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Blog Entry

Jeter returns . . . and the Yankees lose

Posted on: July 4, 2011 10:28 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 9:28 am
 
CLEVELAND -- The Yankees lost Monday because Mariano Rivera's absence led manager Joe Girardi to stick with A.J. Burnett longer than he otherwise would have. They lost because Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez couldn't catch Lonnie Chisenhall's foul popup, extending an at-bat that turned into a key walk.

They also, as it turns out, lost on the night Derek Jeter returned as shortstop and -- yes -- leadoff hitter.

Why mention that? Only because some Yankee fans are already thinking it, or saying it out loud.

Only because as Jeter approaches 3,000 hits (he's still six away after going 0 for 4 in Monday's 6-3 loss to the Indians), Girardi still gets asked regularly about moving Jeter down in the batting order, or about giving more at-bats to Eduardo Nunez, who filled in well offensively but was a little shaky defensively in Jeter's absence.

Only because someone actually asked Jeter how he felt about the team going 14-4 while he was on the disabled list with a strained right calf.

"I wish they went 18-0," Jeter responded. "You want to win."

He always wants to win, but if anything it's more significant for him now. More wins make it easier for Girardi to justify keeping Jeter atop the lineup ("He's my leadoff hitter," Girardi said Monday).

More losses will only further inflame the segment of the Yankee fan base that now sees Jeter as a problem.

Believe me, they're there. Write something positive about Jeter, and you hear from them.

They noticed that in Jeter's first at-bat off the disabled list, he hit a weak ground ball to third base (and reached on an error). They noticed that he went 0 for 4 to drop his batting average to .256 and his on-base percentage to .320.

They won't mention that Gardner, their preferred leadoff hitter, actually led off three innings Monday, and went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

They scoff at Girardi saying, as he did Monday, "We want him to be vintage Jeter." They point out, justifiably so, that Jeter has been subpar offensively for a year and a half now, which makes it tougher to refer to this as just a dip that may reverse itself.

They have their points, even though I'll still maintain that the Yankees are a better team with the steady Jeter at shortstop (if not with him batting leadoff every night).

But for now, there's no indication that the manager has any interest in dropping Jeter to the lower part of the batting order. Asked Monday about taking Jeter out of the leadoff spot, Girardi phrased his answer as if the only other option would be to hit Jeter second.

Girardi said the only question about Jeter would be how he feels physically, and Jeter answered that question Monday night by saying that the calf was absolutely no issue.

"Physically I feel fine," he said. "No problems."

And the lack of hits?

"If you don't get hits, it's timing," he said. "If you do, it's you're well-rested."

At this point, if Jeter doesn't get hits, it's that he's old (just turned 37) and well on the way to being done.

If he doesn't get hits and the Yankees lose ... well, maybe he's the reason.

Even if the other reasons are a lot more significant.


Category: MLB
Comments

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Jeter returns . . . and the Yankees lose



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