Commentary

DL'ing Derek best for Bombers, Jeter

Even the Captain himself acknowledges it: Right now, he just can't help his team

Updated: September 12, 2013, 8:37 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

BALTIMORE -- In the end, Derek Jeter needed to be saved from himself.

And the Yankees needed to be saved from Derek Jeter.

That was the deciding factor in the Yankees' decision to shut Jeter down for the rest of this season, and whatever postseason play, if any, the Yankees manage to squeeze out of this odd, injury-riddled, but still-breathing season of theirs.

General manager Brian Cashman knew that as long as Jeter was still on the active roster and there were still meaningful games left to play, Jeter would push himself, perhaps beyond the limits of good sense, to try to play in some of them.

And he knew that as long as Jeter was in the Yankees' clubhouse and, theoretically at least, available to play, manager Joe Girardi would be tempted to somehow work him in. After all, observe Girardi's recent use of the retiring Mariano Rivera.

It was a risky and potentially toxic combination, one that was more likely to finish off Jeter's career than provide a happy ending to the Yankees' 2013 season.

That is why Cashman decided Tuesday night to pull the plug on Jeter, and take all the dangerous toys away from his headstrong shortstop and his desperate manager.

"You don't know how these games are going to unravel," Cashman said. "Next thing you know, you're looking down the end of the bench and you see Derek Jeter there and he's available. The bottom line is it's a recognition of how difficult this recovery is. It's not something we wanted to do and it's certainly not something Derek wants to do. But it's something we have to do."

So for the first time in 17 years, Derek Jeter will have no say in the end of a Yankees season. And Joe Girardi will not have to pray for the strength not to give in to temptation.

It is better for both of them, because if there is one thing this season has shown us, it is that Derek Jeter, in his current condition, is incapable of playing shortstop at the major league level for more than one game.

And as blasphemous as it might sound, his mere presence on the field was not enough to assure the Yankees of victory, or even respectability. As Jeter himself admitted, he was not helping the team. Therefore, he had no business being out there in games as crucial as these final 17.

"I wasn't moving the way I wanted to move, I wasn't hitting the way I wanted to hit. I wasn't doing anything; I wasn't throwing the way I wanted to throw," a somber Jeter said at his news conference Wednesday afternoon. "If you can't play how you're capable of playing or what you're used to doing, then you're really not helping out. If I'm not able to play how I want to play, then I'm not benefiting the team."

From a team known for its cold assessments of some of its greatest players of all time, that was the coldest assessment of all. And, an accurate one.

Every season at this time, Cashman tells us the Yankees will bring along for the ride only the players he believes will help the team the most. He proved it after the 2009 world championship, when he cut ties to Hideki Matsui, the World Series MVP, and Johnny Damon, whose two-base steal might have been the play of the postseason.

Now, as he prepares his roster for this final stretch run and begins to formulate which 25 he would take along should a postseason run develop, the judgment is that Derek Jeter will not be among them.

"It's very disappointing not to be able to play, especially this time of year," Jeter said. "This is when I want to play the most. Unfortunately, that's not the case. The entire year has been pretty much a nightmare for me physically, so I guess it's fitting that it ends like this."

All the other questions -- such as, will Jeter exercise his player option for 2014 or opt for a dignified retirement, and, as he approaches his 40th birthday next June, can he ever be an effective major league shortstop again -- can be tabled for another day.

There is no doubt Jeter heads into this offseason fully intending to return next season, and you can bet he expects to play shortstop. The first decision is out of the Yankees' hands -- they wrote the option year into his contract during the contentious negotiations of the winter of 2010 -- but the second is not.

At some point, Cashman might have to decide Derek Jeter is no longer capable of playing shortstop for the Yankees on a regular basis. He might have to consider moving him somewhere else or make him a full-time right-handed designated hitter.

When the time comes to make that call, Cashman is unlikely to flinch; he is, after all, the one voice in the Yankees' front office who publicly challenged Jeter to test the free-agent market if he really didn't believe the Yankees' offer, which settled in at $51 million for three years plus the option, was fair enough.

For the here and now, the hard decision Cashman has made is the right one. No need for Jeter to come to the park every day trying to force his body to do something it is not now capable of doing.

And no need for the GM to dangle a future Hall of Famer under his manager's nose, so close and yet so far away, tantalizing and at the same time dangerous.

Cashman, Girardi and Jeter also agree on one other thing -- all three say we have not seen the last of Derek Jeter on a baseball field and, most likely, in a Yankees uniform.

I'm with them on that. I've already made the mistake of proclaiming Derek Jeter finished, and I'm not in the business of making the same mistake twice. But we've seen the last of him for this season, and for Jeter's sake, and that of the team he has represented so admirably for 17 seasons, it was the right thing to do.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
Follow Wallace on Twitter »  Chat archive »

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.


EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES