Of course, we’re not talking about the functional aspects of the decision, we’re talking about the political ramifications. To that end, I see two obvious sourcs of a potential problem; the local media and Jeter himself.
So far as the media goes, that really should never be a consideration at all, especially in New York. The tabloids are going to squawk no matter what you do. If Jeter gets moved to the bottom of the lineup, Girardi is an idiot and Brian Cashman is the big meanie upstairs who doesn’t get it and doesn’t respect the legendary status of Derek Jeter. If Jeter stays in the leadoff spot, then everyone’s afraid to stand up to The Captain. There’s no winning with the Post and Daily News, ever. If the Yankees win the World Series the next year, someone in those papers will have a column about C.C. Sabathia‘s opt-out clause the day after.
Jeter’s own reaction to it, however, could be the difficult part. After all, no one likes getting demoted, and it is likely to wound Jeter’s pride. But this goes back to what I said the other day about overcoming status quo bias; the best way to implement a difficult decision is to simply do it and plow ahead. If the Yankees decide Jeter is being moved down the lineup, move him down and move on. Hear out his complaints in the short run, and if they persist too long just make it clear that it’s not his decision and that what’s done is done and as a player his job is to get in line. That sounds harsh, but let’s be honest, if we were talking about Curtis Granderson and not Derek Jeter this wouldn’t be nearly so controversial.
The thing is, once you’ve made the decision and stuck with it, everyone will eventually adjust to the new norm. Instead of being Derek Jeter: Yankee Legend, Hall-of-Famer, starting shortstop, and leadoff hitter he’ll just be Derek Jeter: Yankee Legend, Hall-of-Famer, and starting shortstop and everyone will more or less forget the great lineup controversy.
None of this should be taken as another argument for moving Jeter to the bottom of the lineup per se, but rather a general critique of the way organizations make and implement decisions. The bottom line is; simple changes like re-working the batting order or deploying a new bullpen strategy are only difficult if you make them difficult.