano Rivera didn't pitch in the Yankees' final series in Houston last year because he wanted his last game to be at Yankee Stadium.
The Orioles start rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman (7-7, 3.57). Baltimore has lost five of his past six starts. However, that win was Sept. 12 at Camden Yards against the Yankees when he shut them out over seven innings. Jeter has a single and a strikeout in three career at-bats off Gausman, who is 3-2 with a 3.13 ERA in eight road starts this year.
New York starts 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda (11-9 3.77). He took a no-decision in Baltimore on Sept. 14, allowing a run and six hits over seven innings. Overall he is 1-0 with a 2.39 ERA against the Orioles in 2014. Kuroda is 7-5 with a 4.02 ERA at Yankee Stadium. Might well be his last game ever there as well.
MLB Free Picks
The side is easy here as Baltimore is locked into the No. 2 seed in the American League and has nothing to play for. The Yankees no doubt don't want Jeter's last game to be a loser. Joe Girardi probably manages this like a playoff game. Take New York and the 'under' 7.5 runs. As for Jeter, I like the 'over' combined two hits, runs and RBIs at +120. He will go something like 1-for-3 with a run scored and RBI. I don't see him homering. I expect Jeter will be swinging away in his final at-bat, but it's statistically likely he makes an out -- just not a strikeout. So for your MLB picks go for any other result at -145 on MLB odds.