Mar
01

How much patience with Jeter?

By

(Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

Derek Jeter was too busy to notice the analogy. This morning, while taking swings in the batting cage, he apparently did a double-take when he noticed a gaggle of reporters observing him. It was just BP, and not even of the live variety. What could be so interesting?

As expected, there was nothing particularly noteworthy about Jeter’s cage session. He hit some baseballs and worked on his timing. Why, then, would reporters deem it worth their time to stand around? Because Jeter is one of the spring’s primary story lines. In the current media environment, which involves constant updates, no matter how trivial, reporters have had to adapt. In years past they might not have sat in on the session, but in 2011, when Twitter updates go out to the masses instantaneously, they want to be around to observe and report. They’ve had to make adjustments.

Jeter, too, is making adjustments out of necessity. At 36 — 37 in June — his body isn’t as strong and nimble as it once was. His old timing mechanism worked before, but as he has aged it has caused something of a hitch. If he’s going to remain the Yankees’ leadoff man, and if he’s going to live up to the contract he signed this past winter, he can’t just do what worked in the past. If a reporter tried to do that, he’d fall behind his peers. The same goes for Jeter.

In the same way that it took the media time to adapt to the new environment, it will take Jeter time to commit his new mechanics to muscle memory. No one does something a certain way for 15 years, with great success, and then changes overnight. When it involves something mechanically complex, such as swinging a baseball bat, we can expect a lengthy learning curve. The question is of how long it will take — and, furthermore, how long the Yankees will let him adjust before doing something about it.

Jeter does understand the process he’s undergoing. As he told reporters yesterday: “When was the first game? Two days ago? That was the first time I’ve seen pitching with (the new mechanics). It’s going to take a while to get comfortable. You have more time because there’s no stride. Now you’ve just got to figure out when to swing.” Emphasis mine. That seems to be a rather weighty task for someone who has done things the same way his entire life to this point.

There’s a decent chance that Jeter continues his adjustments when the season begins. While he’s facing live pitchers now, and for the most part he’s facing real major leaguers, it’s still not a real game situation. Pitchers are still out working on their things, which could make it harder for Jeter to work on his. There will likely be a further adjustment period when live games start on March 31. If Jeter gets off to a slow start, don’t be surprised. It will lead to cries for his demotion in the batting order, and there is a point when the Yankees will have to consider that. I just don’t think it will come early in the season.

The key will be what Brian Cashman preached all winter: patience. He might be past his prime, but Jeter has proven that he’s a world-class hitter who is working hard to make the necessary adjustments. There’s a chance that it never happens, but the Yankees have a big enough investment in him that they’ll give it every chance. That might get frustrating in the first month or so, as he adapts to his stride-less swing. But the potential payoff, an experienced leadoff man with .380 OBP potential, will be worth it.

Categories : Spring Training

38 Comments»

  1. Monteroisdinero says:

    Slow starts (Jeter/Tex) are tolerable if other guys (Cano/Gardy last year) are carrying the team. Jeter has to be able to get his opposite field hit mechanics back.

  2. Juke Early says:

    Jeter making his adjusted hitting approach work is critical. It’s no fun watching a player’s set of HOF skills erode. I’ve never forgotten how Mickey Mantle cost himself a lifetime .300 BA by hanging on too long – Mantle never forgot either. Derek will need more than just a new swing. I hope he can.

    • Big Apple says:

      if the yanks win a series or two during the rest of jeter’s contract i wouldn’t give a rats ass if his career batting avg was less than .300. he will still go down as one of the great players of his era.

  3. James A says:

    Edited by RAB: Off-topic

  4. Jess says:

    Jeter sneezes

    50 reporters examine the snot and tweet about it. Talk radio does two hours debating about the diminishing quality of Jeter’s snot. RAB blogs about whether Gardner’s snot is now better.

  5. Big Apple says:

    good lord..a new day and more crap. jeter is making the adjustments…isn’t this what spring training is for? he’s got about 30 days to perfect the new mechanics.

    anyone who doesn’t expect his skills to decline with age is crazy. of course i want him to do better than last year, but if he matched last years production over the rest of his career I’d be fine with it.

    • OldYanksFan says:

      I agree that if his upcoming 4 year average is last year (.710 OPS), the contract won’t be too bad. Too much money, but not a drag on the team. And I believe his 2011 is better then 2010.

      But those 3rd and 4th years scare me.
      Jeter really owes the Yankees for that 4th year.
      It was really crazy.

      • MannyGee says:

        yeah that 4th season will be a curtain call for the Jeetster. 200 PAs, a couplegames at SS or 1B, alot of shots of him ‘mentoring’ Nunez (or “SS of the future du-jour”), and coaching the 162nd game like Torre used to do.

        which, sidebar, Girardi should let Posada do this season.

    • bennyprofane says:

      I’d be fine with his numbers from last year as well, as long as he’s not batting leadoff. Or second.

      The interesting thing to note is the response to the article. The author is merely pointing out that Jeter is going to have to deal with a period of adjustment, something he hasn’t done before. Compounded by the fact that he signed what many feel is an over-market contract, a slow start due to a lack of comfort with his new approach could lead to cries for his demotion in the order. The author of this post actually advises against that, pointing to Jeter’s track record as reason to believe Jeter will perform, and noting that he has built up a great deal of equity from the club and the fanbase from years of sustained greatness. Yet the response to this post, makes it seem as if the author has issued judgement on Jeter and decreed him unfit to play this seeason, which is anything but the truth.

  6. NJYankeeFan says:

    Jeter would have to have an OBP of around .300 at the All Star break before Girardi would even consider dropping him below the first 2 spots in the lineup. Even then, I think Jeter would still have to go to Girardi and ask him to be dropped.

  7. Stuckey says:

    A plea for patience, in response to the overreaction, is itself, an overreaction, and no amount of qualifying the new media environment changes that.

  8. Big Apple says:

    who cares what jeter is getting paid? he sells more merchandise than his contract value.

    • Steve H says:

      Very unlikely.

      And I care what he gets paid because the Yankees have a budget. The more he (or any other player) gets paid over market value, the less to spend at other spots on the team.

      • Big Apple says:

        jeter’s “market” rate with the yanks is a lot higher than the league market rate b/c he puts buts in seats and more people wear his jersey than any other…

        the yanks budget is elastic, based on needs and the supply that is out there. right now, there isn’t much supply, but if a player they want is made available don’t worry about the yanks going over budget to sign him.

        yanks had a budget a few years ago also…and then they signed Tex for a whopper….i guess Cash had a coupon in his back pocket for that one.

        • Steve H says:

          The Yankees are bigger than Derek Jeter. The Yankees put butts in the seat with our without Jeter.

          • Big Apple says:

            never said jeter was bigger than the yanks…although the 3,000 hits is pretty darn big b/c he’s the first yankee to ever do it.

            jeter has been a huge part of the yanks success since he came up…no one doubts that. but he has one down year and he’s older and everyone is ready to crap on him. he’s still decent and a better option that what most teams have.

        • Brian in NH says:

          you’d be surprised how many butts stay in the seats for an iconic franchise when one of their iconic players is no longer there. Remember the 2004 red sox? Nomar was the man in not just boston but all of new england, probably as loved here as Jeter is in NY. Nobody stopped showing up when he got traded. nobody stopped buying red sox jerseys and shirts and hats when he got traded. They won the world series without him, and they ended up selling more merch than any other team in history. And you can’t get a ticket to fenway unless its against the A’s or Royals. Something tells me the yankees would do just fine without Jeter from a merch/ticket sales standpoint.

          and you get a serviceable replacement (basically someone who isn’t David Eckstein) and the lineup will still be fine unless everyong stops hitting all at once.

          • Big Apple says:

            winning is the key…just like the other poster said. teams stop winning fans stop showing up..unless you are a cubs fan where the world will end when they win the WS.

    • pat says:

      Revenue from merchandise sales and is pooled and split evenly amongst each MLB team.

      • Big Apple says:

        depends on where it is sold….yanks still get a lot of it…and he puts butts in seats that pay for parking, buy beers, hot dogs, sushi, and other high dollar items.

        • Mike M says:

          Know what puts butts in seats? Winning. If Jeter prevents the team from winning people aren’t gonna come to see him.

          • Big Apple says:

            let see…since Jeter joined the yanks the yanks have done nothing but win…i don’t think his performance last year prevented them from winning. in fact, any year that they didn’t win it ALL had more to do with a lack of good pitching than anything else.

            the least of my worries is jeter…I worry about AJ Burnett and the 4th and 5th spots in that rotation. everything else will take care of itself.

            • Mike Axisa says:

              I don’t think anyone goes to the Stadium exclusively to see Derek Jeter.

              • Big Apple says:

                it certainly helps….

              • Big Apple says:

                sorry…hit reply before i was finished.

                while i agree with you to an extent, it certainly helps to have star players on the team and people do pay to see those guys play.

                a lot of people are crapping on jeter…that’s fine if they want to – to each his own. but he’s been a great TEAM player and he and MO are probably the two most important players on the team since the great run began.

                A lot of people have posted about his demise like its some original thought that a 35 yr old would start to produce less on the field.

  9. sal says:

    In the end I think Jeter will hit close to his career avg give or take 10 points. so 300-something and we will get 60 to 80 RBI , 10 to 18 HRs Score 100 runs or so and pretty much hit between 280 and 300 till his contract is up.

    He looked lost last years and still hit .270, age got to him and he can’t do it all with god give gift. so he’s adjusting just like every other player has to do. I his case the adjusting has come later on in his career.

  10. 4everbronx says:

    It’s march first, let’s try and get some perspective.

  11. Nogomo says:

    How much patience with Jeter?! How much is infinite? I mean, what, bench him?!

  12. MikeD says:

    I’ll take the inverse of last year for Jeter. A slower April, followed by a great rest of the season.

  13. Poopy Pants says:

    At point does Jeter become a true team player and volunteer to be lower in the batting order?
    Beltre moved to RF.

  14. Frank gentile says:

    I think the reporters are like vultures. The last thing they should worry about is Derek in Spring Training. He’s tried and True!

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