It’s one of the most interesting topics hanging over the Yankees these days: How do you deal with the delicate matter of moving Derek Jeter down in the lineup?
Former Yankee manager Joe Torre believes you have to think about what’s best for the Yankees first, and then act accordingly.
“The only thing you try to do is do what you feel is best for the team with the pieces you have,” Torre said on Monday at his Safe at Home Foundation golf outing at Trump National Golf Club in Westchester.
Torre believes Jeter, who turned 37 on Sunday and is hitting .260 with a .324 on-base percentage, is still a dangerous hitter.
“I think sometimes we make too much of ‘Yeah, he’s not as good as he was’ and you think for that reason automatically you can’t help your team,” Torre said when asked about Jeter. “I don’t think that’s the case; I’m sure Joe Girardi understands -- because he knows the game -- how he proceeds.”
If and when the Yankees decide to move Jeter down in the batting order, Torre thinks that he will accept the demotion, even he doesn’t support it.
“Just because you don’t necessarily like something doesn’t mean you’re not going to do it,” said Torre, who managed Jeter from 1996-2007.
Torre noted that he had to deal with aging icons such as Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez during his Yankees tenure.
“What you do, is you get the most out of the time together, that’s how I approached it,” Torre said. “You basically try not to look ahead, you can’t look ahead. You try to look to now. (General Manager) Brian Cashman, does he need to look ahead? Sure he does, that’s his job. But as a manager, you want to get the most out of your team in the time that you have them.”
He added: “I like to be loyal to individuals but the most important thing is to be loyal to the team.”
Girardi may have to adopt the same maxim with Jeter.
The 16-year veteran is hitting .270 in 226 at-bats in the leadoff position this season. While he is rehabbing a strained right calf injury, the Yankee captain has been replaced at the top of the lineup by the combination of Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher.
Gardner is hitting .230 in 74 at bats in the leadoff spot. Swisher is hitting .308 in 13 at-bats.
Jeter, who has two years remaining (plus a player option year) left on his contract, has said in the past that he enjoys batting in the first inning. But it is almost a foregone conclusion that the Yankees will be forced to move him down at some point during the remainder of his contract. He is coming off a full-season low .270. He hasn’t shown any signs of reverting to the .334 hitter he was in 2009.
Torre said that no one ever forced him to make a decision with his lineup and he hinted that no one should force Girardi to make a decision on Jeter.
“I think Joe is, when I say a business man, his job is managing and I’m sure he knows what he has to do on a daily basis” said Torre, who appeared at his first Old-Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. “Is (the issue of moving Jeter) not sensitive? Sure, it’s sensitive. But that’s what you’re paid to do. You have to deal with stuff as it (comes) along.”
Torre also reiterated that he has no plans to manage again and that he hopes to be on hand to witness Jeter’s 3,000 hit. Jeter is six hits away from 3,000 and is eligible to come off of the disabled list on Wednesday but is not likely to be able to return at that point.