Rob Neyer throws cold water all over the notion of Derek Jeter one day moving to second base, and I’m right behind him in the fire brigade. Jeter has a good arm and no range. That’s exactly the opposite of your typical second baseman profile, isn’t it?
But what do you do with the Captain?
My view is that moving him to any other position apart from maybe third base is destined to fail (see, Jones, Chipper), and the Yankees already have a third baseman. And no, you don’t want to do the switcheroo either, because the only thing worse than trying to retrain one 30+ infielder is to retrain two of them. It’s been a long time since A-Rod played short, and moving him back there doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. What does make sense, however, is making Jeter the DH and hoping against hope that he becomes Paul Molitor.
Not that it will be easy. For one thing it will be a big ego blow to Jeter to have the glove taken from him, and if Jeter’s ego is in jeopardy, the Yankees had best watch out, because no one knows how to play the New York PR game better than Jeter. By the time the leaks, counterleaks, and strategic misinformation campaigns were over, people would be burning the Steinbrenners and Girardi in effigy and holding candlelight vigils for Jeter’s defensive legacy.
The second problem is that Jeter might not, you know, hit enough to be a useful DH. If you’re the Yankees, I say you just take a chance on the second problem, because if Jeter isn’t hitting, the whole drama will play itself out naturally.
As for the first problem, the only thing that will solve it is an injury. Not a major injury, mind you, but something nagging and chronic that will allow both the Yankees and Jeter to portray the move as one of career-prolonging necessity rather than having it be about hiding his glove. Maybe a hamstring. Or an oblique. Something that guys routinely come back from a bit slower but no worse for wear. Something that will allow the erroneous yet somehow still popular opinion of Jeter-as-defensive-wizard to be preserved for all time, yet that will force his non-existant move to the left and malpracticing Rawlings off the dirt forever. Something that will allow the Molitorization of Jeter to proceed without his legend being sullied.
Of course, now that I think about it, I can’t really condone a call for anyone to be injured for the sake of political expediency. Best bet: the Yankees and Jeter should fake the injury. That way they can work on the talking points and hagiography ahead of time. I suggest that a meeting to discuss this scenario be scheduled for approximately one day after the Yankees are eliminated from the playoffs in 2009.