TAMPA, Fla. - The night before Derek Jeter shocked the world by announcing his pending retirement on Facebook, the Yankees' captain wanted Hal Steinbrenner to hear it from him first.
But Steinbrenner let the call go straight to voice mail. History would have to wait.
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"I didn't recognize the area code," Steinbrenner said yesterday after Jeter's news conference. "Usually somebody texts me and that's what he did the next morning. He texted me, and then I called him right away. My bad.
"I don't check voice mail. I need to be better about that. But it was a surprise. I figured he was calling to talk about the team -- improvements we needed to make still."
In discussing Jeter's decision -- a week after the Facebook post -- Steinbrenner sounded like someone trying to get his bearings in unfamiliar territory. Jeter rocked the Yankees' universe last week, both with the news and the way he delivered it.
The shortstop had always been a favorite of George Steinbrenner -- like another son -- and Hal, who is only five years older than Jeter, pretty much grew up in the Yankees' organization with him. The idea of Jeter retiring was a lot to absorb. At the end of Wednesday's news conference, Jeter and Steinbrenner hugged.
"I think right now it's kind of surreal," Steinbrenner said. "It's strange to think about the Yankees without him in the lineup. But we're not there yet. I'm excited about this year. I'm excited that he's healthy. He told me on the phone it's the best he's felt ever and it's going to be a good year."
Jeter already had prepared his Facebook statement when he placed the call to Steinbrenner, and he was worried about word leaking out if he didn't speak to Hal first. But Jeter also wanted to make sure the family was OK with his plans to post the retirement news rather than let the Yankees release it.
"If he told me he had ideas that I should do it a different way, then I would have thought about it because I respect his opinion," Jeter said. "But I appreciate what they've done for me throughout my entire career and up until making this decision."
Steinbrenner told Jeter during that phone call to do "whatever he felt was appropriate" and expressed how much the Yankees' captain meant to both his family and the organization. What Steinbrenner did not do was try to get him to change his mind -- as tempting as that might have been.
"No," Steinbrenner said. "I respect when an individual makes a decision like this because I know how much time and thought they put into it. It's not my place to second guess."
Back in November, Steinbrenner personally handled Jeter's $12-million extension for 2014. The shortstop held a $9-million option on his expiring contract, and many expected the Yankees to turn that into maybe a two-year deal with Jeter, who turns 40 this June, inching toward retirement. The fact that both sides were able to come to an agreement so quickly on the extension suggests that Jeter was thinking about calling it quits after his injury-ravaged 2013 season.
If Steinbrenner had any suspicion of that, he didn't let on Wednesday. And as long as Jeter is still wearing pinstripes for this year, Steinbrenner believes shortstop will be the least of his worries.
"There are areas of concern," Steinbrenner said, "and we're going to keep plugging away. We've got to see how big of a concern they are. But they're not problems yet because we haven't even started playing. Every team has them and every team works through them. We'll do the same thing. We got pretty good at it last year I thought."