Baseball is losing its face

Those fans were also asked if they thought Jeter represented baseball in a positive manner -- and 87 percent of them said yes. Just for comparison's sake, 8 percent said the same about A-Rod. Says it all, doesn't it?

So here's a serious question, one that everyone inside Major League Baseball should be asking themselves today:

Is Derek Jeter irreplaceable?

Good question.

Forget for a moment whether you think he's overrated or underrated, or what the defensive metrics say about him, or whether he's a product of East Coast bias or any other hype machine you'd like to dream up.

However he reached this stature isn't important anymore. What's important is whether it's possible to find someone, anyone, capable of being That Guy after Derek Jeter waves to the crowd for the final time.

"You really can't say 'irreplaceable,'" Seiferheld hedged, "because there's always someone who will come along who has got some of these attributes, on and off the field. But I will say this: He'll be very, very tough to follow."

Very. Baseball can throw all its marketing muscle behind any player you name -- Trout, Harper, Cabrera, McCutchen, Justin Verlander, Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, whoever. But it will take more than marketing to produce someone like this. Way more.

"You can create the image," Seiferheld said. "But you can't create the authenticity."

Precisely. So we're 100 percent confident that baseball will still be played after Derek Jeter slides down the exit ramps. Life went on after Ruth, Mays, Mantle and Aaron. It will go on after this man leaves, too.

But it's worth reminding ourselves that it isn't just a Yankees icon who's calling it a career this autumn. It's the single most important player in the entire sport. So if we were Bud Selig, here's what we would be wondering right now:

When Derek Jeter is gone, where will baseball find its face?

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