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Coming Around the Bend
2008-07-24 09:05
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

At New York Magazine, Will Leitch adds his two cents about the ailing Jorge Posada.

You think this is bad? Wait until it happens to the team's other nineties icons. Rivera is defying time with another peerless season, but Derek Jeter is in the seventh year of the ten-year contract that makes him the second-highest paid player in baseball (behind A-Rod, of course.) But forget the oft-debated (but still plainly obvious) defensive liability; the "Face of Baseball" is having the worst offensive season of his career. (As much as Posada has struggled, he has still hit better than Jeter by almost any metric.) As long as the Yankees are still making the playoffs, Jeter might be able to slide by unnoticed, but if they fall short...well, are you ready for chants of "Bench Jeter"?

It's hard to imagine Jeter aging gracefully isn't it? And jeez, if Rodriguez starts to break-down, like Chipper Jones has for instance, it will get downright fugly.

Comments
2008-07-24 09:16:47
1.   dianagramr
"As much as Posada has struggled, he has still hit better than Jeter by almost any metric."

(blinking my eyes to read that twice)

2008-07-24 09:17:31
2.   Zack
I have a harder time seeing A-Rod having a steep decline. Worst comes to worst, his bat should be able to support him moving to 1b if need be.

The situation with Jeter, on the other hand, will only get ugly. Think Bernie but way worse. Jeter's pride/arogance, the fan's blind loyalty, and the organizational blind-spot towards him, will mean he will most likely be manning SS for the rest of his career as a Yank. And when his contract runs out, do you really see Jeter accepting a pay cut? Lets be honest, in 3 years, Jeter will be worth, what, $10M max? and that would probably be too much. I don't have a problem overpaying Jeter, but I am very opposed to the idea of another long, expensive contract simply because he's Derek F'ing Jeter...

2008-07-24 09:36:51
3.   JL25and3
2 Yeah, it's going to be rough.

As monkeypants has said, Jeter's not hitting badly this year for a shortstop. I also expect his offense to bounce back a little next year. But it probably won't support his playing any other position, and I don't know if he'll be able to play short adequately three years from now.

2008-07-24 09:52:09
4.   Rob Middletown CT
The end will probably not be pretty. It rarely is. The Dessicated Corpse of Bernie Williams playing CF or DHing was gut-wrenching to watch.

But let us not consider such things. There really isn't anything to be done. Jeter isn't going to be traded. He isn't going to move off SS unless/until he totally collaspes (in Varitekian fashion). So we basically just have to hold our collective breath and hope that our HoF SS defies the odds.

2008-07-24 09:56:20
5.   mehmattski
Luckily, the Yankees will have no such problems with Rivera, because he's going to pitch forever.

As someone said last night regarding the same topic: "LALALALA I Can't Hear You!"

2008-07-24 09:57:59
6.   rbj
Um,
"And the funny thing about this? No one's particularly sad to see him go. Newsday loudly proclaimed that the Yanks were "better off" without Posada, and his absence unquestionably eliminates a headache for manager Joe Girardi"

I for one am sad to see Posada on the DL. How the hell can Newsday say that the Yankees are better off w/o Posada? An injured, nonhitting Posada, sure, but not the all-star Jorge.

And are there more turbulent things going on in the Yankees' clubhouse than we know of?

2008-07-24 10:04:41
7.   RIYank
Yeah, Posada was better on the season than Jeter, but look at the last month. Jeter's OPS+ is 110, Posada's was around 50.
2008-07-24 10:07:22
8.   Sliced Bread
6 not only is that a completly inaccurate assessment of the Posada situation, how is it "funny?"
Wouldn't you have to be some sort of smug douchebag to snicker at something like that?
2008-07-24 10:13:04
9.   The Mick 536
8 At risk of being myself assaulted, I don't think that comment was appropriate.
2008-07-24 10:14:48
10.   monkeypants
3 I still contend that Jeter will play out his remaining contract and return (relatively) good value. He'll continue to hit well for a SS, except maybe the last season. Also, his defense has been a smudge better this year than in previous years. There is no reason to think that his defense will necessarily decline far beyond its already poor level. The problem will not be Jeter in the next two years or so, it will come when the hard decision has to made whether or not to resign him or let him walk.
2008-07-24 10:16:04
11.   Sliced Bread
9 my comment was no more inappropriate or offbase than the suggestion that no one is upset by the loss of Posada, and that the lack of remorse is funny.
2008-07-24 10:19:08
12.   monkeypants
2 "Jeter's pride/arrogance..."

This is a rapidly developing meme in the ol' baseball blogosphere. Could someone--anyone--please cite any evidence for this?

The argument used most often is that Jeter refused to give up SS for the better player, forcing A-Rod to be moved to third. But again, I have searched and searched, and I have not found anything resembling direct evidence that this was the case. The whole argument is circular, based on the assumption that Jeter SHOULD have moved. But do we know that he was asked? Do we know that he would have refused?

Have any former players or club officials stated that this was the case? Or that Jeter is particularly prideful or arrogant to the detriment of the team?

Show me the evidence!

2008-07-24 10:20:26
13.   Shaun P
5 Damn skippy.

And Donnie Baseball came back for one too many curtain calls? WTF? If anything, he avoided going that route.

2008-07-24 10:24:01
14.   standuptriple
11 I'm feeling you there. There are much better ways to phrase the departure of JoPo than the one quoted. Journo school sure isn't cranking out amazing wordsmiths these days.
2008-07-24 10:25:32
15.   mehmattski
13 Check out this eerie coincidence:

Jeter (34), 2008: .285/.347/.404
Mattingly (34), 1995: .288/.341/.411

2008-07-24 10:27:03
16.   Shaun P
12 You won't find it, because no one will say it.

At least, not now.

Mostly because the place for Jeter to move was not 3B. After all, Jeter's problem defensively has been going to his left, so 3B was not a viable option. If he moved, he would have gone to CF, which means it would have displaced Bernie.

So the revelation won't come out, I'd guess, for a few decades. If ever. Too much love for those two.

2008-07-24 10:32:25
17.   monkeypants
15 eerie, except that one was a 1B and the other a SS, with completely different body types and injury histories.

16 Maybe. But the man was just voted the most overrated player by his peers. Yet there is still so much love that no one would come out with a negative comment? Tough for me to buy.

I think you suggested this? Or maybe RIYank. A natural place for Jeter to move at this stage might be 2B. But here too, he is blocked by Cano.

2008-07-24 10:35:29
18.   monkeypants
15 ...and except for the fact thatJeter 2008 is batter 102 OPS+, while Mattingly 1995 hit 97 OPS+. So Jeter is still an above league average hitter. Mattingly was not.
2008-07-24 10:37:15
19.   rbj
The thing is Will Leitch is usually pretty good, so I don't understand the cheap shot at Posada.
2008-07-24 10:37:18
20.   Shaun P
17 If the negative comment was something other than, "They asked Jeter to move off SS for A-Rod, and he said no", I'd agree with you. But no way another player has those goods on him.

And while I'm sure I've suggested Jeter at 2B before, I know I haven't done it lately. Too bad Cano can't play SS.

2008-07-24 10:48:46
21.   Schteeve
12 Totally agree, this is an example of weird perception becoming reality.
2008-07-24 10:51:01
22.   Schteeve
Also, let me interrupt here to say that I think Will is full of shit. ;)
2008-07-24 11:00:41
23.   Zack
12 21 I'm sorry, but you don't really need any direct quote from a player to know that Jeter is arrogant and prideful. Hey, its not a bad thing, its probably a lot of what has helped him be who he is and be as successful in NY as he has been. Jeter is incredibly proud, its what drives him to play while injured, to be able to ignore/deflect any criticism, and to have 100% faith in his ability at all times. At the same time, with that pride comes arrogance, that he IS worth having in the lineup no matter what, that he IS the best option at SS etc. that was what I was referring to. I have no idea how he is on an interpersonal level, though the whole "A-Rod grudge" thing certainly smacks of extreme pride. But when it comes to his playing, do you really doubt that, much like Posada, Jeter will run himself out there until hes 60 given the chance and to the day of his retirement continue to insist on his worth etc?
2008-07-24 11:17:14
24.   ny2ca2dc
This is by far the worst piece of writing I've ever seen from Will Leitch. Dude must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed.
2008-07-24 11:20:59
25.   williamnyy23
19 He is really pretty good? This smacks of the same swarmy smugness of Deadspin, so it seems right in line with his previous work (no, my last name isn't Bizzinger, but Deadspin is crap).

Aside from the smug attitude, it also seems as if Leitch is unfamiliar with the Yankees. Off the bat Don Mattingly and Bernie most certainly did not wear out their welcome...1995 was all about getting the Captain to the playoffs (the loudest I've ever heard YS was when Donnie went deep in Game 2 of the ALDS) and Bernie received a standing ovation every time he came to the plate in his final year. It's also absurd to think that no one cares Posada is injured. I totally agree with 11 's eloquent appraisal of that opinion. Saying the loss of Posada is addition by subtraction pretty much disqualifies you from intelligent conversation.

No more Leitch please!

2008-07-24 11:21:21
26.   ChrisS
I don't think it was a bad post. The Yankees, I think, are better off with Jorge hitting the DL getting his surgery and getting ready for next year.

His bat hasn't been good and he can't throw. I'm sure the Yankees miss Posada being there, but as for on-field contributions they won't miss him.

23 I agree with you. I doubt that Jeter's the kind of guy that will hang it up after this contract and fade away gracefully. This is his town and his team. I could be wrong, but after the Bernie debacle, I'm a little more jaded.

2008-07-24 11:28:02
27.   Shaun P
25 "Bernie most certainly did not wear out [his] welcome"

Maybe to the fans he did not, but from a performance perspective, Bernie was toast in 2005, much less 2006. So on that one, Leitch is right.

2008-07-24 11:47:58
28.   Raf
I think the trade was made after Rodriguez confirmed that he would play 3b. I could be wrong.
2008-07-24 12:01:16
29.   monkeypants
23 Your definition of pride is so broad that it would include all great players, and probably all professional athletes in general. All of them need to have confidence in their own abilities in order to succeed on the field and to survive in the fishbowl that is modern professional sports.

But any definition so broad verges on tautological: Jeter's "pride", by your own definition, is little different from the "pride" of any other athlete, and so it tells us very little about Jeter's individual motives or future.

2008-07-24 12:04:36
30.   rbj
25 I don't go to Deadspin all the time, but from what I've read there, he seems no worse, and usually a bit better, than most others, such a Lupica, et al. Ok, that is damning with extremely faint praise, maybe I've just spent too much time at firejoemorgan.

In order to be successful at a major league sport, I think you have to be a bit arrogant -- you've got to think: "I can hit Clemens or Unit, I'm that good." The trick is to not let it carry over to every aspect of your life.

2008-07-24 12:05:09
31.   monkeypants
26 Even Donnie Baseball didn't bow out gracefully. Most athletes seem to have a hard time letting go, and the few that do (like Kubek, mentioned in a post a couple of days ago) are viewed as oddities.

That Jeter will likely be unwilling to walk away from the game doesn't bear significantly on more important questions:

1. Is this season a sign of inevitable and steep decline, or will he continue to put up valuable numbers on offense?

2. Will he be unwilling to change positions if that is the best course of action (here I contend that there is NO EVIDENCE he would be unwilling to do so if asked).

2008-07-24 12:07:08
32.   williamnyy23
27 Leitch's thesis was the hero becoming the villain (he concludes with the chant, "Bench Jeter). From that perspective, he is dead wrong about Bernie. He didn't come back for one too many curtain calls because the fans never got tired of giving him.

As for Posada, it's ridiculous to suggest that the Yankees are better off without a healthy version of himself. Clearly, if he can't hit or throw with the shoulder, they are better off. Again, however, Leitch says noone is "sad" to see him go, implying that his loss has not left a huge void on the team. That's pure stupidity.

2008-07-24 12:10:17
33.   JL25and3
31 2. Will he be unwilling to change positions if that is the best course of action (here I contend that there is NO EVIDENCE he would be unwilling to do so if asked).

I don't think that's even the question. More to the point: is there any other position he can play where his offense will still be a positive?

2008-07-24 12:10:33
34.   williamnyy23
31 You don't think his exit was graceful? He posted OPS+ of 120, 112 and 97 over his last three years, so that seems to indicate that he wasn't toast before his final season, nor was he useless after. Mattingly went on a high note by raking in the ALDS before deciding to retire. The Yankees wanted him back in 1996, but Mattingly decided to hang it up. I don't see a lack of grace in his exit from the game.
2008-07-24 12:13:01
35.   Raf
31 Even Donnie Baseball didn't bow out gracefully.

I think Mattingly had some game left when his career ended, which would explain why he would have a hard time with retiring.

But from I read @ waswatching, there was a rumor that the reason he retired was to be closer to his family which was going through some problems. But as was mentioned there, those were only rumors.

2008-07-24 12:27:52
36.   JL25and3
34 The thing is, he didn't decide to retire. He hemmed and hawed, and talked about trying retirement but not retiring, waiting for a while to see how he felt the next season. He didn't sign a deal with the Yankees, but he didn't officially retire, either.

He didn't have to be dragged off the field, but he wasn't convinced he wanted to leave, either.

2008-07-24 12:38:06
37.   williamnyy23
36 You make it sound like retiring is not a big decision worthy of hemming and hawing, especially for a player as young as Mattingly. By all accounts, Mattingly decided in November of 1995 that he would not play in 1996, but held open the chance for a change of heart. That certainly sounds like a reasonable and graceful decision.

Again, here is an excerpt from Nov. 1995's NYT:

"I think we made it very clear how much we value Don Mattingly," the Yankees' principal owner said in a phone interview. "He's a true Yankee. There will be ongoing discussions between us while he thinks about what he wants to do."

Ray Schulte, Mattingly's business representative, said Steinbrenner had offered the 34-year-old first baseman an open-ended contract. Mattingly, the team's captain since 1991, declined the proposal because he might retire to be with his family in Evansville, Ind., or because he wants to observe how the new Yankees evolve.

"He offered him a contract and said what's your timetable and what's your money," Schulte explained. "It never got to that stage. Donnie put the organization ahead of himself. It was a tough decision. He told them to go get a first baseman."

2008-07-24 12:45:40
38.   Zack
29 but the thing is, it IS different. Jeter has already shown himself to be too stubborn to allow himself to heal, at times to the detriment of the team. I would say that Jeter, Posada, and perhaps Mo are in another league of pride on the Yankees, to the point of it hurting the team. Mo I say maybe because he hasn't shown any signs of decline, but I don't see Rivera ever ceding the closer's role as long as he is under contract, just as I don't see Jeter ever moving from 1B.

Jeter allowed his "feud" with A-Rod to not onyl continue for years for little reason, but to come into the clubhouse. His arrogant denial of any issue, despite obvious indications otherwise, and unwillingness to ever come to the aid of his teammate, hurt the team.

But really that is besides the point. As JL25and3 puts it, there is little to suggest he would be able to justify playing elsewhere? I am not convinced he's necessarily falling off a cliff, but what I was suggesting was that there is absolutely ZERO evidence to suggest that Derek will make things easy. He has shown little tendency in the past to recognize his own flaws or go to the team and preemptively recognize his weaknesses to the betterment of the team.

Not for nothing, but it was in his year 35 season that Ripkin accepted the move to 3B as inevitable...Jeter is in his year 34

2008-07-24 13:03:10
39.   JL25and3
37 Yes, that's what the agent said. But the Yankees were planning on getting another first baseman with or without Donnie's blessing.

I don't pretend that it was easy, or that it should be. But I think it was a little closer to Bernie's situation than you make it seem.

2008-07-24 13:08:19
40.   monkeypants
38 Again, how is Jeter's unwillingness to heal any different from Posada's or Matsui's or Damon's or just about any other professional athlete's? It is not the athlete decision necessarily to play or not. That decision falls with the manager and front office. If Girardi keeps writing Jeter's name on the lineup card every day, what is the man supposed to do?

It is unfair, in my opinion, to argue that all athletes need to project an air of confidence/arrogance/whatever, and then expect the same player to beg out of playing. And it's extra unfair to ask only one player (Jeter) to be so selfless but not hold basically all other athletes up to the same standard.

The reference to Ripken is somewhat bogus. He accepted the move to #B simply so he could hang on and break a meaningless counting record. Moreover, he moved to a position where his declining bat carried the position even less (though he did have that freaky good season at age 38). Was Ripken selfless for switching positions, or selfish for hanging on? Did he give the team no choice? Then again, is it the player's fault if the management is unable to make a right the call?

Finally, I am still not sure what sort of evidence you would want to show that Jeter would make things "easy" (whatever that means)? When he has been asked to bat in a different spot in the lineup, he always has (as far as we know), and has done so without complaining, like Abreu did. He has never publicly challenged the desires of the club, like Giambi did when he refused to go to the minors to rehab a few years ago. In 2004, when he had 16 sacrifice hits (well above his typical season average), he presumably was doing what the manager wanted in sacrificing himself (whether bunting is a good play is beside the point), even though he slugged .471 that year and hit 23 HRs. He certainly didn't intentionally bunt himself into an out to spite his manager, like Reggie did.

I am not claiming that Jeter is a saint or a perfect ball player or a perfect teammate. But I am amazed how often I read that he is selfish or arrogant or unwilling to help the team or will be a problem in the future or has been a problem in the past, when as far as I can see, there is NO EVIDENCE that he is any more prideful, etc. than just about any other pro athlete. You say that there is "is absolutely ZERO evidence to suggest that Derek will make things easy." I counter that there is just about zero evidence that he won't. The whole notion is based entirely on supposition and double standards.

2008-07-24 13:09:49
41.   ChrisS
38 I remember reading a few years ago that Mo said that he was going to retire at 36 or so and become a preacher to repay God for giving him the talent to be in the major leagues. He's obviously had second thoughts, but I think Mo is done at the end of this current contract and he'll go be a preacher.
2008-07-24 13:12:07
42.   monkeypants
33 Yes, good point. I think that he will continue to produce above average offense for SS for the rest of his contract. The only question will be whether that continues to offset his defense.

However, if he continues to hit at least in the .750 OPS region ( he is currently at .751, and I think he'll finish the season closer to .800), his bat would play at 2B or SS.

2008-07-24 13:16:20
43.   ChrisS
I'm not sure what whole argument is here, but I think that a bunch of True Yankees are heading into their dotage and Management will have to handle that better than how they handled Bernie's situation. It's a genuine concern, given recent history.
2008-07-24 13:18:43
44.   monkeypants
38 39 etc.

Mattingly was forced out, plain and simple. He was granted free agency in November 1995, the Yankees traded for Tino in December, and Donnie didn't officially retire until January 1997.

2008-07-24 13:27:19
45.   JL25and3
Btw, I'd just like to say: some great banter today, for an off day.
2008-07-24 13:30:02
46.   ms october
here is some dead horse hormone to shoot ourselves up with - the yanks will at least be talking about barry bonds at the tampa meetings

http://tinyurl.com/5pdoqd

2008-07-24 13:32:16
47.   monkeypants
46 That'll stir up some more banter, no doubt!
2008-07-24 14:24:23
48.   JL25and3
46 , 47 I'm kind of amused that that story's getting so much play. He said they'd talk about everyone, and "mention" Bonds.
2008-07-24 17:34:05
49.   Simone
40 Great post, monkeypants.

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