Thursday, September 12, 2013
First Pitch: What's in Jeter's future?
By Wallace Matthews
BALTIMORE -- I think we all can agree on two things: One is that Derek Jeter will play baseball again next year. The other is that he will play for the Yankees.
The real question is, how well will he be able to play?
We all know what Jeter is and what he has done throughout his 18-year major league career, one that will land him in Cooperstown no matter how this endgame plays out.
But if you take a close look at what Jeter will be next year, it's tough to imagine him ever again playing at or near the level he did in 2012.
For one thing, he will be facing his 40th birthday on June 26. For another, he will have missed basically 18 months of action, with the exception of 17 games, by the time the Yankees open their 2014 season on April 1. For a third, he will be trying to play the most demanding position in baseball on an every-day basis.
So what can we really expect from Jeter next year? He had a phenomenal 2012 with an MLB-leading 216 hits and a .316 batting average, but after he came back from a serious ankle injury -- far more serious than he or the Yankees ever let on -- he seemed to have aged 10 years as a player.
After another winter of rest, this one presumably including the kind of leg training he was unable to do while healing last year, is it really possible for Jeter to get any of those years back?
Can he play shortstop on an every-day basis? Probably not. Can he play it say, three times a week, and the rest of the time serve as the right-handed hitting DH? Maybe. Is it even possible he will be relegated to a part-time role while a younger, healthier man takes his place?
Anything is possible, and if you write off Jeter, even at this stage of his career, you do it at your peril.
But the fact is that Jeter is not only a human being but a middle-aged human being at that, subject to the same ravages of aging as the rest of us.
So what do you think he will do next year? Let's set the under/over at 100 games, 125 hits and a .275 batting average.
I say over on the games, under on the hits and right about .275 on the BA.
Now, it's your turn: What is your best guess of what Derek Jeter can do next year?
Let us know in the comments section or via my Twitter feed, @ESPNNYYankees.
UP NOW: My news story on the announcement that Jeter had been shut down for the rest of the season and any possible playoff games, as well as a column on why it was the right thing for the Yankees to do. Also, the Rapid Reaction on an important 5-4 win over the Orioles, postgame notes and a blog post on a weapon we didn't know Joe Girardi had in his arsenal -- a curveball.
ON DECK: The Yankees look to take three out of four from the Orioles -- and move up in the wild-card race in the process -- in the series finale. Girardi's curveball, Phil Hughes (4-13, 5.11 ERA), gets a chance at redemption, facing LHP Wei-Yin Chen (7-7, 3.82), with first pitch at 7:05 p.m. Clubhouse opens at 3:35, lineups and pregame news to follow thereafter, so plan to pop in and spend the afternoon with us. And as always, thanks for making ESPNNewYork.com New York's most widely read sports website.