Once upon a time, Derek Jeter was the Yankee Golden Boy. In 2000, he captured both the World Series and All Star Game MVP to complement his fourth World Series ring in five professional seasons, and it seemed as though many more would be on the horizon.
Well, over the last eight seasons, by and large, Derek during the regular season has not disappointed. He is six hits shy of 2500 and has a lifetime batting line of .316/.387/.459. While the World Series title to complete the hand of rings has eluded him, that’s more a reflection of the team than of Derek. The Yanks, after all, have made the playoffs every year of his career.
But lately, something’s happened with Derek. The New York media, once the biggest fans of the Yanks’ media-savvy — and don’t forget attractive — young short stop, have come to regard him with a skeptical eye. It’s a prime example of “What have you done for me lately?”
Case in point: This year, Derek, who entered 2008 amid MVP expectations, is having a very quiet year. While a 4-for-4 day yesterday moved his triple slash numbers upward, he’s hitting a very un-Jeterian .295/.356/.404 on the year. His power is well below his career norms, and he’s hit into 19 double plays already this year. Playing his age 34 season, Derek has turned in a singles hitter — one very expensive singles hitter.
And therein lies the rub. As a recent column in The Publication That Must Not Be Named opined, the Yanks could very well be facing a future without Derek Jeter as soon as 2011. His contract, which now pays him over $21 million a year, is up in 2010, and if Derek continues the decline brought about, whether we like it or not, by his age, the Yanks will have a short stop on their hands who can’t really field the position and won’t be the hitter he once was.
Of course, there’s a flipside. There’s always a flipside in baseball. Derek Jeter is the Yankees. He’s been their captain for a long time, and while A-Rod is more or less the face of the franchise these day, the team is still Derek’s. The Steinbrenners, as iYankees remind us, also plan to take care of Jeter once this deal is up, and I don’t think Hank meant in the Tony Soprano sense of the word.
So this is what I leave you with on an off-day in August prior to a vital six-game road trip: What do you do with Derek Jeter? The Red Sox are about to unceremoniously dump their captain, but Derek’s line is far cry from Jason Varitek’s pitiful .215/.305/.339 effort this year.
Should the Yanks re-sign Derek and prime fans for a potential run at 4000 hits? Should he be their short stop? Should he move? And how much should a 36-year-old Derek Jeter earn? I’d hate to be in Brian Cashman’s, Hank Steinbrener’s or Hal Steinbrenner’s shoes when it’s time to pull the trigger on this move in two years?