Jeter has played in just 17 games this season for the Yankees
as injuries have kept him out of the lineup. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Derek Jeter was removed for a pinch-runner in the sixth inning of the Yankees' 13-9 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday due to pain in his left ankle, the same ankle that he fractured during last year's Division Series against the Tigers and broke again during his rehabilitation from the first break earlier this season. A subsequent CT scan of the ankle was negative, but Jeter was not in the Yankee lineup for the finale of their series against Boston, and will not be in the lineup on Monday against the wild-card rival Orioles. The Yankees plan to reevaluate Jeter after he rests Sunday and Monday, and they obviously hope that Jeter can return soon after, but that may not be a realistic expectation, something it seems the Yankees and perhaps even the hard-headed Jeter himself are coming to realize.
Thursday will mark one year since Jeter fouled a pitch off his left ankle against the Rays on September 12 of last year, and his ankle hasn't been right since. It's difficult to believe that a couple extra days of rest are going to make a big difference at this point. Even if Jeter is able to return to the lineup later this week, he may need regular days off or at designated hitter to avoid further injury. After all, we're talking about a 39-year-old player who has been healthy enough to play in just 17 games thus far this season due not only to his ankle, but quadriceps and calf strains, both of which sent him to the disabled list.
It's also worth asking, at this point, what advantage the Yankees gain by having Jeter in the lineup in this fragile state. He is clearly not the same player who experience a late-career renaissance last year and in the second half of 2011. Jeter has hit just .190/.288/.254 this season, and whatever you might have thought of his fielding in his prime, it's impossible to argue that, at his age and with all of the leg injuries he's had this season, he has exhibited anything close to sufficient range at shortstop in his 13 starts there this season. Jeter has played just 17 games this season, but per Baseball-Reference's wins above replacement (bWAR) he has cost them nearly a win relative to a replacement player.
The problem is that the Yankees have had trouble finding even a replacement-level shortstop. Eduardo Nuñez's play in the field has been nearly as bad as Jeter's, making him a net negative, as well, costing the Yankees almost two wins relative to a replacement player thus far this season. Jayson Nix
is out for the season after having his left hand broken by an R.A. Dickey
pitch on August 21. Reid Brignac
, Alberto Gonzalez
, and Luis Cruz
were all tried and discarded (Gonzalez remains in the organization but hit just .183/.240/.220 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season). The Yankees have abided that lot because of the expectation of Jeter's return, but now, with the team just 2 1/2 games behind the Rays for the second wild-card spot in the American League, it seems as if that was a miscalculation which could very well cost them a trip to the postseason.