Apparently, it's true, there really is "no rest for the weary."
As October rapidly approaches, with only 13 games remaining on the schedule for the New York Yankees before the playoffs begin, Joe Girardi has taken the opportunity to rest key players in order to get the team healthy.
In the get-away game yesterday at Camden Yards, Girardi opted to rest Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, A-rod due to lingering fears over his hip and calf issues, and Tex because of his broken pinkie toe that has hampered him recently. Nick Swisher, due to his knee problem, has seen his action severely limited in recent weeks in an effort to let him heal for the post-season. Even Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson, guys less likely to need the rest at this point, get the occasional day off due to platoon situations in particular match-ups.
Which brings me to the question: why can't Derek Jeter get a day off? Now of course, we know Derek isn't going to ask for any days off, that's simply not his style, and I can fully respect that position. In my personal athletic endeavors, taking time off is not a desirable option, so I get that. I expect a future Hall-of-Famer to want to play every day, but just the same, I expect a manager to realize that one of his players is not performing, and that if a specific injury is not the problem, it could be very well that one of his senior players is in dire need of some rest.
Since August 1, the Yankees have played 46 contests, with Jeter starting 43 of those, only getting a full day off on September 3 and September 11. To date, the Yankees have completed 149 games out of the 162 game schedule, and Jeter has played 145 of those games. Only Robinson Cano, nine years Jeter's junior, has played more games for the team this season.
Is there a specific contribution that Jeter is bringing to the team recently that prevents him from being left off the lineup card? If there is, it must take the eye of "Genius Joe" to see it, because frankly it hasn't been blatant to most everyone else.
In that same stretch of games since the calendar turned to August, Jeter is hitting .238 with a .320 slugging percentage and .644 OPS. If you're watching the games every day as I am, you've no doubt seen that his ability to drive the ball has currently gone AWOL. With the amount of ground balls he has been hitting, he might as well be using a fungo.
In September, things have gotten worse, as he's slugging a woeful .297. He has only 11 extra-base hits in his last 44 games, which would not be atrocious, if he were hitting tons of singles, but unfortunately, that's not the case. Over the last week, he may have given the illusion of heating up, as he is currently riding an eight game hitting streak, but in those eight games, he has three 1 for 5's, a 1 for 6, and a 1 for 7, so he's not exactly tearing up the league in that span.
Avg. SLG %
April - .330 .521
May -.281 .359
June -.243 .379
July - .245 .311
Aug - .239 .333
Sept- .234 .297
Those look like the numbers of a player for whom fatigue has grown a major issue.
The point of this isn't to disparage the captain, and to call for his head, I want him to succeed as much as anyone does. A healthy, productive Derek Jeter is an integral piece of any playoff aspirations that the Yankee may have. The problem is, that right now, his contributions are minimal at best, and to keep denying it, only further compounds his hitting woes, and damages the team.
If the Yankees were winning at a solid pace, it could more easily be glossed over, swept under the rug and we could focus more on other aspects of the team. Unfortunately though, since the eight game winning streak, the Yankees have only gone 4-9, limping their way toward the finish line.
Of course, there are far more reasons than just Derek Jeter's lack of production plaguing the team. But, as top of the order hitter, often leading off, Jeter is tasked with setting a tone for the offense, providing an example to follow, with that responsibility being greater as captain. The tone that has been set, is not necessarily the most desirable as the team heads into October.
There are those that refuse to acknowledge the struggles of the captain, blindly defending him at every turn. I appreciate the loyalty, as fans need to support their teams' players, but to pretend a problem doesn't exist, does the team no favors. Many expect him, simply because he's Derek Jeter, to magically flip the switch once the playoffs arrive, but I don't feel that is a realistic perspective. One would have hoped that he were capable of turning it on just like that, he would not be waiting for September 20 and after to do so.
As the season trudges onward, it simply might behoove Derek Jeter and the entire Yankees team, to give him the rest he apparently requires. If something is not working, to repeatedly attempt to gain different results through the same approach is stubborn, if not downright foolish.