Despite calls for change, Derek Jeter to remain Joe Girardi's No. 2 hitterSkipper says The Captain isn't going anywhere in his final month
To be fair, Jeter has not exactly had a "Jeter-esque" season in 2014, hitting .261 through Tuesday - nearly 50 points below his .310 career average - with a .619 OPS that would be the worst full-season OPS of his career by almost 100 points.
Those marks, however, count an August where Jeter hit just .207 with a .487 OPS after four months of hitting .270 or better and OPS'ing .639 or better - and in a season where Jeter hasn't been Jeter, the majority of the Yankees' lineup also hasn't been themselves, so that .261 average is fourth-best among those with even 150 plate appearances in pinstripes this year.
And so, to manager Joe Girardi, even though Jeter hasn't lived up to his baseball card (despite perhaps exceeding what many expectations for him were), he's still the best option to hit between Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, in whatever order they're in, at the top of the lineup.
"He's a hot topic always just because of who he is, but there's other issues we have in our lineup that we need to be better at as well," Girardi said Tuesday. "For the first four months of the season he was one of our most consistent hitters, but like some other guys, he had a tough August. Derek can hit .600 in September, but if the other guys around him don't produce, it won't matter."
Girardi has a point, and Tuesday's game was a microcosm of it. Solo homers from Martin Prado and Brian McCann aside, the Yankees' five other hits were all singles, giving the pessimists a chance to rail about how the Yankees rarely hit for power in a ballpark built for it.
But, four of those singles came in the fifth inning, and Jeter's RBI knock came well after McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Prado - the Nos. 5, 6, and 7 hitters - had the others, and despite scoring just two runs from the outburst, that was the kind of inning the Yankees need to have more often.
"For us to be successful (in September), we're going to need to have a handful of guys get hot," Girardi said. "It's going to have to be a collection of all these guys swinging the bat well, and if one guy's not, the next guy has to pick him up."
So far this season that hasn't happened, and as Girardi noted, law of averages says that until or unless everyone gets hot, there's no sense in changing for the sake of change.
"I think in talking about moving (Jeter), you have to look up and down the lineup; there's a lot of .230s and .240s, so I'm not sure why he's the one being picked on," Girardi said. "If I had eight other guys hitting .300, a decision probably wouldn't be difficult, but if I move him, who do I put there? Who has been more consistent over the year? We haven't hit collectively as a team; being fourteenth out of 15 in runs scored (in the American League) isn't all Derek's fault, and to single him out is not fair."
There are some who say that perhaps it's the pressure of not bruising The Captain's ego - pointing to previous similar moves for players like Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada - or upsetting the apple car
"I think when you're used to hitting in one area, movement affects you more than it would a guy who has been moved around his whole career," Girardi said. "But these guys want to win, and I don't think Derek would let that get to him. He's been a money player his whole career, and we need him to be his last month.
And so, Yankees fans, get ready, because whether it's a lifetime achievement award or not, Derek Jeter is the No. 2 hitter on the Yankees for the foreseeable future - and even if it is a lifetime achievement award of sorts, Girardi gave one last good reason for it.
"I consider us in playoff mode right now because we need to win games. Throughout his career he's been clutch in the playoffs, and we're leaving him there."