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Not Awesome

The latest from Joe Sheehan:

[Derek Jeter is] just like hundreds of late-thirties baseball players who have lost the fraction of a second of reaction time or bat speed or both that represent the difference between being a major leaguer and being a minor leaguer. I cannot emphasize enough just how small a difference we’re talking about here. The difference between being good enough and not isn’t heart or desire or dedication or work ethic, although those things can close the gap. The difference is biology, physiology, musculature. It’s these tiny edges one guy has on another, and the edges don’t last forever. Almost every player crosses the line at some point. It is quite possible that Jeter has done so, moving in microscopic increments over the past three years, and is no longer on the right side of it.

Like any competitor he’s fighting the process, working extensively on mechanical changes this spring that would serve to cancel the lost microseconds, then discarding them before tax day when the results weren’t there. Leave aside the visuals and look at the output. The “toe-tap” approach Kevin Long looked to instill only seemed to exacerbate Jeter’s inability to get the ball in the air. A season after he hit nearly two of every three balls in play on the ground, he’s hit four of every five on the ground to kick off 2011. You can count the line drives he’s hit on one hand and the fly balls he’s hit on the other. Two years ago, Jeter went through a similar process to sustain his defense, working on his flexibility to improve his range. That change took, at least for a season, but this one appears, in the early going, to be moot.


Categories:  Baseball Musings  Bronx Banter  Yankees

Tags:  Derek Jeter  joe sheehan

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1 The Hawk   ~  Apr 12, 2011 10:42 am

Ugh ... April 12, y'all. Oh well, writers gotta eat too!

2 Dimelo   ~  Apr 12, 2011 10:45 am

[1] Tell that to OYF. He's probably writing his addendum to Sheehan's piece as I post this.

3 Chyll Will   ~  Apr 12, 2011 11:01 am

Why was this even necessary? I don't read papers anymore because of stuff like this.

4 Shaun P.   ~  Apr 12, 2011 11:13 am

[1] Yes, and I agree . . . but [3] the trend (best exemplified by Diane's post yesterday) is quite worrisome.

Couple that with the historical record - not many every day 37-year-old short stops in MLB history who've hit worth a damn - and I get it. This is also a lot more interesting and informative than what I think one would find in a newspaper, Chyll - if anyone who writes for a NY paper would ever bring up this topic.

5 monkeypants   ~  Apr 12, 2011 11:14 am

I'm just disappointed that Sheehan doesn't take Jeter to task for his moral deficiencies: his pride, selfishness, and so forth.


[1],[3] Seriously.

[2] OYF and Sheehan...you've never seen them in pictures together, have you?

6 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 12, 2011 11:35 am


Just an FYI, this piece was excerpted from his pay-to-view blog, of which I am a subscriber. I happen to like a lot of what he has to say.

So, this isn't typical newspaper pablum.

7 Evil Empire   ~  Apr 12, 2011 12:40 pm

Well the yanks made a series which fred "chicken" stanley playing short in 76 and twice won series with Bucky Dent playing short. So if Jeter is now chicken stanley maybe they have enough around him to win. I'm still more worried about the pitching, particularly Hughes's lack of velocity, than jeters problems.

8 Ken_P   ~  Apr 12, 2011 12:42 pm

Sheehan will be the first to warn about the danger of taking early season stats seriously, and elsewhere in that newsletter he does concede that Jeter could very well start hitting again and have another excellent season. His point, though, is that this may not be a case of a small sample fluke because a. it's a continuation of the same problems he had all of last year, and b. we know what historically happens to 36 year old shortstops.

The larger point is that if the above is true, then the Yankees are in a lot more trouble than we thought because there are simple no alternatives to be had, either from the farm or by trade.

9 Evil Empire   ~  Apr 12, 2011 12:59 pm

[8] I thought Nunez was the future..

10 The Hawk   ~  Apr 12, 2011 1:07 pm

Allowing that it's still early, etc etc makes it WORSE that he's writing it, not better. It's like he's saying, it's way too early, but hey I need to write something.

11 stormer   ~  Apr 12, 2011 1:33 pm

[7] Here here. I will wait to pass judgment on Jeter. Not because I am looking through rose colored glasses, but because he's earned it.

I agree with your pitching concerns. The staff is a mess, there is no getting around that, and Jeter hitting .400, scoring 120 Runs, and Slugging .600 wouldn't mean a hill of beans if that doesn't change.

In other words, the car is out of gas on a deserted road and we have no water to drink, so whether the car needs a paint job is beside the point.

12 stormer   ~  Apr 12, 2011 1:35 pm

[10] Yes. In tomorrow's column, "The Beatles Threaten Breakup, Paul and John Came to Blows! Giant Asteroid also Plummeting toward Earth! Read More!"

13 Raf   ~  Apr 12, 2011 1:50 pm

[8] There are always alternatives.

14 joejoejoe   ~  Apr 12, 2011 2:24 pm

"Maybe I'll feel better in the spring."
Jocko looked over the rim of his glasses. "Arthritis doesn't get better," he said. "It gets worse. Every time."
"Two more years and I can take early retirement," Sully said. "After that, fuck 'em."
That came out sounding like the bravado it was. Sully knew that the only reason Jocko didn't argue was kindness. They both knew his knee wasn't going to give him two more years of hard labor.

- Richard Russo, Nobody's Fool

15 Chyll Will   ~  Apr 12, 2011 2:37 pm

[8] What you are saying then is that there are no shortstops of Jeter's former caliber to be had because they don't exist now. All things being equal then, all teams are in trouble if they bank on their shortstop to be their offensive leader or equalizer. Maybe our own expectations are further unrealistic than Jeter's are.

Like Raf says, there are alternatives; perhaps if we readjust our expectations to a more reasonable level. Jeter was far more of a gamer than we expected when he came up, so it's unrealistic to expect anyone that follows him to automatically be at that level. If Nuñez is half the player Jeter was at his prime, that's got to be about average for the current crop of shortstops, which in a lineup as currently constructed is not too much of a drop-off; certainly up from Jeter's current contributions. And we know Nuñez at least has something more than Ramiro Peña...

That said, I do expect Jeter and everyone else to improve with warmer and more stable weather conditions, so I'm not that concerned.

16 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Apr 12, 2011 3:42 pm

Whatever one thinks about the urgency of the "Jeter problem," I honestly don't get why people are responding as if this is some trumped up story to sell papers or a petulant overreaction to two weeks in April or whatever.

This is a story because, as has been noted, it is in keeping with the trend from last season. In what universe is one season plus two weeks a small sample size?

I'm not saying he needs to be DFA'd, moved down in the lineup, pinch hit for, heckled, publicly humiliated, have his character scrutinized or anything.

Other than the fact that the decline of a player we know and love is painful to watch, I can't quite understand the indignation over asking the question of when, whether and to what extent we officially have a problem on our hands.

I'm not trying to stir up trouble but I am honestly curious about why this particular line of inquiry seems to hit a nerve the way it does.

17 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Apr 12, 2011 3:45 pm

[1] Hawk, for instance, you think April 12 is too early to get into this. Fair enough, but at what point is it not too early? Not a glib or rhetorical question at all, a sincere one.

How long (all things being equal, of course) before Jeter's status on the team ought to change (e.g., demotion in batting order, willingness to pinch hit for him)?

18 The Hawk   ~  Apr 12, 2011 3:54 pm

[17] First of all, are you telling me April 12 is NOT too early? Haha, how about you tell ME when is not too early. I bet I'll agree.

I disagree with the idea that it's a season + 2 weeks. Because there's a break, the chunk on either side of the break has to be large enough to justify that kind of continuity, and we're not there yet. Oh okay, if you're really in a rush, say a month at the least. But I'd give it till mid-May/early June.

Anyway I don't have any nerve being struck, I just don't think there's cause for concern much less a few articles every day. I'll excuse they NYT because the got around it by also reporting on the over-reporting of the "issue".

19 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Apr 12, 2011 4:13 pm

[18] June works for me. :)

20 stormer   ~  Apr 12, 2011 4:19 pm

[16] I do not believe it is simply the line of inquiry itself, well, at least not for me. Even looking at the Banter I see two posts concerning Jeter's demise in the last two days and one has to travel quite a ways back in time to find a post relating to the pitching staff or Posada, each performing as badly or worse than Jeter.

The pitching staff is an abject disaster after C.C. And considering that there is zero chance that of winning a World Series with C.C. and a cast of merry men with a combined 10.00 ERA, I'd say the focus on Jeter is more than just a "simple, prudent, and responsible analysis." As I stated earlier, put out the fire before worrying about redecorating.

21 Evil Empire   ~  Apr 12, 2011 4:20 pm

[17] I see the point that the sample includes last year but sometimes players have bad years and bounce back. I can't remember if it was 2007 or 2008 when Cano was terrible.

I still think though that not offensive team is perfect and can have a hole or two and win. If scutaro and varitek aren't holes for Boston, I don't know what is.

Of course they don't make jeters salary and right now he's not earning it.

But again if Hughes pitches like garbage, Nova is inconsistent and garcia is just a tick below league average none of this matters anyway [unless cashman trades for a good pitcher]

If we're going to use small sample the IPK looks like the one we shouldve kept.

22 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Apr 12, 2011 4:33 pm

[21] Sure, players bounce back, but obviously there's a difference between a guy in his early/mid twenties bouncing back and a guy in his late thirties. In fact, maybe that's what makes this so compelling, the fact that he *could* bounce back even though (imo) it doesn't look good.

And maybe that's why Jorgie doesn't get a lot of attention. I, for one, don't expect very much out of him at this point and will be happy for what he gives. He can certainly be a solid player to have and he'll probably continue to walk, so I'll take what we can get. Jeter's different in that he's still at the top of the lineup, which is as important symbolically as anything else.

Jorgie has been used in all sorts of spots in the lineup during his career so it wouldn't really matter if he had to bat eighth or ninth. Jeter, though?

I just feel like the situation could really get ugly because of his status and I guess that's why the issue seems so urgent to me.

If his numbers are like last year's does he continue to bat first or second?

Also, I think back to the way Torre used "his guys," refusing to make necessary changes (often, obviously, he batted Alex eighth and such, but again, that was as much symbolic as anything else) when it seemed like he should. I keep harping on this, but I maintain that his reliance on David Justice in the 2002 postseason bordered on criminal negligence when he had a perfectly healthy Shane Spencer on the bench.


23 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Apr 12, 2011 4:37 pm

Oh, and as to the pitching staff being a disaster, sure, but that's a harder problem to solve.

I guess it just seems like handling Jeter differently is a clear thing you could do to squeeze out an extra victory or two. Quite simply, if you have a hard-throwing closer on the mound and a chance to tie or win a game, do you feel more confident with Chavez or Jeter at the plate?

24 stormer   ~  Apr 12, 2011 4:39 pm

[22] ". . . .but I maintain that his reliance on David Justice in the 2002 postseason bordered on criminal negligence when he had a perfectly healthy Shane Spencer on the bench."


I maintain that his reliance on "the rotation" in 2004 which dragged Kevin Brown to the mound in game 7 of the ALCS . . . .

. . . but anyway . . .

25 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Apr 12, 2011 5:37 pm

[24] Kevin Brown.


26 lroibal   ~  Apr 14, 2011 10:06 am

I played a lot of competitive basketball in my youth. As I approached forty, I had to admit to myself I couldn't play on that level any longer. I was still running five miles a day, with a weekly ten mile run, so it had nothing to do with me being out of shape, I just lost my lateral movement and younger guys could just dribble right around me.

It's what happens to drug free humans, we grow older and slower. Like death and taxes, they are life's inevitables. If Jeter were to grow stronger and faster with age, like a certain person just found guilty of obstruction of justice, it would be more disappointing than watching his batting average fall.

Being reminded that Jeter is human makes what he was able to accomplish that much more impressive.

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