Derek Jeter's Core Four mates: Leadership is The Captain's greatest legacyJeter has always said a lot without saying much, according to the trio
But take it from his fellow Core Four mates: Jeter has turned that intangible into a very tangible quality, and it will
"In the clubhouse, he didn't say much, but when something needs to be said he said it - and he's always said a lot by how he plays on the field," Mariano Rivera said during Monday's home opener at Yankee Stadium. "Look at how he runs out ground balls to the pitcher or infield fly balls; he runs 100 percent all the time. That's how you know the man he is. All four of us always pushed each other to the max in an effort to win; that's what leaders are like."
Although Jorge Posada was the only one to "admit" as much in a Monday afternoon press conference, Jeter and the entirety of the quartet are as close as brothers - but in this case, they may be the only group of brothers who have never fought, if only because their endgame was always the same.
"We've been together a long time, and I know what (Jeter) likes and what ticks him off, but I don't think I've ever been mad at him or either of these guys. Why? Because they always wanted the same thing I wanted - to win a championship - and they represent the game the right way," Posada said. "And Derek has made me a better player; he's tough, he's very smart, he thinks of things you don't think about, and he steps into a room and commands attention."
For both Pettitte and Posada, that command comes from the fact that day in and day out, for nearly two decades, Jeter has taken the field almost every day and given no excuses, yielding only a few times when an injured body part physically gave out on him.
"I feel like he was a leader by example; he goes out every day with no excuses - he hates excuses," Posada said. "He demands the best out of himself, and I have to thank him and these guys for the way they always wanted the best out of everyone."
"The respect that you have for him as you watched him play day in and day out...Mo had somewhat of a chance to pitch every day as a reliever, but me as a starter, I pitch once every fifth day," Pettitte added, "and when you see a position player take the field every single day, you respect that, especially when you see the way Derek plays the game. The same went with (Posada); you see these guys get banged up, and they still go out there every single day."
It's because of that durability, Pettitte said, that Jeter's leadership trickled down and made the Core Four - as well as the collective of their pinstriped brethren throughout their run - so successful.
"I think we all almost held each other accountable; if you were really injured you had to deal with it, but I think we all played through an awful lot of pain or things that were bothering us," the lefty said. "You can get through an awful lot if you feel like you have teammates who are committed. That's the biggest thing I took from him, the will to win and compete and play the game the right way."
Come the end of the season, Jeter will retire, and after 74 collective seasons of Major League action, the Core Four will be no more. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that this season will be a "year-long love-fest" for Jeter, and his Core Four mates know two things: The Captain deserves it, and he needs to soak it up while it's there.
"I'd like for Derek to stay healthy all year so he can have what Mo had last year, and I want the fans everywhere to embrace him like he deserves," Posada said. "He has been a great role model, and if he stays healthy, it will be a lot easier for him to step away."
Added Pettitte: "I know and he probably experienced it today (at the Yankees' home opener) - as much as you want to focus on the game, be sure to enjoy it. You know that this is going to be the last time you do something, so soak it all up. Don't fight it; soak it all up and embrace it."
Pettitte, like Rivera, retired after 2013, but unlike his mound counterpart, he didn't announce anything official until the season was almost over - and that was almost a blessing in disguise.
"I knew I was pretty much done but didn't announce it until later in the year, but once I said something, I was able to enjoy the end of the season and soak it up even more," Pettitte said. "That's the biggest thing, to enjoy it."
Within that leadership mantle, Jeter has already said multiple times that just because it's his last season, he won't change the way he does things or shift his focus - but with one last urging, Pettitte admitted he wants The Captain to have the same perspective that he and Rivera had.
"It goes by so fast. He's going to blink, and the season's going to be over, and he won't be putting on the uniform anymore."
That way, when it all ends, Jeter can exhibit proof of one last piece of leadership training: how to soak it all in yet still strive to be better than the best.