Derek Jeter’s battle to return to the playing field for more than a few days was a huge struggle in 2013 and during his rehab, he did a little “tee and toss” hitting and other light activities. With his injury and no real hitting or running involved, it’s not like Jeter is close to returning to the player we all remember him by. Right now the plan is for Jeter to be ready to play come opening day but the question is where will or rather where should he play?
Jeter spent more time in 2013 doing “baseball activities” than playing actual baseball. The rushed rehabs and resulting leg issues reduced Jeter to just 17 games last year where he had a measly 73 plate appearances. The 2013 season was one that was full of frustration for both the captain and the Yankee fans and even after all the right things were said and the promises of returning to “normal”, there are still a whole lot of questions about what next season could be like.
Regardless of what Jeter or the team says publicly, I think if you got each of the key players involved alone and away from the beat writers they’d tell you that they pushed too hard to get Jeter back on the field early in the season. His ankle was never going to be ready for Opening Day, and even if the quad and calf injuries aren’t directly related to that, there’s really no point anymore in trying to argue that Jeter’s comeback from surgery wasn’t botched. After seeing how greatly those legs were affected last year by not having a regular offseason workout routine, how much more limited is Jeter going to be physically when he comes to camp in 2014?
Take all the great moments and championship rings and gift baskets away and what you’ll have next season is a 40-year-old man trying to play shortstop in Major League Baseball after basically missing an entire season with leg issues following major surgery, sound familiar? This is the same scenario as the one A-Rod will be in when he returns from his eventual suspension. Jeter will only be on the books for $9.5 million next year, so the dollars and cents aren’t a huge problem. The problem is how the Yankees plan to use Jeter to keep him healthy and on the field and what is the contingency plan if that doesn’t happen. It is very clear the Yankees were not prepared for life beyond Jeter and whatever plan they had last year should already be shredded.
The Yankees never went out and found a real backup for Jeter and as you can see the organization and the fan-base is paying the price. This off-season’s crop of free agent shortstops isn’t any better and the next Jeter is not walking through the clubhouse door from the farm system anytime soon.
Nobody likes to watch their favorite athletes go out diminished and broken down. Unfortunately that looks like it’s shaping up to be the case for the Captain in 2014 especially if he is dead set on playing shortstop. In 2014, the Yankee captain should be the designated hitter. Yes that’s right, I am saying one of the best shortstops in the game should quit his position he’s been playing since high school to just hit for a living. This will allow the Yankees to test out their farm system, see what they have, and keep the epic leadership from Jeter in the locker room. Jeter is a natural born leader and should continue to do what he does best, lead his team and the city of New York.
There’s no telling how long his legs are going to hold up when and if he does return, and that doesn’t spell good things for him looking ahead to next season. Similar things predicting the downfall of Derek Jeter have been written before and he’s come back to make them all look silly. If he does that again next season and goes out on a high note, I’ll gladly be the first to eat my words, but that is highly unlikely.
Chances are, I will not be eating my words and the Yankees need to be prepared. They weren’t prepared for life without Jeter last year and it cost them. Sooner or later they’ll have to learn their lesson right?
You can follow Jeremy on Twitter @TheJADUKES.