In case you’ve been busy investigating the timeline of events in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial, you might not have noticed that Derek Jeter returned from a nine month exile on the disabled list yesterday.
Jeter’s played solid ball, going 1-4 with an RBI and a run, and then promptly re aggravated his ankle and left the game in the eighth inning. All of Yankee Universe is now holding their breath until the results of his MRI are made available.
Jeter’s said after the game that he expects to play tonight, but in a very wild injury plagued season like this one for the Yanks, nothing is certain.
However, hopefully, Jeter survives this bite from the re-injury bug (unlike Curtis Granderson and Mark Texiera), what should be our expectations of these Yankees now that the Captain has returned?
First off, we should expect a little more offense; boy do the Yankee’s need it. The Yankees are 10th in the AL in runs scored, 14th in hits and 13th in home runs. I can’t even remember the last time the Yankees were this bad offensively and it’s usually the pitching that’s the problem.
This season has been anything but ordinary and Jeter might not have even come back this season if the pitching wasn’t keeping the Yankees relevant. He should slide nicely back into the number two hole in the lineup, snugly between Gardener and Cano.
That at least gives the Yankees a respectable 1-2-3, something they’ve been lacking all season. It also gives Cano a little more protection in the three spot, assuming Jeter can regain even some of last season’s form.
Even if he is mediocre Jeter from a few seasons ago, it’s still an improvement over the likes of Luiz Cruz, Alberto Gonzalez, Eduardo Nunez and Jason Nix (who is currently on the 15 day DL).
Secondly, this gives the Yankees some interesting options in terms of shifting around their roster. Unfortunately, Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, and Travis Hafner are the closest thing the Yanks have to a power hitting team after Cano.
Michael Pineda has been tearing up the minor leagues and is ready to start contributing to the big league rotation, making either Cruz and Gonzalez destined for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova (despite his sudden resurgence) and the constantly disappointing Joba Chamberlain are interesting trade options, and if the Yankees aren’t players at the deadline, the Bronx will burn.
Therefore, you can bet that one of these guys will be flipped for some short term offense. It’s rumored the Yankees are pursuing several options, including Peter Bourjos of the Angels, the Mariners’ Kendry Morales and Rual Ibanez, and Logan Morrison from the Miami Marlins.
In more of an Ichiro-like power move by Cashman, the Yankees are also pursuing the ageless wonder Michael Young from the Phillies. Expect to see one of these guys or someone comparable brought into town before July 31st.
Thirdly and it might seem cheesy, but I expect everybody to play just a little bit better now that they have their Captain to lead them. The Yankees could’ve been dead in the water already, but they have managed to stay alive in the AL East and hopefully they can stay healthy.
Tex is done for the season, but Granderson will be back, Kevin Youkilis will be back, and hell, maybe even A-Rod will be back. What other team in the league has the advantage of getting two players of Jeter and Granderson’s caliber back midway through the season and then likely acquiring another talented player at the deadline?
Despite what some may say, Girardi has done a great job managing what little of a team he has this season. Last year they relied on the home run ball, this year they’re playing small ball. Jeter will be great for raw talented players like Zoilo Almonte and Austin Romine, and if this offense can just be average the rest of the season and the pitching holds up, the Yanks could easily slip into a wildcard spot.
Whether you love the Yankees or love to hate them, it would be great to see Jeter play October ball a few more times. Jeter knows he only has one or two seasons left as an everyday player and being away from the team for this long at this point in his career was probably very difficult for him.
The potential thought of him reinjuring himself yesterday was even scarier. He deserves to spend his final MLB years toeing the cusp of the outfield grass on a cool October night. He will stand behind Mariano Rivera as he throws his cut fastball. The bat will crack and the ball will slice towards the hole between third and shortstop.
Jeter will sprint towards left field, reach down and snatch the ball in his glove, leap into the air as momentum carries him towards third base. He will cock his right arm back and lob a ball towards first as he falls back down to earth. The ball will bounce once before the first basemen grabs it, beating the runner by a half a step.
Jeter will make a small grin and trot back to shortstop; that’s exactly how it should be.
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