The Yankees received terrible news yesterday regarding their captain, Derek Jeter. A CT scan revealed a crack in his surgically repaired ankle that he dislocated in last seasons ALCS. He will not require any further surgery, he will simply need to rest for 6-8 weeks and is expected back sometime after the all-star break.
Just when the Yankees thought things were moving along smoothly for all of their rehabbing all-stars, this news gets thrown at them. Thus far, the Yankees have been piecing the shortstop position together with Eduardo Nunez getting the majority of the playing time, while Jayson Nix backs him up. Defensively, they have held their own for the most part, making a combined three errors, but offensively, they have both struggled early on. Nunez, who is best known for his bat, is batting only .233 with two RBI, while Nix, is batting just .167. These numbers just aren’t going to cut it as they look to replace Jeter, who is a career .313 hitter, for an extended period of time.
For me, what they Yankees will miss most is the leadership Jeter provides, both on and off the field. Jeter, is well-known for his hustle, which is not something you can find in any box score. That may sound like something that should be a given for a professional athlete, but we all know it is more of a rarity these days. It’s play like that which sets the tone of what to expect from the rest of the roster, when teammates see their captain playing with that type of spirit, it becomes contagious. Someone will need to continue to set that type of tone for this team, it is not something easily done as Jeter, a future Hall of Famer, not something that just anyone can replace.
One aspect of Derek Jeter that I feel has been underrated/undervalued for years now is his ability to handle the media. For years it has been a given that Jeter will be in that locker room ready to answer any and all question in an effort to take the heat and pressure off of other in the locker room who may not be able to handle the responsibility. Many players have come to this city and faltered under the pressure of ever-present, New York media. This is something the Yankee locker room will sorely miss, now the likes of Robinson Cano and Mark Texeira, when he returns, will have to take more of the burden of being the teams spokespersons. It will be interesting to see how these other players handle it, as it will be new to some. Look for veterans Kevin Youkilis and Vernon Wells to increase their presence and become leadership figures on this team in the captains absence.
I have no doubt Jeter will be working hard once he is cleared to return as soon as possible. It remains to be seen just what his mobility will be on his surgically repaired ankle. The question has been asked for years now, when will Derek Jeter have to move from shortstop? This might very well be the injury that forces the issue soon for the Yankees if he is unable to return to his old form. But then again, I would never bet against Derek Jeter.