Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2003-04-01 14:58
by Alex Belth


Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus weighs in on the Jeter injury in his "Under the Knife" column today. The prognosis doesn't look good for Jeter or the Yanks:

Traumatic injuries are one thing that a team cannot plan for explicitly. However, even if it's a "break glass in case of emergency" type player, everyone has a Plan B. The question is: Does Plan B prevent you from executing the rest of your strategy to win? In the case of the Yankees, one place they have almost no depth is shortstop. With Derek Jeter's health never a problem, this was an area where Brian Cashman and crew skimped a bit.
One play changes everything.

On a brutal, but legal and well-done play by Blue Jays catcher Ken Huckaby, Derek Jeter took the point of Huckaby's knee (covered in high-impact plastic) to the shoulder. Even with TiVo, I was going back and forth. It appeared from most angles that Jeter's initial move was to grab at the area that would indicate a broken collarbone. From a later angle out of the center-field camera, Jeter's hand appeared to go to the shoulder. As teammates surrounded him, an ESPN camera got a good shot of Jeter saying: "It popped out." Mat Olkin saw the same thing--I should take a course on lip-reading--and when Jeter finally got up, the way they held the arm told a lot. Had it been a collarbone, the arm would have been held across the body, much like where it would be in a sling.

The official diagnosis is dislocated left shoulder. Where have we heard this before? Phil Nevin, of course. Digging through the list of injuries, there are some frightening comparables. Nevin is clearly negative, as is Danny Bautista. The best comparables however are other shortstops--Alex Gonzalez (Florida version) and Rafael Furcal. Neither of these play in the same way nor have the body type of Jeter, but they'll do for our purposes. Furcal is a switch hitter, but all three players injured the left (non-throwing) shoulder. Both Gonzalez and Furcal were forced to have surgery after having previous problems with lax shoulder capsules. Jeter had some problems in his acromioclavicular joint in late 2001. Where Jeter's injury differs is in the mechanism; Jeter absorbed a football-type collision, while both Gonzalez and Furcal had the injuries occur during dives.

The outlook is not good. I cannot find a situation where a player was able to come back in-season from this type of injury. Furcal's injury happened pretty late in the season, so that makes timing this pretty difficult, but looking at the others, things can't be stated positively. The best-case scenario is that after reduction (having the dislocated bone "popped back in"), there would be no ligament or labrum damage. In this case, it's possible that Jeter could be back in as little as four weeks. The worst case, of course, is similar to Nevin or Gonzalez, where Jeter would be done for the season. What the most likely case is won't be known until the results of imaging are in some time Tuesday. Brian Cashman will have to trust Enrique Wilson, commit to Erick Almonte, or hit the phones quickly. ("Hello, Billy? Yeah, yeah, you're the best-looking GM in the game. About that Tejada kid...")

Expect Cash to hit the phones and hit 'em hard.

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