The decision by New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi to cut Derek Jeter‘s rehab stint in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre short made sense to them. He is one of the greatest hitters and leaders of all-time, and the team desperately needs him to aid their injury-riddled and abysmal offense to erase a six-game deficit behind the Boston Red Sox.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, Cashman and Girardi got carried away out of desperation. They forgot that Jeter is 39, not 29, and that players at that advanced age usually cannot be expected to play a full nine-inning game after not playing a full nine-inning game in Triple-A. They wanted Jeter to be the warrior he has always been, a guy who fights through tremendous pain and answers the bell whenever he is needed.
Sadly, his comeback after breaking his ankle in Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS has been shut down after one game. Playing as the DH, Jeter suffered a Grade 1 strain in his quad. He will not play in any more games before the All-Star Break, and it is definitely possible that he lands back on the disabled list.
Girardi and Cashman will not want to blame Jeter’s advanced age for him pulling up lame after busting on a few slow rollers; however, it looks like that is an unavoidable conclusion.
Jeter was on track to return on Opening Day, but then suffered a second fracture in the same ankle he injured last October. Age caught up to every Yankees legend from Babe Ruth to Mickey Mantle, and now it’s caught up to Jeter. If he were as young as his current replacement Eduardo Nunez at 26, it would be much easier for him to stay on the field.
However, the older one gets, the harder it is to recover and be able to make significant contributions.
The Yankees are paying the price for short-cutting their original plan to have Jeter build up innings in Triple-A before throwing him into the fire. Now, the Yankees need to respect the fact that they are dealing with an old Derek Jeter, not the Derek Jeter of 10 years ago.
This isn’t the guy who had a bad year and a half in 2010 and 2011 while the pressures of an expiring contract and an approaching 3,000-hit milestone supposedly took a toll on him. This is a guy who has now entered the twilight days of his career and will have to confront the now almost insurmountably difficult challenge of staying healthy.
This does not mean that he cannot recover after the All-Star Break and lead the his team to the playoffs or that he should retire after the season. It means that he should not be rushed back anymore and that he needs more rest even when he comes back.
More than anything, the Yankees need to be smarter with their franchise player than they were this week.