Archive for Derek Jeter
While talking with reporters yesterday, Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees do not have any interest in Dan Uggla. The Braves gave Uggla his unconditional release yesterday even though there is roughly $19M left on his contract. “I don’t see where he’d fit, to be honest,” said the GM to Bryan Hoch.
Uggla, 34, hit .162/.241/.231 (35 wRC+) with two homers in 145 plate appearances before his release. He’s put up a .175/.295/.332 (79 wRC+) line in 682 plate appearances over the last two years. Uggla doesn’t even hit left-handers at this point (60 wRC+ from 2013-14) and he’s a bad defender with no versatility (hasn’t play anywhere other than second in a decade). He’s an unrosterable player. He brings nothing to the table other than name value. Next.
With an assist to leadoff hitter and Yankees captain Derek Jeter, the American League beat the National League by the score of 5-3 in the 2014 All-Star Game on Tuesday night. The AL will have home field advantage in the World Series this fall, which will be helpful after the Yankees make their huge second half surge and secure a postseason spot.
Jeter received the loudest ovations of the night, both during pre-game introductions and before each at-bat. He was pulled after taking the field in the fourth inning and was cheered as he exited to the dugout, eventually coming out for the curtain call. It was a pretty cool moment. Jeter went 2-for-2 with a double off Adam Wainwright in the first and a single off Alfredo Simon in the third, both to the opposite field (of course). He scored the game’s first run on Mike Trout’s triple. Trout was eventually named MVP. I thought Jeter would get it.
Following the game — or really in the middle of it — Wainwright created some controversy by saying he grooved a pitch to Jeter in his first at-bat. He eventually backtracked and said he misspoke, but whatever. It’s not the first time a pitcher has grooved a pitch to a legend in an All-Star Game, see Chan Ho Park and Cal Ripken Jr. Don’t forget Ian Kinsler’s weak attempt to field a Chipper Jones ground ball during the 2012 Midsummer Classic, allowing it to scoot by for a hit. Who cares. Grooved pitch or not, it was an awesome night for Jeter.
Dellin Betances did not pitch in the game and as far as I know he did not even warm up. Disappointing but I’m fine with it. He could use the rest. Masahiro Tanaka, the team’s third All-Star, was not in Minnesota because he is receiving treatment for his partially torn elbow ligament. What a sad sentence. Here is the box score, if you’re looking for it. There is no Major League Baseball at all these next two days. Everything returns to normal on Friday, when the Reds come to the Bronx for a three-game weekend set.
Even though it is not really the halfway point of the season, there is no better time to review the first half than the All-Star break. This week we’ll hand out some simple and straightforward grades, A through F, for the catchers, infielders, outfielders, rotation, and bullpen. These grades are totally subjective. We started yesterday with the catchers, now let’s move on to the infielders.
There were a lot of questions about the infield coming into the season in general, but especially Teixeira. The Yankees’ first baseman missed almost all of last season due to a tendon sheath injury in his wrist that eventually required surgery, and wrist surgery can be very problematic even after the player has been cleared to play. Remember, Teixeira started Spring Training late and has still felt soreness during the season. It has caused him to miss a game or two here and there. (His only DL stint was hamstring related.)
Despite that, Teixeira has been the team’s most consistent and productive power hitter this summer, coming into the All-Star break with a .241/.341/.464 (120 wRC+) batting line with a team-leading 17 homers. His power output (.222 ISO) is right in line with his last full healthy season (.224 ISO in 2012), which is definitely encouraging after the wrist surgery. Most importantly, he’s done most of his damage against right-handed pitchers (130 wRC+), who used to give him the most trouble. Is he Teixeira of old? No, of course not. That guy isn’t coming back. But he’s returned to his pre-surgery ways and been a much-needed force in the middle of the lineup.
Weirdly enough, the biggest issue for Teixeira this season has been his defense. He’s already committed six errors this season, his most since 2004, and while errors are not the best way to evaluate defense, most of them were plays we’re used to seeing Teixeira make. I think his scooping at first has been fine. It’s the hard-hit balls he used to turn into outs that are now eating him up. I think it’s a combination of rust from the lost 2013 season and a decline in his skills. Either way, Teixeira has definitely been a positive for the Yankees this year, especially when you consider he’s coming off major surgery.
Brian Roberts — Grade C
There was no way the Yankees were not going to have a massive drop off in production at second base this year. Robinson Cano was the best player at the position last year and has been for several years running, so by definition he is irreplaceable. Roberts was not exactly a popular choice as Cano’s replacement given his long injury history and the fact that he wasn’t all that productive even when healthy ways. The Yankees love veterans though, especially AL East proven guys.
Roberts has remained remarkably healthy so far this year — he missed a handful of games with a back issue in April, but that’s it — while being more than a total zero at the plate. His .241/.306/.376 (87 wRC+) batting line comes with the occasional homer (five), the occasional stolen bases (seven), the occasional walk (8.4%), and always a very long at-bat (4.04 pitches per plate appearance). Roberts has been fine defensively at second if not an asset. He’s a perfectly capable stopgap and No. 9 hitter who has been asked to bear more responsibility. Will Roberts hit a wall later in the year after not playing a full season since 2009? I have a hard time thinking his second half will be better than his first, honestly.
Derek Jeter — Grade C
Like Teixeira, Jeter was coming off a major injury. He missed just about all of last season with a series of leg problems, including a twice-fractured ankle. Add in the fact that he is a 39-year-old shortstop — a demographic that is not well-represented throughout history — and things were definitely stacked against the Cap’n coming into 2014.
Jeter’s season has been underwhelming statistically but I don’t it’s worst case scenario stuff. Like I said, a 39-year-old shortstop coming off a major leg injury could have been really, really ugly. Jeter is hitting .272/.324/.322 (80 wRC+) overall, so his power is non-existent, but he does rank third among qualified AL shortstops in OBP and is only five points away from leading. Is it vintage Jeter? Absolutely not. But relative to the league average shortstop (.308 OBP and 87 wRC+), he’s been passable.
Defensive is another matter. Jeter’s glovework has never been good and at this point he’s barely mobile. The old “he makes the plays on the balls he gets to” rhetoric doesn’t even apply anymore. He’s booted more grounders and made more offline throws this season than I can ever remember. Inside Edge data says he has converted only 46.2% of “likely” plays into outs, which are defined as plays that would be make 60-90% of the time on average. He hasn’t make anything tougher than an “even” play (40-60%) either. It’s been ugly.
The total package, offense plus defense, has not been good for the Yankees this year. At the same time, I’m generously giving Jeter a C instead of a D or F because he has played better than I expected coming off the ankle injury at his age. Maybe I’m just a giant homer. The Cap’n has not been good this season though, certainly not by his standards, but it could have been much worse given everything that happened last year.
Kelly Johnson — Grade D
The Yankees have put Johnson in a tough spot for most of the year — playing once or twice a week, usually at an unfamiliar position like first or third base — but, at the same time, he knew what he was walking into when he signed as a free agent over the winter. He has hit .214/.299/.380 (87 wRC+) with six homers in 211 plate appearances, including a disappointing 83 wRC+ against righties and an even more disappointing 87 wRC+ at Yankee Stadium. Five of his six long balls have come in the Bronx.
Johnson’s defense has been a problem, though again, he has mostly played out of position — he came into the season with only 18 innings at first base and 118 innings at third base. He has spent 199.2 innings at first and 255.1 innings at third this year, committing nine total errors and not looking particularly graceful either. Johnson was a shrewd signing and a wonderful fit for the roster on paper — left-handed hitter with power who can play the three non-shortstop infield positions as well as left field — but it just hasn’t worked out halfway through the season.
Yangervis Solarte — Grade B
Man those first eight or so weeks were fun, weren’t they? I like to think I’m well-versed in the minor leagues but even I had not heard of Solarte before the Yankees signed him as a minor league free agent over the winter. It goes without saying that no one expected to take over as the starting third baseman for the first eight weeks of the season, during which he hit .299/.368/.458 (128 wRC+) in 229 plate appearances. Solarte was a godsend for a beleaguered offense.
The Solarte Partay came to crashing halt after that, unfortunately. He has hit .111/.238/.130 (10 wRC+!) in 63 plate appearances since, earning him a demotion to Triple-A Scranton. Yangervis has owns a .255/.338/.382 (101 wRC+) line in 288 trips to the plate overall and holy crap, no one expected that. Even if he never hits again, those first eight weeks made the signing more than worth it. That’s even considering Solarte’s occasionally shaky defense. He was a great story and a tremendously productive player into early-June. His days as a useful MLB player may have already come to an end, but boy did Solarte contribute in a big way when given an opportunity early this season.
Brendan Ryan — Grade C
Giving Ryan two years plus a player option this past offseason definitely flies under the radar as a lolwtf offseason move. I mean, yeah, I get it. Jeter was a major question mark, but geez. Ryan spent the first five weeks of the season on the disabled list with a back injury, and he’s nothing more than a no-bat (.235/.273/.255, 43 wRC+ in 55 PA), good but no longer elite glove infielder who plays maybe once a week. It’s far from the best use of the roster spot, but the Yankees are stuck with him. It’s just a weird fit. Even weirder are all those times Ryan played first base while Jeter manned short. He’s fine as the 24th man on the roster. Just a pricey and not at all versatile (in terms of bringing different things to the table) insurance policy for Jeter in his final season.
These three guys have combined for 61 total plate appearances — Anna has the most at 25 — and have hit a combined .232/.246/.438. Most of the power production comes from Wheeler, who has hit two homers in his 20 plate appearances. He is currently with the team in that revolving door 25th man spot while Sizemore is stashed in Triple-A awaiting an injury. Anna has already been designated for assignment (to make room on the roster for Zelous) and claimed off waivers from the Pirates. I wonder how many more guys will cycle through this role in the second half.
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There were some serious concerns about the infield coming into the season. Teixeira and Jeter were huge question marks following their injuries and the same was true of Roberts given his history. Johnson was the sure thing on the infield at the start of camp. The defense has been hideous — Yankees’ pitchers have a .258 BABIP on ground balls, the seventh highest in baseball (league average is .244), and even more grounders would sneak through for hits if not for the club’s aggressive shifting — and that was fairly predictable.
The infield has, by and large, been more productive than I expected, mostly because Solarte was awesome for a while and Teixeira has shown no lingering issues with the wrist when it comes to raw production. Roberts is the new Lyle Overbay — the best of all the bad players and therefore giving off the appearance of being good — and Jeter’s Jeter. He’s untouchable. The Yankees have some internal options who may improve the infield, namely Triple-A Scranton second baseman Rob Refsnyder, but either way it’s clear they could use some help in the second half. Beefing up third base is an obvious upgrade area.
Nike, one of Derek Jeter‘s long-time sponsors, put out a new commercial with fans, celebrities, and athletes paying tribute to the Yankees captain:
As expected, Derek Jeter has been voted in as the starting shortstop for the AL All-Star team by the fans. His double play partner will be Robinson Cano. Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances will also represent the Yankees at the Midsummer Classic. The full All-Star Game rosters are right here.
Jeter will be playing in his 14th All-Star Game and starting at short for the ninth time. His performance this year doesn’t really warrant the selection, but he’s a star of the first order and fans want to see him in the All-Star Game in his final season. That’s what the All-Star Game is all about in my opinion. Tanaka and Betances are obviously very deserving of their selections. They will be the first Yankees rookie pitchers to make the game since Spec Shea in 1947. Congrats to all three guys.
Via Zach Braziller: Derek Jeter said he wants to own a Major League team when his playing days are over, and he intends to start gauging interest after the season. “That’s the next goal, buddy. Calling the shots, not answering to someone, that’s what interests me,” said the Cap’n. “I’d like to think I would be good one. I’d probably be a little bit more behind the scenes than the Boss, but I learned a lot of things from the Boss.”
I could totally see the Steinbrenners letting Jeter buy into the Yankees. Can’t you? He could be for the team what Magic Johnson is for the Dodgers, that local megastar who is the face of the ownership group despite having a relatively small stake in the team. At least that’s what he could be at first. Jeter’s star power is unmatched in baseball, but he’s a smart guy, he knows staying in New York is best for him. The Yankees and Derek Jeter were made for each other. Him owning a piece of the team makes too much sense.
MLB released the first update of the All-Star fan voting this afternoon, and both Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury are among the top vote-getters at their positions. Jeter has received the third most votes overall behind Mike Trout and Jose Bautista, and the gap between him and the next highest shortstop (Alexei Ramirez) is the largest gap between first and second place at any position. Barring injury, Jeter will start the All-Star Game. I’m sure of it.
Ellsbury is a distant third to Trout and Bautista among outfielders. Carlos Beltran is fourth and not all that far behind Ellsbury while Brett Gardner is further down in 11th place. Mark Teixeira is fifth among first baseman, Alfonso Soriano is fourth among designated hitters, and Brian McCann is second among catchers. Along with Jeter, Ellsbury, Trout, and Bautista, the current voting leaders are Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Josh Donaldson, David Ortiz, and Matt Wieters. The current voting results are right here. Voting ends at midnight on July 3rd. Here’s the ballot.
Big mailbag this week. Ten questions, so I tried my best to keep the answers short. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything and everything at anytime.
Daniel asks: I know the whole spiel about him being a smart, patient hitter with postseason experience and success as a clutch hitter. But, are you honestly at all worried about the way Carlos Beltran has looked thus far? This is year one.
I’m not worried yet, but I would be lying if I said Beltran’s age and the potential for a rapid decline wasn’t in the back of my mind. His slump can be traced almost exactly to the day he flipped over the wall in Tampa. He went into that game hitting .327/.368/.673 (176 wRC+) in 57 plate appearances, flipped over the wall, sat out a game after having an MRI on his shoulder and wrist (came back clean), and has hit .172/.229/.266 (33 wRC+) in 70 plate appearances since. Maybe the fall fouled him up and his shoulder isn’t 100% even though there’s no structural damage. At least then we’d have an explanation for the slump. I’m not worried yet but I am monitoring the situation. That’s probably the best way to put it.
Uke asks: Assuming the Yankees let Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano walk after this season and make Beltran the semi-permanent DH, who could take over the RF AB’s? Do Adonis Garcia and Ramon Flores have a role on this team next year?
These are the Yankees, so we can’t rule out a free agent signing as Plan A. This offseason’s crop of free agent outfielders includes Melky Cabrera, Seth Smith, Colby Rasmus, Norichika Aoki, Nelson Cruz, Michael Cuddyer, and Nate Schierholtz, among others. I don’t think re-signing Soriano will be off the table either. Among internal candidates, I would think Zoilo Almonte is first in line for regular playing time. Slade Heathcott and maybe Tyler Austin could be factors if they get healthy, stay healthy, and play well the rest of the season. Flores has been dynamite in Triple-A — it’s interesting he’s spending time at first base again, they might be letting him get re-familiar with the position before a potential big league role later this year — and he’d be in the mix as well. I’m not really buying Garcia as an MLB option, but that’s just my opinion. Because we’re talking about the Yankees, I’d bet on those right field at-bats going to player acquired from outside the organization.
Anthony asks: Do you think that the Yankees would ever demote CC Sabathia to the bullpen if he continues to struggle? Mike Mussina, borderline Hall of Famer, was once demoted to the bullpen in an effort to figure stuff out. If Sabathia continues to pitch poorly, is it crazy to think he could be in the bullpen for a week or two?
I do think they would send Sabathia to the bullpen — Mussina got clobbered in three straight starts (20 runs in 9.2 combined) and was sent to the bullpen for exactly one appearance before rejoining the rotation back in late-August/early-September in 2007 — but I don’t think they’re there yet, not even after last season. For starters, they don’t really have anyone to take his rotation spot right now. They’d have to wait until Michael Pineda returns. Sabathia’s also four years younger than Moose was in 2007 and I think there’s less of a “holy cow he might be done forever” panic. I think we might see him skip a start first, then a stint in the bullpen. Sabathia’s made adjustments and has had stretches when he’s looked pretty damn good this year (usually four or five innings within a game), but nothing seems to be working.
Shep asks: If you had to pick one player on an MLB roster to be a player-manager, now or in the future, who would it be?
Pete Rose was the last player-manager (1984-86 Reds) and I don’t think we’ll ever seen another one again. There’s too much that goes into managing these days between running Spring Training, keeping tabs on workloads, looking up splits, shift data, the whole nine. Doing all of that and preparing to play seems like too much for one person, even with an excellent coaching staff. That said, if I had to pick someone to do it today, I’d probably go with Yadier Molina. That is based on nothing in particular, he just seems like a good candidate. Justin Verlander maybe? A starting pitcher-manager might work best since he’s sitting on the bench doing nothing four out of every five games anyway. I could maybe see the Mets trying it with David Wright. Maybe. Fun to think about.
Kristofer asks: Given both the uncertainty of the 3B position in the years to come and the fact that the Yankees are willing to extend big money to international players still in their 20s, is Jeong Choi a possibility for them this offseason? How does he project?
Choi, 27, was recently dubbed the “David Wright of Korea,” and Jon Heyman reported that he intends to come to MLB as a free agent next year. No posting system nonsense or anything, he’s a true free agent. Choi is hitting only .268/.343/.383 with three homers in 32 games this season, but it’s early and last year he put up a .316/.429/.551 batting line with 28 homers. He’s hit along those lines since 2010. Keith Law was on our podcast recently and said he heard the David Wright comparisons aren’t accurate at all, and that Choi is more of a utility infielder than anything in MLB. That’s just one opinion and it’s pretty much all we have on the guy. I do think the Yankees will check in on him just because he plays a position of need, but I would expect them to target a known quantity (Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, etc.) if they’re going to drop decent money on help at the hot corner.
Joe asks: Which prospect has come from nowhere to turn heads so far this year?
I don’t think the Yankees have had one of those guys this year, someone like 2006 Edwar Ramirez or 2008 Al Aceves, who just showed up in a box score one day and dominated right away. 1B Mike Ford with Low-A Charleston might fit the bill. He was an undrafted free agent out of Princeton and is hitting .327/.400/.475 so far. Maybe RHP Jaron Long, hitting coach Kevin Long’s son? He’s got a 3.33 ERA (2.61 FIP) with a 20/5 K/BB in 24.1 innings for the River Dogs this year. He’ll probably wind up with High-A Tampa later this year after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State.
nycsportzfan asks: Hey Mike, was wondering what kinda heater Tyler Webb has, and who has more promise between Webb and Dietrich Enns?
Enns, the team’s 19th round pick in 2012, had that ridiculous first half with Low-A Charleston last season (0.61 ERA and 1.52 FIP in 44.1 innings) before coming back to Earth in the second half, and he’s a low-90s fastball guy with both a curveball and a changeup. Webb has been solid since being the club’s tenth rounder last year, pitching to a 3.62 ERA (~2.25 FIP) in 49.2 innings. He’s another low-90s guy with a slider, plus he supposedly hides the ball well with his delivery. I’m not sure who has more potential between the two — they are both fringy prospects, to be sure — but I think Webb’s two-pitch mix might help him get to the show as a lefty specialist.
Jack asks: Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody, Danny Burawa, Mark Montgomery, Diego Moreno, Branden Pinder. Can you offer your assessment of any of them ever making any significant impact (to the extent that a reliever is able) in the bigs? They all seem to be pretty good prospects (and actually putting up good numbers).
Moreno’s not a prospect. He’ll turn 27 in July and is a pure arm strength guy. The other guys are prospects and you could almost pick names out a hat if you want to rank them. Montgomery’s prospect shine has dimmed following last year’s shoulder trouble, and of course Goody just came back from Tommy John surgery. Burawa has had some non-arm injuries and probably has the nastiest pure stuff of the group — he was pumping 97-98 with a 90 mph slider in camp — though Montgomery’s slider is the best individual pitch, if that makes sense. Rumbelow has mid-90s heat and a good curveball, and so far this year he has 18 strikeouts in nine innings with Low-A Charleston. Pinder’s a fastball/slider pitcher who lags behind the other non-Moreno guys for me. Goody, Burawa, Montgomery, and Rumbelow can definitely be late-inning relievers at the MLB level if everything comes together. They’re not quite what David Robertson was during his prospect days but they’re not far off either.
Drew asks: When was the last time that Derek Jeter batted not in a top 3 lineup spot? Rookie season? Mid-90s?
The last time Jeter started a game in a lineup spot lower than third was July 10th, 1999, when he batted cleanup against the Mets. Here’s the box score. That was a one-game thing. He batted third or higher every other game that season. Before that, you have to go back to the second to last game of the 1997 season, when he batted seventh. Here’s that box score. And finally, the last time Jeter started a game as a nine-hole hitter was the final game of the 1996 season. Here is that box score. My hunch is no, we won’t see Jeter bat lower than third this season.
Liz asks: Given Jeter’s retirement at the end of the season, who do you see stepping in (and up) to fill the Captain’s shoes?
Do you mean the next captain of the team? The Yankees went eight years between Don Mattingly’s retirement and naming Jeter captain, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there was a similar (or even longer) wait this time. I don’t see an obvious captain on the roster right now — what the hell do I know about what goes on in the clubhouse anyway? — and that’s not a knock on the guys on the roster. I just don’t think the Yankees will rush into naming another captain. They’ll want it to be someone who will be around for a while and I’m sure they’re prefer a homegrown player. That’s not a must, just a preference. My bold next captain prediction: John Ryan Murphy. Boom.
The Yankees have lost four of their last five games and seem to find a new way to give away a game each night. Last night it was the usually excellent bullpen walking five (!) straight hitters with two outs, the last three to force in runs. It was pretty ugly and a new low in a week that has been full of new lows. It’s hard to look much worse than the Yankees have these last few days.
One constant through the recent five-game stretch has been the complete inability to capitalize on run-scoring chances. I don’t have the energy to go back and look at how many times they have had men in scoring position with less than two outs and failed to generate even one run. Last night they had the bases loaded with no outs in the eighth inning of a tie game and didn’t score at all. A strikeout and a double play sent them back to the dugout empty handed.
The double play ball came off the bat of Derek Jeter, who has always had a knack for the unfortunately timed twin-killing. Even when he was at his absolute peak, he was always banging into double plays at inopportune times. It was pretty much his only flaw offensively. Last night’s rally killer capped off a solid 2-for-4 night for the Cap’n, a night that raised his season batting line to an unsightly .250/.318/.290 (71 wRC+). I swear, it felt like just a few days ago that he had a .380+ OBP. Things change in a hurry this time of the year.
Now, obviously there is lot to consider with Jeter. He will soon turn 40 and the history of shortstops that age is basically nonexistent. Jeter is very much unique in that regard. He also missed just about all of last season with some major leg injuries, so timing and rust could be an issue. Maybe he’s worn down already. Jeter has not spent a single game at DH and has played shortstop almost every single day this year. It could just be an early season slump, which happens to everyone at some point. One good week and he’d be back up to 100 wRC+ before you know it.
The facts are the facts though. There are 186 hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title right now and Jeter ranks 160th with that 71 wRC+. His .040 ISO ranks 185th, better than only Ben Revere (.036), who hasn’t hit a homerun since he was in Triple-A in 2011. Among players with at least 50 at-bats, he has seen the highest percentage of fastballs according to Baseball Savant. The Rays are arguably the most well-prepared team in the game, and this past weekend they threw Jeter 31 fastballs out of 38 total pitches. They know he can’t handle the heat anymore, so they exploited that weakness. Jeter went 0-for-11 in the series and killed two rallies in the 14-inning game on Friday.
Jeter doubled down the left field line last night and it was only his fourth extra-base hit of the season. All four are doubles — one legit blast off the wall, one legit blast to the warning track that hopped over the fence, and two ground balls down the line. He was almost thrown out at second on one. Here’s a GIF if you don’t believe me. Jeter has not been able to drive the ball with any authority, at least not consistently. He’s also been terrible on defense, but that’s nothing new at this point. The Cap’n has become an all-around liability.
So, where do the Yankees go from here? The easy answer is to drop Jeter in the lineup. Joe Girardi told Dan Barbarisi he has not yet considered it — “We address our lineup every day, but I haven’t yet. He’s not the only guy struggling,” he said — which is no surprise. Jeter never moved down in the lineup when he struggled through the 2010 season (93 wRC+) and it just feels like it is too early in the season for the team to consider that. Remember how long it took them to de-emphasize Jorge Posada in 2011? Posada actually hit worse than Jeter early that season and, as good as he was, he didn’t have nearly as much clout in the organization. Dropping Jeter to eighth or ninth does not seem imminent.
“There are other guys that are struggling in our lineup and we still put them fourth, fifth, third. We’re still doing that. I think it’s somewhat early to do that,” said Girardi while acknowledging “Derek is pretty easy to talk to. I’ve shared ideas with him before about things that I possibly might do and it’s never been a problem. Derek is about winning. Derek is probably going to tell you, ‘If you think that’s the best thing to do, then do it.’”
This whole mess would be easier if Jeter just volunteered to move lower in the order or into a reduced role like, say, Paul Konerko did over the winter, but I have a hard time seeing that regardless of Girardi’s comments. Jeter has too much pride and the Yankees have always catered to him — remember the raise they gave him this past winter? — and, in his mind, he’s still a world class player. Athletes are never good at admitting when their skills are no longer what they once were. At the same time, Girardi recently said he “wasn’t hired to put on a farewell tour,” and that winning comes first. Well, aren’t we at the point where batting Jeter so high in the lineup and playing him every single day is not giving the team the best possible chance to win? It sure feels that way.
Jeter is not the first aging former superstar to scuffle through a poor final season. I’ll never forget Cal Ripken Jr. dragging himself out onto the field to hit .239 with a 70 OPS+ his final season. He also spent most of that year batting seventh, not occupying a prime lineup spot like he had most of his career. Jeter is an all-time great player and maybe the best Yankee many of us will see in our lifetimes. That has earned him a lot of leeway — I thought he was done before 2012 and he sure proved me wrong — but the team needs to be honest with itself and trust what they’re seeing. He can’t catch up to a fastball, he isn’t hitting the ball with authority, and he isn’t making even the routine plays in the field anymore. The end of a star’s career is almost always messy, but the sooner the Yankees understand and accept they are a better team with Jeter playing a lesser role, the better off they’ll be.