On Monday, New York Yankee captain Derek Jeter is expected to make his return from the 15-day DL against the Cleveland Indians.  The veteran is six hits away from 3,000 for his career.  Upon reaching that milestone, he will become the first New York Yankee to accomplish that feat.

However, as he has chased that milestone this season, Jeter’s numbers have been fairly average.  A career .312 hitter, he is batting just .260 with two home runs and 20 RBI.  Of his 68 hits this season, all but 12 are singles. 

This should cause concern not only for Yankees fans, but also the front office.  The shortstop is currently in the first year of a three-year contract worth $51 million, plus an option for a fourth year.  In all honesty, I don’t see Jeter playing beyond the length of the contract.

Don’t get me wrong.  Jeter is a fine athlete who has been a great presence on the Yankees throughout his career.  Yet, he is now 37 years old and, as much as I hate to say it, is being slowed by age.

Take a look at his numbers last season.  He hit just .270, a career low for him and his lowest season batting average since hitting .292 in 2004.  To put it bluntly, for much of the latter half of 2010, Derek Jeter just looked lost at the plate.

He entered spring training looking to adjust his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long and he did just that, but went back to his old swing just a couple of weeks into the season.  Am I the only one who thinks that was a bone-headed move?

Anyway, back to the point.  Jeter is inevitably going to reach 3,000 hits this season, and fans will celebrate as the feat is added to his Hall-of-Fame resume.  Yet, after hitting that mark, does Jeter really have anything else to prove?

He is already the all-time Yankees leader in hits and stolen bases.  On top of that, he is also at the top of the list in career postseason hits and runs scored.

Most important, however, is Jeter’s success in the later rounds of the playoffs.  He has been to the World Series seven times and has walked away a winner five times.

After hit No. 3,000, there isn’t much else that Jeter needs to do to make his case for the Hall of Fame.  All he could possibly do is win another World Series.  As awesome as that would be, why keep playing and looking bad on the decline?

Still, Jeter is a proud man who isn’t going to leave baseball quietly.  I can see him playing out this contract, fourth year option at all.  He will be 40 years old at that point and barring some sort of miracle, be done with baseball.

I can only hope that he finishes his career with a bang, for it would be quite a shame for one of the most beloved New York Yankees of all time to go out on such a steep decline.

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