AGING JETER MAY NO LONGER BE A LEADING MANBy Andrew Marchand
He is Derek Jeter, so he has earned respect. A lot has been made of how Jeter acts -- and he deserves credit for how he has conducted himself throughout his career. But the respect he has earned is mostly derived from how he has played.
If he were a .270 hitter, with a .340 on-base percentage, he wouldn't receive the same respect for how he acts. Oh, wait! Those were exactly Jeter's numbers last year.
Meanwhile, Brett Gardner hit .277 with a .383 OBP last year. Plus, Gardner is faster. So who should lead off?
The way Jeter got on base in 2010 set him up for an appointment with the lower third of the batting order. Sooner rather than later. Jeter must be judged on what he is, not what he was.
Jeter, because he is Jeter -- a career .314 hitter with a .385 OBP -- maybe deserves a chance to recapture his swing and his place atop the order. But it has to be solved in short order.
This winter, I spoke with Davey Johnson about managing an aging, legendary shortstop. Johnson had Cal Ripken Jr. at the end of his career. Johnson is the one who moved Ripken to third base.
What faces Joe Girardi is what faced Johnson. Johnson said the most important aspect of the decision is making sure that everyone on the team, including the legend, realizes it is the right thing to do. The legend might take some convincing.
But if it is obvious that the Yankees are better with Gardner at the top of the order, then Girardi must do it. Jeter realizes he needs to improve. He has changed his stride, bowing to his poor numbers from last year.
If there is a continuation of last year into this year, then Girardi will need to pull the plug on Jeter as leadoff man. And quickly. Because, as Johnson noted when talking about Ripken, now the manager's reputation is on the line.
LEAVE THE CAPTAIN RIGHT WHERE HE ISBy Ryan Ruocco
When Derek Jeter made the switch from the 2-hole to the leadoff spot in 2009, people thought Joe Girardi was nuts for shaking up the comfort zone of an established star -- but he was right on the money. Jeter thrived there with a .406 OBP and Johnny Damon excelled in the 2-hole, pounding 24 HRs.
Even though Jeter is coming off his shakiest offensive season, and Brett Gardner is establishing himself as someone who consistently gets on base, Jeter should still bat leadoff and Gardner toward the bottom of the order.
Last year, despite Jeter's offensive struggles -- including a .340 OBP -- the Yankees still led the league in runs scored with Jeter batting leadoff and Gardner batting mostly eighth or ninth.
I fully believe Jeter will bounce back with a more typical offensive season, which means closer to a .300 average and .380 OBP. When Jeter is going right, he doesn't need the protection and comfort of the fastballs you see in the 2-hole. He will hit how he hits no matter where he is.
The cushion of the 2-hole does provide a lot of good pitches to hit, though, and I would rather someone like Nick Swisher or Curtis Granderson be there -- guys who can take a grooved fastball and park it with more regularity.
When you are rallying you also want your guys who can end the game with one swing up as quickly as possible. That means you want Swisher or Granderson up before Gardner, which would not happen if Gardner was leading off and Jeter was hitting second.
Jeter and Gardner would both thrive leading off, so it really comes down to who should be batting second, and I believe Swisher or Granderson are the Yankees' best options for the 2-hole.
Leave Jeter alone at the top, put more of a slugger in the 2-hole, and let Gardner continue to thrive at the bottom.
It's a formula that worked in 2009 and 2010.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.