As Cal Ripken neared the twilight years of his Big League career, he grew to recognize his defensive limitations. A career short stop, in 1996, during his age 35 season, he played a handful of games at third base before moving there permanently the next season. He moved over with the recognition that 23-year-olds are better equipped to handle the demands of short stop than 36-year-olds.
In the Bronx, the Yanks’ short stop will soon undergo similar growing pains. Derek Jeter has played 13 years at short, and during an injury-plagued 2007, it seemed that he had lost a bit from his already slow first step. The rumblings, as we’ve discussed over the last few days, for Jeter to move from short have grown louder over the last few seasons.
Derek, however, will have none of that talk quite yet. As Mark Feinsand from the Daily News reports, Derek wants to stick it out at short:
he plans on playing shortstop through the final three years of his current contract, and on remaining there for however many years he plays beyond 2010.
“That’s the plan,” Jeter said. “I haven’t really thought about how long I’m playing. I take it one year at a time; I don’t sit down and say, ‘Well, I hope I’m playing in two-thousand whatever.’ It’s a tough question, because I haven’t really thought about it much.”
Could Jeter, who has been named to eight American League All-Star teams in his 12 big-league seasons – four as the league’s starting shortstop – ever see himself playing another position?
“Right now?” Jeter said, “No.”
Now, Yankee fans will be up in arms over Jeter’s quotes. “He’s being selfish,” they’ll say. It’s not for the good of the team for him to stick it out at short.
But that’s just silly. No baseball player will ever admit to the media that they’re losing a step or two at their natural position. No one will say that age is catching up to them, that they’re slowing down and that, yeah, they probably shouldn’t be playing short stop. It just doesn’t happen.
Right now, the Yanks need Derek Jeter as short stop. While people can fantasize about A-Rod’s moving back to short, in reality, he hasn’t played there in 2003, and there’s no guarantee that he would still be a solid short stop.
When the time comes, I believe Derek will take a page from the Cal Ripken book and recognize when it’s time to move from the demands of short. It’s not going to happen yet, but it will.