By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 10- Brian Cashman, the New York Yankees GM said Monday, Derek Jeter the captain is not done for the season. He would not go further as to what the future holds for the eventual Hall of Famer and one of the greatest to wear Yankees pinstripes. However, the question remains: Have we seen the last and best days of Derek Jeter?
The Yankees may be considering shutting down Jeter for the remaining 19 games of the season. He has not been in the lineup the last two games with Boston and Baltimore. The ankle that required surgery and put him Jeter on the disabled list twice this season may never be the same.
And Jeter may never be the same player that has been so instrumental in the success of the Yankees the past 15 years, including those five World Series titles that go back to 1996. The issue is, if and when it is over, Jeter is the one who will decide when this marvelous career is over, and he will do it the right way.
However the more you see Jeter on the field, and it is quite obvious, he is favoring the ankle. The hustle is not apparent, the desire to be in the lineup is, but the Derek Jeter that is capable of sparking a rally is no longer evident.
He has more strikeouts than hits in the 17 games he has played this season. And, those who know Jeter will say, it is more than the disturbing statistics that bother him. It is the inability to drive in the run, the lack of getting on base though the .191 batting average does not reflect his ability to still get on base with the walk.
Opposing pitchers still view Jeter as a threat in the lineup. They don’t give him anything good to hit. That is a good sign, and the Yankees lineup, which has showed signs of life in this late season playoff run, is that much better when the Jeter name is penciled in the lineup.
But, it is disturbing to see Jeter struggle down the line to first base, or for that matter taking the extra base. Let’s be realistic because a 39-year old coming back from a surgically repaired left ankle is not the same as a 21-year old trying to do the same thing.
Jeter would be the first to admit that. But, he is the first to admit that his role in the lineup is to help his Yankees team win ballgames, pivotal games in the remaining three weeks and the current series-taking place down in Baltimore this week. But Jeter is not at 100 percent and the name in the lineup is not producing the Jeter like numbers that can help this team down this stretch of pivotal ballgames.
The fans will never boo the Yankees captain, and Jeter will never ask to be removed from the lineup, unless the pain and extra strain forces him to leave on his own will. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, “I don’t think you will ever get him to concede.”
The ankle and the leg, an injured quad, have been a problem. And at his age Jeter should have expected this. The Yankees obviously were aware and his range at shortstop seems to not have had an impact, though there has been more time off the field and in Giaradi’s lineup as a designated hitter.
So the prevailing question is, are these the last days of Derek Jeter in the Yankees lineup? That is an answer that will remain to be answered for the remainder of this season. As for next year, with a good off-season regiment of rest and strength, Jeter will return for another try at it.
We may never see Jeter like numbers again, but there will still be some outstanding plays in the infield from their all-star shortstop. The Yankees will not force him to leave the lineup, or to call it quits. But if Jeter is not productive and continues to favor the ankle, then he becomes an aging player on a Yankees roster that will try and get younger in the years ahead.
Jeter wants to go out a winner, and the Yankees want him to be a part of that. These next few days with more rest, and with a latest CAT scan result showing no further damage to the ankle, point to Jeter returning to the lineup soon.
In the end, Derek Jeter in the Yankees lineup is positive. The decision to continue this season, or as to how many more there will be is in his hands. The Yankees will not make the decision.
This is Derek Jeter, and his body will determine where he goes from here. That may not be easy to do, and for the Yankees and their fans it is that more difficult to comprehend.
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