Okay, enough is enough.
I really hate to continually harp on our beloved captain...honestly, I do. Along with Don Mattingly, he ranks as my favorite baseball player ever. Considering his body of work and undying commitment to the Yankee cause, Derek Jeter deserves heaps of praise and adulation, which he receives regularly. Some would say, in excess.
Regardless of his resume however, he is not currently the player we know and love. Something is clearly wrong, and to deny that, is not productive for the team, or for Derek Jeter. Yes, every player inevitably experiences peaks and valleys throughout the course of a major league season. That's part of what makes the grueling 162 game schedule perpetually fascinating.
I am not advocating turning our backs on the Captain and cutting ties with the Yankee short-stop of 16 seasons. Derek Jeter is the "face of the Yankees" and possibly Major League Baseball, and the prospect of him finishing his career anywhere but the Bronx, is highly unlikely.
That conversation is not what matters now though. Brian Cashman, Derek Jeter, and his agent, Kasey Close, will determine Jeter's future with the Yankees at some point after the World Series.
What is imperative for the Yankees now, is winning ballgames, and securing home-field advantage throughout the ALCS.
The question has to be addressed; does Derek Jeter playing every day at short-stop, and batting at the top of the order, give the Yankees the best opportunity to achieve their team-oriented objectives this season?
As it currently stands, aside from blind allegiance to a favorite son, I have a hard time believing that the answer is a definitive "yes".
After watching Jeter ground-out time and time again, forcing Brett Gardner out at second repeatedly, effectively neutralizing one of the team's most devastating weapons, how can batting him near the top of the lineup be continually justified?
Against left-handed pitchers, one can understand the desire to have Jeter near the top. The splits indicate that he is still a highly productive hitter against lefties in 2010. Batting .315, with a .380 OBP, and OPS of .875, those numbers are rather reminiscient of his overall career numbers, and surely justify starting him near the top of the order, in those occasions when the Yankees face a southpaw.
However, against right-handed pitchers, Jeter has looked terribly old, slow and frankly, useless with a bat in his hands. In these splits, Derek is hitting .237/.303/.310, with a meager OPS of .613! Yes, that reads .613. His overall OPS of .697, places him 13th out of current regular short-stops, right behind the legendary Yuniesky Betencourt.
One might say, well 13th out of 30 teams places him above average, so really, that's not terrible. I'm sorry, but you don't pay a 36-year-old future hall-of-famer $22.5 million to be an average hitting shortstop, with a below average glove. Average players don't bat first or second for a team hoping to repeat as World Series champions. Being the Yankees, there are plentiful options to fill out the first and second spots in the batting order. Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher immediately come to mind as far more productive options than Jeter.
Now, like I previously stated, I don't intend this as an anti-Jeter diatribe, with the desired intention of getting rid of the captain.
But, seeing that Arod has now returned to the lineup, what would be the problem with resting Jeter for several days? It's September, he's 36-years-old, clearly struggling, and the Yankees have a perfectly capable Eduardo Nunez in the dugout, wasting his youth and vitality while Jeter continues to insist upon playing everyday.
That's admirable of course, every manager would hope that their team captain has the desire to play every day. But there has to be a balance between stubbornly refusing to take time off and performing so poorly that one becomes detrimental to the team.
Since June 1, Jeter is hitting .237/.317/.332 with a .649 OPS and a miserable 16 double plays hit into. Face of the franchise or not, that is not indicative of a top of the order hitter.
After July 1, it gets worse, as he's hitting .234 with a .621 OPS. The trend continues, after August 1, .226 with a .620 OPS. You get the picture.
Of course, I'm not championing Eduardo Nunez as the savior, as he's a .286/.318/.381 hitter with a .699 OPS. Not a massive upgrade, obviously.
But, that's not my point. I'm not advocating replacing Derek Jeter with Eduardo Nunez at this point. However, what would be the harm in playing Nunez for a week, giving Jeter a well-deserved and much-needed recovery period?
That way, we may be able to expect to see a rejuvenated Derek Jeter triumphantly return to lead his team to October glory once again. At least, that's the hope.
As if to help prove my point, in tonight's game Jeter is currently one-for-seven, with four feeble ground-outs, and a strikeout, his only hit, a bouncer in the infield that eluded a hard-charging Elvis Endrus. One game doesn't mean anything in the context of a 162 game schedule, but it's a perfectly symbolic representation of the disappointment that has permeated Jeter's entire season.
Please Joe Girardi, hark the statistics, use your eyes, notice the captain struggling mightily to even hit the ball out of the infield. Don't bow to the personality, don't worry that you'll upset him; bench Derek Jeter for a full week. Give him the rest that he has earned, apparently desperately requires, and the benefits the Yankees reap may eventually lead to World Series title #28.