I didn’t mention Derek Jeter at all in my recap of my weekend at The Stadium. That wasn’t an accident. There’s plenty to say about Jeter after this past weekend and I felt it deserved its own post. Jeter looked bad again in the field on TV on Thursday night while contributing to the eventual loss, and he looked even worse in the field and running the bases in person on Friday and Saturday. He left Saturday’s game early with more ankle-related issues, and once again he’s taking some time off to rest, be re-evaluated, and attempt to get back on the field.
With the number of times that formula has played out unsuccessfully this season and with how bad Jeter has looked when he has been on the field, it’s time to stop waiting around for things to improve and talk seriously about Jeter’s future. A lot of people aren’t going to want to read this, but the truth is that Jeter doesn’t appear to have a future in baseball anymore, at least not in the way he’d like to have as a productive everyday shortstop. The truth is that Derek Jeter needs to retire after this season.
Whether you believed it or not the first time he suffered a setback with the ankle and whether you believed the quad and calf injuries were related to the ankle or not, this latest ankle problem is the final piece of proof that Jeter’s recovery and comeback from last year’s original injury and surgery was horribly mismanaged. He’s never been able to get fully healthy this season and he hasn’t been able to perform at even half the level he’s capable of, at least compared to the player he was at 38 for most of the 2012 season.
His first week back from the calf injury was defined by a weak, grounder-heavy offensive game. His next week of game action up until he was removed Saturday wasn’t much better: 5-25, all singles, 4 BB, 5 K, and a lot more groundballs. For the season, Jeter has a 70.4% GB rate and just a 9.3% FB rate. The constant leg problems have sapped him of whatever power he had left in his swing and made his already severely limited defensive range even more of a liability. On Thursday night he was moving so poorly that he couldn’t complete a double play turn. It would be foolish to expect Jeter’s ankle to be any better than it’s been all year at this point, so with the continued watering down of his skill set and his inability to stay healthy for more than a week or so, what’s the point in trying to bring him back this season?
Expanding that question further into the future, what’s the point in him going through this ordeal again next year? The time Jeter had to take off last offseason to heal threw his entire offseason conditioning schedule out of whack. Surely that had a lot to do with the problems he’s had this season and now that he’s still having problems with the ankle it’s a fair bet he’s going to have to take more time off this offseason to rest and recover. He’ll once again be behind schedule when it comes to his conditioning, and at age 40 it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be able to get himself physically ready for another full season.
Jeter has a $9.5 million player option next season and he should really think long and hard about not picking it up. It’s not about the money either. That dollar figure won’t be what breaks the bank on ownership’s $189 million payroll goal. It’s about Jeter having nothing left to prove as a baseball player and not going out as a broken ghost of the player he used to be. I know Jeter is a prideful man and player, and it’s that pride that’s helped him accomplish what he has in pinstripes. He’s one of the greatest Yankees of all time and one of the greatest shortstops of all time. Former teammate Jorge Posada put his pride aside and retired when he couldn’t hack it as an everyday player anymore, and after this season both Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte will do the same before they start to fall apart. Jeter looks like he already is falling apart and there isn’t a Yankee fan out there who wants to see him go through another season like this one. Hanging ’em up and going out with the remainder of the Core Four would be a much more fitting way for him to end his spectacular career, certainly better than spending 2014 injured and underperforming on a team that could be worse than this year’s.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)