Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2008-05-28 10:08
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Funny thing happened on my way home last night. As I was walking across 6th avenue my ankle gave in. It's the same foot I broke years ago and it remains prone to twisting. I got a cab home and then Emily took me to the emergency room. Fortunately, nothing's broken--there might be a minor fracture, otherwise just some torn ligaments, a bad sprain. I got suited up with crutches and returned home to watch Mariano's two innings. Then I went to bed. I didn't even hear about Derek Jeter's tough night until this morning. Pete Abraham called it one of Jeter's worst games as a Yankee. In the most recent edition of The Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman writes:

Back in December, writing the Jeter comment for this year's Baseball Prospectus annual, I said, "For years, Jeter's offense has made him a net positive at shortstop despite his defense. The second half of 2007, taken together with his age, suggests that the day of reckoning may finally have arrived." Emphasis on "may" added-if you have the book, you will note that the qualifier isn't there. Cliff Corcoran, who reviewed the text in his sagacious way, and an experienced follower of the Yankees in his own right, argued that we should strike it, making the statement more definitive: "The day of reckoning has finally arrived."

"Argue" is probably too strong a word for what Cliff did, as I didn't argue with him. I noted the change and mentally shrugged, saying, "He's right. By all available evidence, the time has come." Yet, in the back of my mind, I was still hedging. "This is Derek Jeter! He's got an edge, baby!" (Of course he does; he's the only one who can afford the gas.) As time has gone by, I've become more convinced that that change was the right one, and become grateful for it, as Jeter's performance has borne out the more emphatic prediction.

Tough times for Jeter and the Yanks right about now.

2008-05-28 10:33:07
1.   mehmattski
Man, they say that ankle ligaments take longer to heal than the bones do. Just a good excuse to put your feet up and watch baseball this summer. I hope the Yankees make it watchable.

Do you think a good relay throw would have gotten Mora at the plate? And how far off second was Huff if he made it to third so quickly?

2008-05-28 10:35:23
2.   Cliff Corcoran
All I can add to Steve's quote is, if you thought the Ghost of Bernie period was uncomfortable and detrimental to the team, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
2008-05-28 10:37:04
3.   Jon Weisman
Yikes, Alex! Hope you're feeling better soon (and sufficiently medicated now).
2008-05-28 10:39:35
4.   tommyl
2 Was that supposed to cheer me up? I think we need a support group or something to get through this season.
2008-05-28 10:45:45
5.   Alex Belth
Thanks J. And no, no meds right now. The gave me a couple of Alievs and I forgot to take it this morning. Ah well. Navigating the NYC subway, buses, and streets on crutches is loads of fun though! LOL.
2008-05-28 10:45:59
6.   Cliff Corcoran
4 No.
2008-05-28 10:54:53
7.   rsmith51
2 Speaking of GOB, has he announced his retirement yet?
2008-05-28 10:55:49
8.   Cliff Corcoran
5 Oy, no doubt. My ma broke her foot early last year and that was no fun for her or anyone else, really. Fortunately, I'm sure you have many times the upper-body strength she does. She was pretty hopeless on the crutches until they gave her a walking boot, which was a huge upgrade. She's 100 percent now, though.

You? Yah young. You'll heal up in a jiff. Just take is ease and be a good patient.

2008-05-28 10:55:50
9.   rilkefan
4 The claim appears to be that coming seasons of Jeter will make you nostalgic for this season...
2008-05-28 11:04:42
10.   mehmattski
To lighten the mood: I was checking the notes on my fantasy baseball players, and found this on Carl Crawford:

May 23 Bill Chastain, of, reports Tampa Bay Rays OF Carl Crawford said he is in favor of using instant replay to determine if a home run is fair or foul.

Well, then that settles it! Carl Crawford for baseball commish!

2008-05-28 11:09:30
11.   Zack
Yeah, the thought of the GODJ makes me really uncomfortable. Not only because, well, how crazy is it that Jeter is old enough to be declining? But precisely because of what Cliff hints at, the combination of Jeter's pride and stubbornness over the good of the team, the inability for the Yankees to really wiggle out of that, and fan's general inability to view Jeter without homervision...I suspect it will be an ugly, ugly decline.

And to compound it, there will be the thorny issue of his contract as he approaches 3,000 hits and beyond...

2008-05-28 11:10:30
12.   dianagramr
BTW, tomorrow marks exactly 13 years since Jeter's debut ...

2008-05-28 11:15:29
13.   williamnyy23
Wouldn't it be ironic if Arod took Jeter under his wing and introduced him to his workout regime. Although only a year apart, Arod seems much younger.
2008-05-28 11:16:45
14.   dianagramr
FWIW, here are all shortstops in ML history with at least 1,800 games and 8,400 PAs through their age 33 season ...

2008-05-28 11:43:24
15.   Shaun P
Jeter PECOTA projections aren't horrible (at least, not until 2013ish). The real killer is that his power will likely just evaporate; that kills moving him to 1B or LF. (Its hard to win with a 1B who slugs .350.)

Any chance Jeter settles for being a utility infielder? Has there ever been a UIF who's on a team for his bat instead of his glove?

2008-05-28 11:48:18
16.   JL25and3
14 I'm not encouraged by that list.

Donie Bush declined precipitously after age 33 and was done at 35.

The Ghost of Cal Ripken is probably the best comparison, and that's a problem. At least Ripken moved to third.

2008-05-28 11:50:04
17.   Simone
Derek is clearly declining. His power may be completely gone for all we know. However, it is more likely that his current bad performance is being effected by with the injury to his hand and other undisclosed injuries. It is unlikely that he will this bad for the whole season
2008-05-28 11:51:17
18.   dianagramr
I just posed the Jeter question to Steven Goldman at during a chat:

dianagramr (NYC): Do you see ANY way ANYONE in the organization pulls him aside in the near future and says "your days as a shortstop are over"? If so, what position could he possibly play and still make his bat worthwhile?

Steven Goldman: I don't see it. I admire the man who has the guts to do it, but you know they're going to have to have the whole College of Cardinals in to approve the decision. In any case, someone has to be pushing him. There has to be an alternative, and right now that guy isn't in the organization, or if he his (um, Carmen Angelini?) he hasn't identified himself as the heir... Anyway, I don't see his bat carrying another position now. Maybe second base, but I don't know if the could hack it defensively, and the Yankees are set there, assuming Robinson Cano wakes up from his nightmare.

2008-05-28 11:58:05
19.   tommyl
18 Yeah, Goldman seems really down on the current team. I can't say I blame him, just not used to this amount of pessimism from him.
2008-05-28 12:04:20
20.   Raf
16 That was because the O's picked up someone that could play shortstop in Mike Bordick. I could understand Ripken not wanting to move for the likes of Manny Alexander.

Somehow, I don't see Jeter giving SS to Rodriguez.

2008-05-28 12:08:12
21.   Sliced Bread
What does Jeter have to hit to be a net gain?

He's still one of the best hitting shortstops in the AL, no?

Among AL shortstops who have had at least 75 AB Jeter ranks:

- 1st in batting avg.
- 2nd in RBI
- 2nd in OPS
- 3rd in hits
- 3rd in OBP
- 4th in SLG
- 4th in runs
- 5th in AB

I'd say reports of Jeter's death at the plate are premature.

2008-05-28 12:13:21
22.   mehmattski
21 And to wrap that all up he's #1 among AL shortstops in Runs Created and Win Shares.
2008-05-28 12:32:37
23.   Shaun P
21 22 But that's relative to the league, not to Jeter himself. He's so high on those lists because this year, AL SS are hitting, on average, .255/.306/.351.

In contrast, last year the average AL SS hit .269/.322/.391. Jeter's current .286/.342/.390 is basically a few singles better than that.

Compare Jeter to Jeter, and you find he's on pace for his worst

OPS (.732)
SLB (.390)
OBP (.342)
Doubles (24)
Home runs (7)
Walks (38)
and AVG (.286)

ever since he became a regular. And the only reason he isn't on pace to have the fewest hits he's ever had as a regular is because he missed 40 games in 2003.

2008-05-28 12:38:05
24.   rbj
So move Derek to 2nd? Robbie to SS or 3rd?

Would Derek listen to Yogi if Yogi told him it was time to move?

2008-05-28 12:39:58
25.   Shaun P
24 Would Yogi do that?

In happier news (if he gets to stick), Britton is back in the bigs.

2008-05-28 12:41:58
26.   Cliff Corcoran
23 True, but that's just a testament to how truly valuable Jeter's been in his career up to this point. As Goldman's last Pinstriped Blog points out, offense is way down in the AL in general thus far this year, so holding any player's 2008 performance to a 2007 standard will be misleading.

The issue with Jeter is that his already poor defense is eroding faster than his offense, and thus a natural decline at the plate could result in a huge swing in his value as a shortstop and make him virtually useless at any other position on the diamond, unless he makes an unprecedented conversion to catching.

The Cal Ripken example is informative here. As much as Ripken was barely more than an average hitter for the second half of his career, he was never worse than average in the field until the end had truly come. Jeter's starting his decline with a much weaker foundation. If he declines to become an average offensive performer, his defense will render him a huge liability.

2008-05-28 12:42:53
27.   Cliff Corcoran
26 Which, incidentally, is what happened to Bernie.
2008-05-28 12:44:44
28.   Simone
23 So even as he ages and declines, Derek is still one of the best offensive shortstops in the league.

Also, the fact that Derek was hitting well before his hand was injured suggests that that there is a link to his current struggles and the hand. I suspect that his power is gone, but that he will rebound quite nicely offensively as the season goes along.

Eventually, the Yankees will have to make some hard decisions about how long Derek can play SS.

2008-05-28 12:49:39
29.   Sliced Bread
23 but is comparing current Jeter to past Jeter more relevant than comparing him to his current rival shortstops?

I don't think anyone, including the proud captain himself, would dispute that he's played better games, and seen better days -- but relative to every other man who currently plays his position, he's still one of the best hitters, even if he's at his worst.

In other words, he remains a valuable asset, even if he's a ghost of what he was in his prime.

At some point, his defense will negate his offense, but with all due respect to Cliff and Goldman and those who agree with them, I don't think that day has come. I think he's better than acceptable at short for now, and is among the least of the 2008 Yankees' problems.

2008-05-28 12:57:33
30.   dianagramr

I'm trying to think of which is worse .... Jeter going to his left, or Luis Castillo going to his right.

How many times do we have to hear "pastadivingJeter" .... it can't all be about positioning.

Sure those "jump throws" are snazzy and iconic, and he's made some heady plays over the years, but for a pitching staff that DOESN'T have a lot of strikeout pitchers, Jeter's defense is a glaring weakness.

2008-05-28 13:06:42
31.   Shaun P
28 29 You are both right about Jeter's current hitting.

27] And Cliff, you (and Steven) are right about league-wide offense levels, of course. And Jeter's defense.

So the question becomes, when its 2010 and the Yanks re-sign Jeter, for a heck of a lot less then he's being paid now, who tells him that his days as a regular SS are over, and where do the Yanks play him?

2008-05-28 13:13:46
32.   Sliced Bread
31 I have no idea where they'll play him, but I'm guessing it will fall on Kim Jones to tell him.
2008-05-28 13:17:57
33.   Cliff Corcoran
31 Your last question is the toughest. The problem with Jeter is that if his days at shortstop end, his career might need to end with them, which given his potential to climb the career hits leaders list is a major bummer. His best hope would seem to be bringing his strong arm, good legs, and ability to track fly balls into the outfield, but by the time he moves, the arm and legs won't abide, and the Yankees may have filled their pastures with prospects (a 2010 outfield of Jackson, Gardner, Cabrera remains a possibility with Jackson, Cabrera/Gardner, FarmoreproductivefreeagentthanDerekJeter as the most likely alternative).
2008-05-28 13:20:41
34.   Cliff Corcoran
The point in all of this is that we can see it coming, so the front office should, and they should start planning for it now, if they haven't already. Any failure to manage this situation falls not on Jeter's declining abilities, but on the front office, which should have learned its lesson from Bernie that not all icons leave before they're a drain on the team the way Mattingly and O'Neill did.
2008-05-28 13:32:47
35.   ny2ca2dc
I agree Jeter isn't long for SS, and isn't going to be a big run producer for too much longer. But it seems like he's a shoo in for left field. That's why I've been advocating a trade of Damon - it's not that Damon's hitting worse than we should expect him to, it's that he's a worse hitter than Jeter, and he's playing Jeter's position! I don't see how they can really write Jeter in at SS past this year. But the way Melky's hitting, maybe when you balance offense and defense the team is best with Damon at center, Jeter in left, and the AG at SS.
2008-05-28 13:40:42
36.   ChrisS
Robin Yount switched to the full time CFer when he was 30. One year after winning his 2nd MVP, when he was 34, he was league average with the bat. Three years later he was out of baseball.

What's personally sad is that Jeter and I very nearly share a birthday - we were born just about a week apart. So when I hear how old Jetes is getting, it acts as a reminder to my own aging.

2008-05-28 13:43:48
37.   pistolpete
Letting Abreu and Giambi walk would certainly open up some options, but it's probably too soon for Jeter to even consider anything else but SS.

Does anyone think he'd do well in one of the corner OF spots?

Maybe a good timetable would be for when Damon's done...?

2008-05-28 13:44:28
38.   horace-clarke-era
Dudes, this all seems a tiny bit of overreaction. Last night's issues were on the basepaths, and a throwing error (mental, wrong base). He also drove in a run, and laid down a bunt (2nd time around) that was so dangerous it lured Mora into panicking. I look at 21 and am quite relaxed about substantial + value in DJ. I haven't seen anyone post fielding levels declining this year yet - have they? Or are we just talking below-average, which is where we've been for awhile.

Comparing any athlete to what he was in his prime is unfair and silly. Steve Nash and Allen Iverson ain't what they useta be, either.

Yes, if the bat disappears the below-average fielding hurts. The bat has not disappeared, and power was never his game. We have, as someone else said, other larger issues for next year than shortstop. 2010 will sort itself out somewhere in the latter part of 2009, I'll guess.

I do see a complication there, akin to Ripken's streak, as Jeter approaches 3000 and beyond but we aren't there this spring. Call it a bad game, a minor injury at work, too, see what happens next little while. I'm more concerned with the bullpen, and Pettitte's last few very so-so starts.

2008-05-28 13:49:23
39.   ny2ca2dc
And oh by the way, I can sympathize Alex. My left foot/ankle/leg is in a moon boot right now (the think has more buckles, 5, than my ski boots). I tore a ligament 3 months ago. I'd suggest going to a specialist right away - I went to the emergency room a day after I jacked it up, they shot some x-rays. No fractures, so I thought I was going to be in the clear. A month later, it was still not healing and I had a big hiking trip coming up, so I go to the podiatrist, who sends me for an MRI. Oopsie, complete tear of a ligament. No wonder walking for a month was such a trial. At least I had a podiatrist's phone number on hand - I broke 2 metatarsals in the other foot a year and a half ago. Tearing the ankle ligaments hurt even more than crushing the foot. Of course it was tons of fun dealing with the chukleheads at work when I came traipsing in with a second severe lower leg injury inside 18 months.
2008-05-28 13:52:54
40.   Shaun P
I could see Jeter being able to play LF in '09 if the Yanks (somehow) trade Damon. I can't see Gonzalez at SS full time (he can't hit big league pitching well enough), but right now, there are no other options in-house.

So, I'll play along, and say that happens for 2009. But 2009 isn't the problem. 2011 (and beyond) are. I can't see Jeter having the speed, or the bat (power), to play LF then. Where does he go?

2008-05-28 14:07:25
41.   Cliff Corcoran
38 I didn't think this conversation was at all a reaction to Jeter's performance last night as much as a reaction to his performance through the first two months of the season.
2008-05-28 14:09:19
42.   rilkefan
19 I read way too many posts from Goldman last year about how the Yankees couldn't make the playoffs because their record so far that season projected badly. Maybe I missed a "mea culpa will do better next time" post, but is there any current evidence he has learned anything?
2008-05-28 15:09:43
43.   Sliced Bread
Word, Cliff. 34
2008-05-28 16:58:29
44.   horace-clarke-era
41 But Cliff, see 21 no? And .380 with risp? Absent indicators (and maybe there are) of worse D than the usual weak D, it feels like an overreaction, to be talking End of the Line.

And I'm the guy who may have been first to query him looking sluggish in week one! Others (it may even have been you?) said he seemed to be moving well!

I'm just trying to distinguish between a post hand injury mini-slump and GODJ talk. As for 34 the only thing I can see you might mean is signing a shortstop next year? Or the year after ... which is what I was implying in my last.
It seems wrong to me to move Alex BACK to short as he ages ... this is when he'd be going to 3rd base 'normally'.

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