Why the Yankees and Jeter should pray for a pulled hamstring

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.

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Comments

  1. bigcatasroma said...

    I could care less about the Yankeess, but I still don’t understand the aversion to moving him to CF, in the “other Brewer” model: the Yountization of the Cap’n.  Plus, you can move Melky to left, move Matsui to DH (where at least the power edge he has over Jeter won’t come into question), and all is solved.  There is historically, besides Yount, a track record of moving SS to CF, isn’t there?  I don’t see the problem w/ that move . . .

  2. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Yount was only 29 when he was moved to center, Jeter is 35.  Also (and someone please correct me if I’m wrong) I don’t think Yount had quite the range problems that Jeter has.

    Melky in left is a huge problem, though.  His bat can’t even carry center right now, and in left it would easily be the worst in baseball.

    And for the record, I don’t care much about this whole situation either.  I just like the idea of Jeter and the Yankees conspiring to make his inevitable defensive move politically palatable.  It’s so New York.

  3. Stephen Higdon said...

    “Something that will allow the Molitorization of Jeter to proceed without his legend being sullied.”

    That is an amazing sentence.

  4. Jason @ IIATMS said...

    You must be targeting me today, CC.

    A few things on this one:

    1) Jeter will play SS through the end of his contract, which ends after the 2010 season.  That’s only 2 years, believe it or not.

    2) Jeter has to want to return to the Yanks at a market value, not HISTORICAL value.  This is something the Yanks are really terrible at doing.  They go the extra year, the extra few million a year.  Witness Posada, Mo.  If Jeter wants a 5 year deal at $18m per, I’d wish him well and prepare for the onslaught.  This is the toughest part.  Jeter has to be self-aware enough to recognize that he’s entering the twilight of his career, not the peak years, and will be priced accordingly.

    3) Jeter needs to come to the leadership group and bring the idea of a position change to them, not the other way around (even if that’s the way it really happened).  Jeter needs to *look* like the Cap’n by putting the team first and saying all the right things.  Stuff he’s done so well all these years.  This is all about spin.  If it comes out looking like Jeter’s suggesting this, he will remain sainted and leadership will be spared.  If it comes out looking like Jeter’s getting pushed aside, well, hell hath no fury like a Jeter fan scorned.

    4) I’ve been saying for a while that there’s no reason he can’t be Yount v2.0.  He may lack that lateral range to be a shortstop, but he’s still fast enough and has a strong enough arm to man the OF.

    5) The Yanks have to decide if they go after an all-glove, no-bat replacement or are they OK with Jeter’s decline (afraid to face him and the heat).

    6) Where does the replacement come from?  Anyone internal or will they be drooling over the idea of Tulowitzki coming via trade by that point?  (remember that Tulo wears #2 as Jeter was his idol).

  5. Dan said...

    The only place Jeter should move to is center field.  Not sure why that idea hasn’t been floated around.  Jeter can still track down fly balls and has an above average arm.  Plus no one can argue that not he’s athletic enough to make a position move to the outfield.  Center is still an important enough position that it wouldn’t be a huge ego blow to the captain.  The only question is that who will replace Jeter at short..

  6. Jason @ IIATMS said...

    FWIW, here are Tulo’s contract values (taken from Cot’s Contract database):

    09: $0.75M
    10: $3.5M
    <——————(Jeter becomes a FA)
    11: $5.5M
    12: $8.5M
    13: $10M
    14: $15M club option ($2M buyout)

  7. Pete Toms said...

    Just to stir the pot, what about the impact on Jackson should Jeter move to CF?  Are you Yankee fans high on him?

  8. Soldier of Orange said...

    Yeah, we’re pretty high on A-Jax.

    Moving Jeter to center can’t happen because of his range. Moving Jeter to first can’t happen because of his bat and the same goes for DH. We’re stuck w/him at SS for at least the rest of his contract. Oh well.

  9. Jason @ IIATMS said...

    Pete, the Canadian Correspondant:

    The reports are pretty favorable about Austin Jackson.  But after too many highly-rated prospects failing to live up to those expectations, I think most of us will cross that bridge when we get to it.  Jackson might be in CF in 2010 anyways if all goes well!

    But after 2009, Matsui, Damon and Nady will be free agents with room to fill.

  10. Jason @ IIATMS said...

    Soldier of Orange (love that name, ‘Cuse fan?):

    Jeter’s range for a SS is different than his possible range for an OF.  he’s got those long legs and can cover ground on fly balls.  It’s the getting low to get the grounders that ruins him.

    Just my $0.02

  11. MooseinOhio said...

    Could one imagine a scenario where he just walks away at the end of his contract?  What does he really have to play for as he has championships, awards, money, enough data to make a claim to the HoF and a great reputation – is playing out another contract going to get him anything he doesn’t already have? 

    No experimenting with a new position, no taking a chance of not getting offered a contract befitting of his past accompishments (though appropriate for his current circumstance), no looking like a shadow of the great Willie Mays or anything else.  Going out on his own terms, with a positive image and the admiration of Yankee fans could be worth more than the monies he’ll never be able to spend that a next contract would bring.

  12. Jason @ IIATMS said...

    Moose,

    Since we’re both long time Shyster-readers, you’ll understand that I post part of a blog entry of my own here only because it’s directly relevant to this discussion.  Link-free.

    “I can see Jeter recognizing, after 2010, that it’s time for someone younger, more skilled to take over the SS position. I think he will not have to be forced to another position; I think he will sooner come to management with the suggestion than they will bring it to him. Frankly, I am guessing management is scared as hell to do anything that might rub the Cap’n the wrong way.

    There’s no shame in admitting you can’t do things the way you used to. Happens to everyone, except maybe Nolan Ryan. I am reluctant to call it “noble” for Jeter to recognize this and initiate the move, but it would be the right thing to do by the end of his contract. For a guy who has spent his entire career trying to do the right thing the right way, this seems the path that Jeter should take after 2010.

    Of course, unless Jeter is set on playing until he approaches 4,000 hits (he’s at 2,535 right now), he could very well decide to hang up the spikes in 2010, with enough money, accolades, accomplishments to last a lifetime. Would it be shocking for him to take the stance that some others have taken: When I can no longer play at the levels for which I am accustomed, it’s time for me to hang it up. Perhaps Jeter won’t want to hang around until they rip the jersey off his back. It’s more common in football, I think, with Tiki Barber and Barry Sanders most obviously and recently, to see guys simply pack it in before the precipitious decline that’s inevitable.

    For Jeter to approach 4k hits, using an easy average of 200 hits per year (career average: 206), he’d need to play at least another seven years. That’s five years after his contract expires. And, uh oh, using that average hits/year, Jeter will be thisclose to the immortalizing 3,000 by the time 2010 concludes. Can you see Jeter/Close walking into Hank & Hal and saying: “Jeter needs 85 hits to reach 3,000. Want him to do it in some other uniform in some other city?” Talk about pressure.”

  13. MooseinOhio said...

    Jason:  Haven’t had time to looks elsewhere as I actually need to earn my pay today but appreciate the free link and agree wholeheartedly with what you say.  I always find it interesting to hear the player comment about leaving as they have been a player their whole life and don’t know what else to do as ball players have careers that end, if your fortunate, in your 30s. 

    So that leave a whole lot of life to do something else and to me it is kind of sad when they have not starting to address the issue of what comes next till it is screaming in their face.  I think the Barry Sanders or Annika Sorenstams types who manage to find the balance earlier in life make the transition easier as their view of themselves is greater than just that of being an athlete.  Ahh – perspective and maturity – what wonderful traits to have.

  14. Brandon Isleib said...

    That one sentence re: Molitorization is awesome, but can we also give mad props for the best use of “hagiography” in a baseball blog for 2008?  You don’t see that one used everyday.

  15. Aaron said...

    I think people on the outside have been floating the CF idea for a few years. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. Jeter will finish out his contract at short, and then get some 1B/DH time to go with his Yankee legacy contract extension.

    I also don’t think Jeter will retire until his 40s. Sure, he has all the awards and rings and accolades, but why wouldn’t he want more? As a rule, people don’t turn down raises, and they always want more victories.

    An athlete without desire is a like a lawyer without OCD.

  16. Craig Calcaterra said...

    “An athlete without desire is a like a lawyer without OCD.”

    You mean on the brink of unemployment and wasting all of his time writing a baseball blog?

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