When Jeter goes down: a brief history

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For the bulk of his career, Derek Jeter has been the paradigm of health. Outside of suffering a freak shoulder injury on Opening Day in 2003, he had, before this week, been on the disabled list just three other teams and had never missed more than the minimum. To reach 3000 hits and over 2350 games played, health is a requirement and a skill.

So far, the Yankees haven’t exactly missed Derek Jeter during his two games on the shelf. The club has scored 24 runs in the span, and Eduardo Nuñez, Jeter’s fill in, is now 4 for 8 with a home run and two RBIs. The Yanks’ leadoff hitters, meanwhile, are 4 for 7 with four runs scored and three walks. The numbers look gaudy both because they are and because Jeter is slowing down as soon-to-be 37-year-old middle infielders are prone to do, but in this small sample, the Yanks have survived without their captain.

Of course, replacing Jeter hasn’t always been so easy. They ran through a period of using a rogue’s gallery of short stops with Jeter out. As an exercise in nothing more than history, let’s see how they did it.

DL Trip #1: June 4 – June 19, 1998

It’s almost hard to believe Derek Jeter missed any time during the Yanks’ historical run in 1998. That year, he played in 150 games, hit .324/.384/.481, stole 30 bases, landed on his first All Star team and came in third in the MVP race. Yet, he missed time with a strained abdominal muscle suffered on a check swing in June.

During the 12 games that year which Jeter missed, the Yankees went 9-3 as Luis Sojo filled in less than admirably. The fan favorite managed to hit .180/.212/.200 over 52 plate appearances, and four of his hits came in one game against the Expos. Jeter’s return on June 19 was, needless to say, a welcome one.

DL Trip #2: May 12 – May 26, 2000

Two years later, Jeter found himself back on the DL with a strained abdominal muscle. Again, he would miss only the minimum, and again, it came in a year in which he utterly dominated at the plate. In 2000, he hit .339/.416/.481 and only came in 10th in the MVP voting. During his time on the shelf, Clay Bellinger, Alfonso Soriano and Wilson Delgado attempted to replace him. Each was worse than the last.

Bellinger, a cult favorite in the early 2000s, lasted four games at short, and he went 1 for 9 before the Yanks tried to plug Soriano into that hole. Sori made two errors on the nine balls hit to him over his four games and went just 3 for 16 at the plate. Delgado played three games at short during Jeter’s DL stint and went 4 for 12. That is the very definition of holding down the fort, but the Yanks went only 4-8 during Jeter’s absence.

DL Trip #3: March 23 – April 7, 2001

The three-time World Series Champion Yankees had to open the season with their short stop out with a strained quad. Jeter, who hurt himself in Spring Training, needed a few extra days to heal, and he had to started the season on the disabled list. This time, they opened the season with Luis Sojo at short and went 3-1 without Jeter. That .750 winning percentage, though, was no thanks to Luis who went 1 for 15. He never really was a very good hitter.

DL Trip #4: April 1 – May 13, 2003

Jeter’s injury on Opening Day in 2003 has a little bit of the “where were you when…” allure to it. I was a sophomore in college in the midst of jazz band rehearsal when I got a text message (on a phone which at the time looked a little bit something like this) from my parents freaking out about Jeter. I had no idea what had happened and quickly learned that Jeter might be out for four months. My heart sank, but the Jeter-less depression was short-lived. Luckily, that turned into six weeks, and Jeter came back in mid-May.

For the Yankees, his return that year wasn’t a moment too soon. In his absence, Enrique Wilson and Erick Almonte split time at short, and Almonte was, in a word, terrible. While playing 28 games with Jeter out, Almonte managed to hit a serviceable .272/.337/.370, and he even homered in his second plate appearance on April 2. Defensively though, he cost the team 7.4 runs in just 28 games. Enrique Wilson, with a .189/.211/.324, was a nothing on offense with Jeter out. Still, the Yanks went 25-11 before the Captain came back.

By and large then, good teams are still good teams when one of their better players lands on the DL. A well-balanced team can weather the storm of a short stop on the disabled list for a few weeks, and the Yankees have certainly proved that in the past when Jeter was a better player than he is today. It’s certainly remarkable that Jeter has gone since May 13, 2003 without being on the disabled list. Hopefully, this calf strain, suffered while he jogged off the field, isn’t a harbinger of age to come. The late 30s are not often kind on an athlete’s body, and Derek would be better served fully healing now than playing through the pain as he has done so often in his career.

Yankees break out the C lineup, whoopin' sticks in win over Rangers
Yankees add Gordon to roster, demote Pendleton, release Sanit
  • Will

    “When Jeter goes down: a brief history”

    Aka “Minka Kelly’s tales of sexual dissatisfaction”.

  • Lazy Bones Andruw Jones

    Wow, I didn’t remember how bad Alomnte was defensively.

    It’s really pretty amazing Jeter only missed 6 weeks with that seperated shoulder.

  • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops
  • Stu H

    Ewing Theory.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      For which part? Now or in the past?

      • James

        I’d say now, except for the fact that the Ewing theory implies that the Yankees never won anything of merit with Jeter in the Lineup… the five rings disproves it.

        • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

          I guess it hinges on whether the Ewing Theory applies to good players when they’re still at the top of their game or not. It’s not mean to Jeter for anyone to admit that he’s not the player he once was, and the Yanks are clearly going to score more runs with someone in the leadoff spot with an OBP well above .320.

          • James

            It’s true. I’d actually give it more of the “David Robinson” theory… a player that by all intensive purposes looks exactly the same physically, but is a shadow of his former self somehow.

            • Lazy Bones Andruw Jones

              And as the above article shows, it’s not like there was anyone decent to fill in. Especially compared to Jeter in his prime years.

              Prime years Jeter at 60%>>>>>>>>>>>> Bellinger, Wilson, Sojo, etc.

              • Lazy Bones Andruw Jones

                Ugh… reply fail…

          • http://twitter.com/urbainshockcor Urban

            Having someone with a higher OBP in the top spot will help, but not as much as most believe. We also have to acknowledge Jeter’s odd ability this year to get on base leading off the ballgame, allowing the team to get on the board first, and teams that score first improve their chances of winning overall. I don’t expect it to continue, but he has done it, so we have to give him credit for it.

            My guess is Jeter remains batting leadoff for the most part this season. He’ll be dropped in the lineup next year, and will start to sit more frequently. He’ll be a bench player by 2013. The Yankees will buy out 2014. In other words, 2011 will be the last year Jeter will bat leadoff and be an every day player.

            Nunez is not the answer, but he’s capable of getting hot here and there.

  • James

    God… that 98 team RAKED… no regular from that box score against the Expos was hitting under .285 except for Girardi.

  • V

    “Jeter does not go on the DL” is not equivalent to “Jeter has been healthy”. Just in the recent five years, there’s been at least one month every season where it was obvious he was dinged up, badly, and it REALLY effected his production at the plate, to the point the team would be better with a glove-first backup infielder while he sat and got healthy.

    How many times have we watched him take a pitch on the hands and hit .100 for a few weeks?

    It’s been obvious, however, that the “team first captain” doesn’t like to sit, so the Yankees have never DLed him.

    • Mike c

      /idiotic Jeterbashing

      • Yankee Fan 1

        Please tell me when jeter has hit .100 for a few weeks?

        I’m sorry faulting Derek Jeter for not wanting to go on the DL is stupid. He plays through the pain because he makes millions of dollars to play baseball, not sit on the bench. Would you rather he just sit on his butt every single time he has an ache or pain? He lobbied to not go on the DL but he is not tantruming about it, he’s down in Tampa rehabbing.

        • V

          I’d rather players sit when their aches and pains AFFECT THEM AT THE PLATE, get healthy, and then help the team, rather than “man up” and stay hurt all season.

          One quick one I found on Jeter:

          “While the three guys behind him in the order spent Friday night hitting, Derek Jeter in the leadoff spot took the evening off from that pastime. He went 0 for 5 to drop his average down to a very un-Jeterian .272, and I have to wonder if Derek rushed back too quickly from his May 20th HBP. While Jeter says the Daniel Cabrera beanball isn’t impacting his hitting, the numbers tell a different story. Since coming back the next day, the Yankee Captain is 3 for 34. That’s an .088 average if you’re keeping score at home, and he’s slugging just .118 over that span. That’s not looking so great.”

          One for Cano: http://riveraveblues.com/2009/04/fielding-bible-the-strange-case-of-robinson-cano-9620/#comment-315120

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            There’s a reason you only work five days a week and get the weekend off: rest is good. It helps recharge your batteries and be more productive when you report back to work.

            • V


            • nsalem

              Would this apply to posting and blogging?

          • V
      • V

        I’m sorry. I shan’t criticize “The Captain” again.

        I will, however, leave you with this ‘oldie but goodie’ from tsjc ;-):

        “Derek Jeter openly contradicts his manager and denies he’s hurt when virtually the whole world knows he’s lying, and either nobody cares or we all think he’s somehow a great person and teammate for lying to our faces.

        If ARod did that he’d be a self-obsessed narcissistic duplicitous douchebag worthy of our scorn for lying to the American public. WallMatt would whip up 800 words of righteous indignation within the hour.”

        • Yankee Fan 1

          The difference now is I am good,” Martin said. “Before I was just saying I felt good. Why? Because I wanted to play.”

          Just found that quote interesting ;)

          Anyway my point was that I won’t condemn a guy for trying to play through it. It’s up to management to do what is best for the team/player.

    • http://twitter.com/urbainshockcor Urban

      Will this be the new Jeter meme? He’s not team first because he wants to play? Yawn.

      • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama


        Look, I realize Derek Jeter is Satan and the single reason the Yankees aren’t undefeated and all that, but the guy wants to play. I don’t really see criticizing him for… not pulling himself out of the lineup? If the manager/other higher ups think he’s hurt, it’s up to the manager/those higher ups to pull him, frankly. I also seriously doubt he’s the only player who’s played hurt.

  • http://RAB Nuke LaDoosh

    It won’t happen but…
    If I were Joe, when DJ gets back, I would sit Gardner against Lefty’s, play Jeter in LF on those days and Nunez at SS. Against Rightys DJ at SS. Would be the first transition for the Cap’n. Would bat him leadoff when Gardner is out and second (Gardner leading off) against Rightys.
    Yikes, posting from Work…

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      What makes you think Jeter would be at all capable of playing left field?

      • Jim S

        And if his bat plays even marginally at SS, it would be much, much worse in LF. The defensive gains would have to be pretty remarkable to cancel that out.

      • Mike c

        I think hed likely retire before becoming a DH or OF

      • NJ_Andy

        Or that the lineup is anybetter with Nunez instead of Gardner?

      • Gonzo

        Put him in a Holiday Inn for a night and…BAM! He can play LF.

    • Monteroisdinero

      Jeter can’t play LF. Too big of a dropoff from Gardner on defense.

    • The Fallen Phoenix

      Also why would you sit a plus-plus defender who is not a total zero against lefties for Eduardo Nunez? Seriously people, Gardner’s not a platoon bat.

    • http://RAB Nuke LaDoosh

      Maybe I should pay more attention to work ;)

    • http://twitter.com/urbainshockcor Urban

      I’ve never been an advocate of Jeter in LF. His strength to the team was as a high-offensive player at SS. For a fifteen-year stretch, he was an ADVANTAGE to the Yankees, not a DISADVANTAGE. The Yankees built their world championship teams up the middle with high-offense, not-great-fielding players, from Posada, Jeter, Williams (and a bunch of poor fielding second baseman). Williams, to his credit, was a solid defender early in his career, but for most of it a negative CFer. They should have moved him to LF, not Jeter. Bottom line, with these guys, they did well. Very well. Onoe of the trio is a HOFer, the other two are borderline HOFers. Jeter is now rated as one of the top-ten SS’s in the game’s history. So, yeah, all you people who wanted to move Jeter to LF because your spreadsheets (and, btw, I’m a sabermetric advocate) kept saying he was a bad SS really weren’t looking at the total picture.

      Now people want to move him to LF because, umm, Nunez had a couple good games with the bat, while still making fielding and mental errors? Jeter is no longer the high-WAR Jeter. Yet he’s still showing a plus fWAR, helped by the poor showing of AL SS’s. Moving him to a higher-offensive position in LF, a position he’s never played, which will also remove Brett Gardner and his higher OBP and great fielding, will not help the Yankees, it will hurt the Yankees.

      If I thought Nunez was any good I’d be advocating him to play more. I don’t think he’s all that good, but he is capable of getting hot. Let’s hope he has a nice hot streak while Jeter’s away. And, oh, let’s hope he figures out how to properly position himself, stop making errors when he starts, and making mental errors on the bases.

      Jeter stays at SS…for now.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    Jeter’s injury on Opening Day in 2003 has a little bit of the “where were you when…” allure to it. I was a sophomore in college in the midst of jazz band rehearsal when I got a text message from my parents freaking out about Jeter.

    Jazz flute is for little fairy boys.


    • http://RAB Nuke LaDoosh

      I was in Vegas for a Sales National Meeting for my company, (I think it was Caesar’s, might have veen Mandalay – we did one location in ’02 and the other in ’03 but I forget the order) on a break, watching as I was passing by a Big Screen TV. Didn’t watch more than about 10 minutes of the game but saw the injury.

  • TLVP

    Do you notice a theme? Every year that Jeter’s been on the disabled list the team has reached the WS?

    Causality or correlation?

  • Brendan

    I don’t understand the fascination of playing Jeter in the outfield, the only reason his bat is tolerable is because he plays a non-offensive position. Additionally, Gardner may be one of the best defensive left fielders in baseball….

    • Jared

      Fascination with the abomination, bro.


    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      As someone who has advocated for Jeter to LF in the past, there’s a few pieces of nuance you’re leaving out:

      A.) The calls for Jeter to move off SS to LF began in earnest before we established Gardner and traded for Granderson and Swisher. That matters a ton, contextually. Moving Jeter to LF and displacing Gardner makes less sense than moving Jeter to LF and displacing Matsui, Abreu, Melky Cabrera, or the like. (Now that we have a full compliment of quality outfielders, I’m personally much less eager to move Jeter to LF.)

      B.) Jeter’s bat is largely a sunk cost in this issue; he’s going to have his bat in the lineup one way or another (LF, SS, DH). The thinking is, if he moves to LF, while his bat (independent of his fielding) will still be solid but non-elite, at least he’ll be at a position where he sees less action and theoretically could provide either neutral or positive defensive contribution (as opposed to negative contribution at SS).

      C.) Implicit in B is the opportunity costs thereof. Obviously, it’s generally easier to find productive leftfielders than productive shortstops, so moving Jeter from a position of scarcity to one of depth gives you a harder replacement job in the abstract. The thought process here is, however, if moving Jeter from SS to LF provides–in and of itself–a boost to Jeter’s total team contribution (by turning him from a defensive negative at SS to a defensive break-even or positive in the OF), then Jeter the LF + a new 1.5 WAR SS would be better than Jeter the SS + a new 1.5 WAR LF.

      • http://RAB Nuke LaDoosh

        This. I’m at work and couldn’t write a long post defending my earlier post.

      • David, Jr.

        Why do you believe that he, say a 37 yr old next year, who to my knowledge has never played the position, would be a neutral or a positive fielder at that position? Not being sarcastic. Just curious. Do you know something? Perhaps he played it in high school?

        • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

          Don’t want to put words into the mouths of others but I believe the notion generally stems from Jeter’s rep for snaring fly balls when he has to range into the shallow OF. Contrast that apparent skill with that of someone who seems to (strangely) lack it like A-Rod and the notion gains that much more credence.

  • Dan Novick

    It would make way more sense to play Jeter at second or third than outfield. Unfortunately, that’s not a likely scenario with the current and future construction of the roster.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      The LF idea, though, is that the things that limit Jeter’s range at SS and make him a subpar defender would also plague him at 2B or 3B.

      Jeter’s weaknesses–namely, lateral range on groundballs and arm accuracy–would theoretically be less problematic as an outfielder; his strengths–namely, overall foot speed for tracking flyballs and raw arm strength–would theoretically allow him to be an above average outfielder.

      Simply moving him from one IF position to another probably doesn’t solve anything; moving him to an OF position might.

      • Nico

        Don’t you think A-Rod would do a better job at SS? He’s more athletic than Jeter and would probably work hard to improve his slightly eroded skills. They could switch positions until Jeter retires, and then A-Rod goes back to 3B or DH.

  • David, Jr.

    It is kind of an approach that says “Where would he do the least harm?”.

    How about full-time DH next year? Oops. A DH that hits .242 with equivalent power to Cervelli isn’t so good, except for cheering from the dugout steps when Cano, Tex and ARod hit three run homers to help win games.

  • http://rab Rob

    Is is really a coincidence with Jet out of the line up, the teams plays solid defense, no errors at short and, Oh, BTW – the offense puts 24 runs on the board.

    • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

      Nunez just made an error yesterday

  • Yankee Fan 1

    they also scored 11 runs and 9 runs in the indians series when jeter was playing.

    • David, Jr.

      So what. He is one of the weakest hitters in the league. He has two home runs and we have guys with twenty. What don’t you get? He is a first ballot Hall of Famer, an all time great Yankee, who has rapidly declined to be the equivalent of Nick Punto, who is a much better fielder. I still can’t imagine what they will do with him a couple of years from now.

      • Yankee Fan 1

        this was meant to be a reply to Rob who said we scored 24 runs in 2 days because he was out of the lineup. Just trying to disprove his narrative.

  • CMP

    Great article but shouldn’t you be studying for the bar?