Doubt Derek Jeter at your own risk.
That was the message in Tampa on Sunday when Jeter met with reporters to give an update on his recovery from the broken ankle he suffered in Game One of the American League Championship Series against the Tigers. As you could probably imagine after watching Jeter play throughout his Yankees career, the shortstop offered not even the slightest indication that he was unsure of his ability to make it back to form coming off such a serious injury in the year he turns 39.
Jeter did more than vow to play on Opening Day, although he is still not cleared for full physical activities after months of rehab. He mocked the very notion that he wouldn't be on the field against the Red Sox.
“Why wouldn’t it be realistic?” Jeter said. “I broke my ankle in October. It’s been quite some time. I’m right where I’m supposed to be right up until this point. The ankle has healed perfectly. Now it’s a matter of getting everything else in shape. I’m going to have to push myself, but yeah, opening day has been the goal all along."
It's very tempting to come up with an argument that this is the beginning of the end for the Jeter era in the Bronx. People are fond of trotting out the history that no team with a shortstop as old as Jeter has produced at a high level since the Truman Administration and there's no question that Jeter's staring at the final stretch of his brilliant career.
The problem with using history in conversations about Jeter is that he has long since passed the point when it's possible to consider his career under the terms of similar players and/or trajectories. There hasn't been another player like Jeter since Honus Wagner when it comes to offensive production by a shortstop over a sustained period of time and even that comparison is flawed because of the 100 years that passed between their two careers.
Jeter's not like other players, which makes that we can only look to Jeter for hints about how things will play out. Bones can break and muscles can tear, but we know enough about Jeter to know that rising to the occasion has long been his stock in trade.
The opposite of doubt is faith. Faith isn't always rational and it rarely agrees with evidence, which makes it exactly the right frame of mind for thoughts about Jeter.