What Went Wrong: Derek Jeter’s ankle

Notes from Girardi's end-of-season press conference
Nippon Ham Fighters will select Shohei Otani in NPB draft

Over the next few weeks we’re going to spend some time reviewing the entire 2012 season, which featured another division title and unfortunately another disappointing playoff exit.

(Bruce Bennett/Getty)

The 2012 season was an overwhelming success for Derek Jeter, who just 18 months ago had been left for baseball dead (by me!) due to his continually declining production. He rebounded and led all of baseball in hits this season, putting up a .316/.362/.429 line in an MLB-leading 740 plate appearances. His 216 hits were three short of the career-high he set more than a decade ago, and for all intents and purposes the superstar-caliber hitter returned after a two-year hiatus.

Unfortunately, Jeter’s season came to a premature end in Game One of the ALCS. He took a step or two to his left to field a ground ball in the 12th inning, but crumbled to the ground before completing the play. The Cap’n stayed down on the ground and eventually had to be carried off the field, almost literally, by Joe Girardi and the trainer. It was a harrowing sight for sure. Jeter is as close to baseball invincible as it gets.

That step in the ALCS was not the start of his ankle problems, however. Jeter first started nursing some kind of left ankle injury in very early-September, though it wasn’t bad enough to keep him off the field. He did limp noticeably while running down the line and in the field, however. Derek came up lame in a mid-September game against the Red Sox after trying to beat out an infield single, hitting the base hard with his left foot. He aggravated what had previously been diagnosed as a bone bruise, and he was limited to DH work for the next four games.

The bone bruise cleared up though, at least we thought. Jeter returned to the field a few days later and made just three DH starts in the final 15 games of the season. Recent reports indicate that he did receive a cortisone shot at some point, but he was hitting — .322/.374/.380 in New York’s final 27 games plus six hits and a walk in the ALDS — so it certainly didn’t appear that the ankle was much of an issue late in the season and into the team’s first round playoff matchup with the Orioles. Jeter looked fine, frankly.

(Al Bello/Getty)

We have no idea if or how the bone bruise contributed to the fracture. Brian Cashman told reporters the night of the injury that he didn’t believe one led to the other, but who knows? Jeter could have been playing with a very tiny (and undetected) fracture that was a non-issue until that one final step for all we know. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. Derek had surgery to repair the ankle this past weekend and the recovery time has been estimated at four or five months.

“I believe that Dr. Anderson just put in a more conservative timeframe on it, as explained to me,” said Cashman. “So there’s no new information, nothing seen worse than what our team doctor saw. But in terms of the timeframe, I just think [Anderson] wanted to be more conservative with it, so that’s what we’re going to go with.”

Four or five months means Jeter should be ready just in time for Spring Training. Of course, as a 38-year-old shortstop with a lot of miles on those legs, it’s possible his rehab will take longer than expected. Even if it doesn’t, it’s possible the injury will impact Jeter’s ability to get ready for the season or just move around freely and easily on the field. He was never the rangiest defensive shortstop to start with, so the worst case scenario for this injury would be rendering Derek completely useless in the field. I don’t expect that to happen but it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world.

The Yankees have a serviceable backup plan at shortstop in Eduardo Nunez and they have the entire offseason to monitor Jeter’s rehab and act accordingly. If the healing process takes longer than expected for whatever reason, they’ll have a chance to add an infielder via free agency or trade before the season begins. That part really isn’t a problem. The injury didn’t just bring Jeter’s brilliant season to a premature end though, it also brought his status for next season and ability to continue playing at an elite level into question.

Notes from Girardi's end-of-season press conference
Nippon Ham Fighters will select Shohei Otani in NPB draft
  • bubba

    hopefully arod can have whatever jeter’s injecting

  • Eddard

    As soon as the Captain went down we were cooked. Nuney filled in about as well as you could but none of the veterans stepped up to fill that leadership role. ARod was more concerned with getting phone numbers than hits and Cano ran half as hard down to 1st base as Jeter did with one good leg. Derek Jeter will be the first player ever in the history of baseball to receive 100% of the HOF vote.

    • 0 for infinity and beyond

      110% of the vote. He’s so good he will write the laws of mathmatics.

      • Kevin

        Derek Jeter juggles bats for fun whilst still hitting clutch singles with RISP. Derek Jeter has more Derek Jeter-ness in his little finger than Robinson Cano has in his entire body.

  • Rich in NJ

    If there was any reasonable chance that Jeter’s prior ankle/foot injuries could predispose him to further injury, I hope that he was informed of the risk.

    • Zack

      I’m sure he has been. And I’m also sure it won’t keep him off the field.

      • Rich in NJ

        I don’t know how anyone not privy to the medical consultations can be sure.

        Obviously, Jeter will get back on the field. The questions are: when, and whether or not his range will be diminished any further as a result of the injury.

    • joey12508

      he has a cortizone shot. side effects of that is it stretches tissue and ligaments. hence easier to roll the ankle.

  • brian

    It’s not the fact that Mike overreacted to Jeter’s struggles and prematurely tried to bury him… lots of “fans” did that

    It’s that Mike still refuses to acknowledge (at least that I’ve seen) Jeter’s tremendous determination and fight.. and how valuable that is when the going gets tough

    Simply put, there are a lot of yankee fans who went out of their way to sh*t on Jeter’s ‘intangibles’ who feel pretty stupid right now

    • Cris Pengiucci

      I don’t read that at all in Mike’s articles. He’s mentioned many times how wrong he was about Jeter. Doesn’t matter if that’s due to Jeter’s “determination and fight” or his pure ability.

      • brian

        i disagree… jeter’s got plenty of pure ability but not as much as robinson cano… whose tougher though?

        • thenamestsam

          These guys get paid tens of millions of dollars to play baseball. They’re among the most coddled individuals on the planet. They have private chefs, private masseuses and private planes. Honestly I can’t imagine there are 50 people on this planet who are regularly called on to display less “toughness” than Derek Jeter. Talking about how “tough” a professional baseball player is makes you sound really silly.

          Also Cano misses less games every year than Jeter.

          • Yankee Fan 1

            well cano is 10 years younger so that’s kind of a silly argument

            • thenamestsam

              Age 29: Cano 161, Jeter 119
              Age 28: Cano 159, Jeter 157
              Age 27: Cano 160, Jeter 150
              Age 26: Cano 161, Jeter 148
              Age 25: Cano 159, Jeter 158
              Age 24: Cano 160, Jeter 149

          • Darren

            Someone sounds jealous. all the personal chefs and massages in the world dont make it easy to gou tand play hard every single day for 6 months. get off your high horse. Jeter’s tough

            • thenamestsam

              Jealous of Derek Jeter? Yes, obviously. I wish that I made 15M a year to play baseball. That would be awesome. Not totally sure what that has to do with anything though.

              Most of us go to work year round not only 6 months a year. And most people’s jobs aren’t playing a game. An easy game for that matter. Still not clear which part of that is supposed to require anything resembling “toughness”.

    • Rich in NJ

      I think any discussion of Jeter that focuses on “intangibles” diminishes his greatness because his career offensive stats are tangibly great for a SS.

      Anyway, I think it’s apparent that Mike appreciates Jeter’s remarkable career.

      • brian

        there are lot’s of players with tangibly great stats… heck we have some of them on this very team…

        Only one Derek Jeter!

        • Mike HC

          I’m with you. I think most Yankee fans appreciate the “intangibles” of his game, but there are plenty who think his only “intangibles” are that he got drafted by the Yanks, which I disagree with. Although that clearly played a big part in him getting the opportunities to prove how clutch and coldblooded he is.

          (Not referring to Mike here, although RAB in general was/is slightly more cool to Jeter than most I think).

          • Mike HC

            I will add that I used to beg to have anybody but Kabak write the Jeter articles. Ben seemed especially happy to needle Jeter fans.

    • Kevin

      Jeter’s stats were down for best part of 1,000 at bats, weren’t they? For an ageing shortstop, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to use that large a sample size to conclude that a career is winding up.

  • 0 for infinity and beyond

    You know the first words out of his mouth to Joe were “I’m good, I’m fine, I can keep playing.”

    • Anthony

      Actually, they were “Don’t carry me off the field…” Makes you respect his personality and tenacity even more!

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…(I believe that children are our future)

    If I told you that Jeter was pounding the ground in hysteria laughing at something (eg Arod passing ballz to Aussie models during a playoff game) you’d believe it.

  • Darren

    I take issue with the notion that Nunez is a serviceable shortstop. He just isn’t. And his inability to make the routine play perfectly highlights how Jeter’s steadiness in making every normal play is undervalued. UZR is a joke when it fails to recognize that there are many, many more routine plays that need to be made, than there are balls that a rangy shortstop can get to, that Jeter can’t.

    Jeter will be back on Opening Day, he will stil be the best shortstop on the team, and there will still be a whole host of foolish SABRlosers who don’t understand why Jeter is a great shortstop.

    • LK

      You realize that virtually every single one of those SABRlosers considers Jeter to be a futer Hall of Famer?

  • LarryM., Fl.

    I have no medical degree but believe the combination of injuries to the ankle were the cause of the ultimate fracture. You can mask problems with cortisone shots along with Jeter’s mindset on playing every night except days off. Playing shortstop on the ML level at 38 is a test which men in their early 20-30’s have trouble.

    I believe Jeter should not play more than 81 games at short sharing the remainder with Eduardo then during playoffs if we make it. Jeter would take over unless Eduardo proves that he belongs. I wouldn’t mind Jeter playing some third base. His skill set should handle the change rather easily. He catches everything hit at him. He comes in a baseball well.

    Just a thought on future use of Jeter.

  • Thunder Road Runner

    Need another option at SS next year, just in case!

  • Rocky Road Redemption

    NUNEZ as a serviceable option?

    I’ll believe that when he can routinely throw the ball to first base. Until then, not a chance.