After playing in only 17 games in 2013, Derek Jeter will return as the New York Yankees’ shortstop next year for what many speculate will be his final season in pinstripes.
Already, the Yankees have addressed the possibility of another injury-shortened season for Jeter by re-signing the slick-fielding Brendan Ryan. He’s the insurance policy if Captain Clutch becomes Captain Crutch again.
Though it’s necessary to have a backup, let’s not assume Jeter’s going to come back hobbling — he’s performed far too many miracles in his career to count him out. It was only three years ago that pundits and analysts began questioning if Jeter was rapidly declining after he batted a career-low .270. He proved all his doubters wrong by batting .297 the following year and .316 in 2012, while leading the majors with 216 hits.
Still, with the addition of Jacoby Ellsbury, who will join incumbent speedster Brett Gardner, there should be some question as to where Jeter will bat in the lineup. Conventional knowledge would place Ellsbury in the leadoff spot with Jeter in the No. 2 hole and Gardner batting ninth as a double leadoff. This order could be problematic, however.
In 2009, Johnny Damon had been leading off with Jeter batting second, but manager Joe Girardi ultimately swapped them in the order to prevent Jeter from hitting into double plays. Four years later, Jeter can’t run like he used to which could produce the same scenario. However, Girardi can’t bat Jeter leadoff because he’d clog up the base path in front of Ellsbury, who just received a seven-year, $153 million deal due in great part to his speed and base stealing ability.
Moreover, Girardi should be drooling over the possibility of batting Ellsbury and Gardner one-two in a lefty-loaded lineup against right-handed pitching. Doing so, however, would likely relegate Jeter to batting eighth or ninth. Though the move could make sense strategically, it would be disrespectful to a guy who’s unquestionably one of the greatest Yankees of all time.
If there’s anyone who can come back after such a massively disappointing season, it’s Jeter. However, age may have finally caught up to the Yankee Captain. Hopefully, he will return and bat .300 — and force Girardi to keep him at the top of the lineup.