Friday, April 19, 2013

After the Break, Jeter Not Back Before the Break........

The Yankees rallied for a second straight night against the Arizona Diamondbacks before they fell short in extra innings, 6-2 Thursday night. Derek Jeter rallied from a broken ankle in last year's ALCS, but his comeback fell short of the 2013 season opener in the Bronx.

A setback scratched that goal and another setback - a new fracture found in his left ankle - will now keep the Yankees captain out until after the All-Star break in July. It makes for a sticky situation for the team and for Jeter.

In the final year of the guaranteed portion of his contract, Jeter holds an $8MM option for 2014. Coming off a fabulous regular season last year, my thought was that Jeter would turn down the option after the 2013 season and then would seek another 2-3 year contract. That all changed last October when his ankle betrayed him.  Ankles are always slow to heal, but ankles that will be 39 years old in July are even slower to recover.

If Jeter returns in July and has a big second half and the Yankees are successful (a word whose meaning is different depending on who you talk to), Jeter may still toss aside the option. If he plays poorly, only partially, or not at all, he most certainly will exercise the option. It would be hard to imagine retirement as another option, unless Jeter felt he could no longer compete at the level he expects himself to or he's no longer the Yankees every day shortstop.

That is the really big elephant in the room. Will Jeter's ankle be able to withstand the stress of playing shortstop? How much range will he have lost? Jeter is a leader, not the guy who sits in the back of the classroom hoping the teacher doesn't call on him. If he's told he will no longer be the every day shortstop next year or the shortstop at all, Jeter could put on a uniform that doesn't have an interocking N and Y on it.

It's hard to imagine and awful to think about. We don't know how close Jeter came to that actually happening when he was a free agent after the 2010 season. We all know he was not happy with the way negotiations went. I don't think he would play elsewhere for one year or more, but others have done it before him and not just in baseball. (Michael Jordan springs to mind.)

First things first though, the Yankees need Jeter to heal and his play to be at a significant level. Until then it's up to Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix (or someone yet to be determined) to hold the fort down.

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