Whenever Derek Jeter talks, someone is around to record his musings. It’s as though his inner monologue makes it to the press everyday. From the weekend: Derek Jeter supports blood testing for MLB players and also wants to play in 2009’s World Baseball Classic. Check back tomorrow when Jeter wonders what he wants for dinner and if he’s in the mood for There Will Be Blood or some lighter movie fare.
As Cal Ripken neared the twilight years of his Big League career, he grew to recognize his defensive limitations. A career short stop, in 1996, during his age 35 season, he played a handful of games at third base before moving there permanently the next season. He moved over with the recognition that 23-year-olds are better equipped to handle the demands of short stop than 36-year-olds.
In the Bronx, the Yanks’ short stop will soon undergo similar growing pains. Derek Jeter has played 13 years at short, and during an injury-plagued 2007, it seemed that he had lost a bit from his already slow first step. The rumblings, as we’ve discussed over the last few days, for Jeter to move from short have grown louder over the last few seasons.
Derek, however, will have none of that talk quite yet. As Mark Feinsand from the Daily News reports, Derek wants to stick it out at short:
he plans on playing shortstop through the final three years of his current contract, and on remaining there for however many years he plays beyond 2010.
“That’s the plan,” Jeter said. “I haven’t really thought about how long I’m playing. I take it one year at a time; I don’t sit down and say, ‘Well, I hope I’m playing in two-thousand whatever.’ It’s a tough question, because I haven’t really thought about it much.”
Could Jeter, who has been named to eight American League All-Star teams in his 12 big-league seasons – four as the league’s starting shortstop – ever see himself playing another position?
“Right now?” Jeter said, “No.”
Now, Yankee fans will be up in arms over Jeter’s quotes. “He’s being selfish,” they’ll say. It’s not for the good of the team for him to stick it out at short.
But that’s just silly. No baseball player will ever admit to the media that they’re losing a step or two at their natural position. No one will say that age is catching up to them, that they’re slowing down and that, yeah, they probably shouldn’t be playing short stop. It just doesn’t happen.
Right now, the Yanks need Derek Jeter as short stop. While people can fantasize about A-Rod’s moving back to short, in reality, he hasn’t played there in 2003, and there’s no guarantee that he would still be a solid short stop.
When the time comes, I believe Derek will take a page from the Cal Ripken book and recognize when it’s time to move from the demands of short. It’s not going to happen yet, but it will.
In his latest blog post, Olney offers up a tidbit on our topic du jour, Derek Jeter:
Heard this: Derek Jeter spent the offseason working on improving his first step, making it more explosive. He looks strong and maybe this will help his offense, but the greatest practical impact may be on his defense. Jeter, who turns 34 this summer, has reached the stage of his career where he will be evaluated year to year at shortstop, and if he regresses from how he played the position last year, he may well be asked to move, to first base or the outfield. Personally, I think he would be better suited at first base than in the outfield, whenever he makes a move off shortstop, and could become an excellent first baseman.
Interesting assessment from someone who’s seen Jeter play over the years.
I sense a turning tide of public opinion in Yankee-land. Derek Jeter, the All Star short stop, the long-time heart and soul of the Yankees, seems to be losing the fans. Sure, the ladies still love him, but that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?
It started a few weeks ago with a post on PeteAbe’s blog. In a Spring Training rundown, Abraham presented twenty pressing topics for the Yankees. Ending the list was a question: Is Derek Jeter still Derek Jeter?
With those six simple words, Abraham broke the Derek Jeter barrier. Are Yankee fans, many wondered, now allowed to criticize New York’s golden boy? Can we dump on the Captain? Apparently, the answers to those questions came out as yes.
Over the last few weeks, Yankee fans commenting on various blogs have been more vocal than usual about their skepticism toward Derek Jeter. With Number 2 set to rake in $20 million this year, fans are wondering if, after a supposed down year, Jeter is really worth it anymore. And now, with the whole brouhaha over his fielding — something I’m not touching with a ten-foot pole right now — and his penchant for landing more headlines on Page Six than on the back pages of the sports, Yankee fans are voicing concerns.
Let’s step back from the ledge, though, and look at Derek Jeter. First, the numbers: In 2007, Derek hit .322 with a .388 OPB and a .452 SLG. And those are supposed to be his down-year numbers. What fans are forgetting is that in 2006, Jeter turned in an MVP-caliber season when he hit .343/.417/.483 with 34 stolen bases and 118 runs scored. While his slugging dipped below his career average in 2007, by all accounts, Jeter had another fantastic season.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, Ken Rosenthal speculated that Jeter has something of a shot at Pete Rose’s hit record. While that shot is rather miniscule, Jeter, who turns 34 this season, is sitting on 2356 hits. I’d say that he has a very good shot to end his career in the top ten all time hits leaders and possibly even in the top five. That’s not too shabby.
Some people critical of Jeter point to his numbers last year in clutch situations. He was just three for 17 in the ALCS, and those numbers tend to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths over the off-season. With runners in scoring position in 2007, he hit .354/.426/.456. With the bases loaded he hit .500/.538/.583 and drove in 12 runs in 13 plate appearances. Who’s complaining now?
On the other side of the ball are those critical of his Page Six activities. They’d rather see Derek focusing on baseball instead of women. To them, I simply offer up the defense that Derek is human, and he’s only young once. Cut him some slack.
Where I think the criticisms have long been valid however are in talking about his role as the Yankee captain. Derek Jeter is one of the more bland figures to serve as captain, and I don’t think he’s done much of anything to warrant the role. As the anointed leader of the team, he offers up fairly routine material to the media and doesn’t seem too willing to put his neck on the line. On the field, he is a stellar player and the perfect example of hustle, a key trait in teaching young kids to play.
But it seems more and more that this team on the field belongs to the guy who brings more fire to his play: Jorge Posada. It may just be a matter of observation, and it may not matter because Jeter and Posada are close friends both on and off the team. But to me, it seems like the rest of the team takes its cue more from Jorge than from Derek.
In the end, those are simply small beans. Derek Jeter is still without a doubt a prolific offensive short stop and a great Yankee. If fans can’t see that forest for the trees, then maybe they’re simply being too pessimistic about the whole thing.
Is it just me, or has the first few days of Spring Training set the expectations for the Yankees rather high? Sure, many of us can see through the media spin on the events of the past week or so. But even at that point, we’re seeing players do things, rather than just saying them. It’s a careful balance that the Yankees have executed perfectly so far. And I have to say, it has me more excited about this season than I have been in any year I can remember — though I’m fairly certain I say that every year.
First, we heard about the pitchers who showed up early. Joba, Phil, and IPK in particular were there before they required to, which is always reassuring. We also heard about Shelley Duncan showing up to work on his first base skills with Tino Martinez. And, Cap’n Jetes was there early, too. But he resides in Tampa, so it only makes sense for him to be around.
Then we heard about Brian Bruney losing weight. Good news, for sure. If anything, it shows that he’s at least a bit motivated. It’s certainly better than him showing up in the same physical shape as last year, and spouting off lines about his determination to make the team. PeteAbe also noted that Mike Mussina checked in lighter, which spoke to his off-season conditioning. We also heard about Kyle Farnsworth being less bulky, but then it was revealed that he dealt with a rather nasty staph infection last month.
Back in November, we noted that Derek Jeter and the City of New York were fighting over taxes. Today, the Daily News tells us that Jeter and the City have reached a secret settlement. That’s the whole news though; no one knows what the terms of the deal are. So that’s that.