Randy Levine still likes chances

Updated: October 14, 2012, 9:21 PM ET
By Matt Ehalt | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- New York Yankees president Randy Levine said Sunday he believes the team can still win the World Series despite the loss of shortstop Derek Jeter to a fractured left ankle.

Levine also did not commit to slugger Alex Rodriguez playing out his contract through the 2017 season when he joined "Sunday Morning with Ian O'Connor" on ESPN 98.7 FM on Sunday.

"I think we can (win a 28th title)," Levine said. "I think we have to play better. I think everybody is going to have to step up their contribution. I think that injuries are part of the game and this is a giant loss, but we have enough very talented baseball players on this team that if they play up to what they're capable of, even the loss of Derek Jeter, which is a big obstacle, can be overcome.

"But we're going to have to play a lot better than we played last night."

Jeter, the Yankees' captain, fractured his ankle going for a ground ball to his left during the 12th inning of Saturday's loss to the Tigers during Game 1 of the AL Championship Series. Jeter had been perhaps the Yankees' best hitter during the postseason, batting .333 through six games, but the club now will have to try and fill that void.

Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez, who have a combined nine postseason at-bats in their careers, will fill in at short.

"Derek Jeter is one of the greatest Yankees who ever played. Obviously losing somebody of his caliber, both as a player and as a leader is tough. It's very, very hard," Levine said. "Nobody is going to replace Derek Jeter, but we have a resilient team, we have a bunch of guys who are really good players and who can step in and hopefully they look at this as an opportunity to go forward."

With Jeter out, the Yankees will need their big bats, like Rodriguez's, to start producing. The third baseman has struggled during the postseason, hitting .105.

He does not have an RBI or an extra-base hit in the postseason and has struck out in key spots, such as fanning with runners on second and third and no outs during Saturday's loss.

Rodriguez has five years left on his deal at $114 million, which means the Yankees could be paying top dollar for a declining player at a time when they're trying to get under the luxury tax.

Levine seemed almost resigned to just having to deal with that contract and its value while Rodriguez is a Yankee. He wasn't surprised by Rodriguez's benching.

"For all our fan base: Let's root for Alex, the contract is what it is, and he's there, we hope he gets hot," Levine said. "It's part of what we deal with all the time, just like any other contract."

Levine did not commit to Rodriguez for the duration of the deal, although he didn't specifically give a definitive answer as to if he thinks the Yankees will finish the deal in pinstripes or eventually will get traded.

"That's like one of those questions: Where's the stock market going to be in 2017, who's going to be president on Nov. 15?" Levine said. "If I had crystal ball to predict all of that stuff, I'd be a lot smarter than I am. I'm not going to go there. That's stuff for people to speculate on your show and elsewhere, but it's irresponsible for me to do so."

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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