How Will Losing Derek Jeter Impact the Yankees Playoff Run?
The Yankees have been baseball’s dynasty machine since they were a professional sports team. This most recent era in Yankees baseball has been led by one consistent ingredient over the years, one of the few homegrown talents in the New York organization: Derek Jeter. Unfortunately, for the rest of the 2012 MLB play-offs the Yankees will be without their iron man.
Facing off against a tough Detroit Tigers squad in game one of the ALCS last night, the Yankees knew that they would not be in for an easy ride. In a hard fought game the meeting went into extra innings, and with Jeter trying to save the game in the 12th inning in with a heroic dive, he fractured his ankle putting him on the DL (disabled list) for the next three months. While at this point it has been stated by the Yankess management (Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman) that the injury is not career ending, Jeter will most definitely be out for the rest of the 2012 playoff season. The Yankees would go on to lose game one of the ALCS 6-4, but now what everyone close to the Yankees organization is wondering is: what the long-term impact will be of losing a player like Jeter?
From line-up stand point, you are losing one of your team corner stone players. Jaysn Nix will step-in for Jeter – but, with a .243 season batting average can he really be expected to put up the same numbers at the plate as Jeter, who hit .316 this season? Another factor in the Yankees recipe that will be missing will be the outstanding fielding play of Jeter. While Nix knows how to play the role at shortstop, losing a five-time gold glove winner at one of the hardest positions to cover in baseball will be a difficult pill to swallow. Jeter might not have the range he had 5 years ago, but he’s still sure handed and his instincts and baseball smarts are still as sharp as ever, maybe even sharper than ever given his experience.
There is the secondary factor that must also come into account, and that is that you’re losing a battle-hardened playoff presence. In his sixteen year baseball career, Derek Jeter has been in thirty-three different play-off series! That’s a lot of experience for a player at any stage in their career. Jeter’s playoff batting average has typically hovered right around .300 (.364 in 2012 going into last night’s game), and while this number drops to about .250 in ALCS match-ups, it jumps to .321 in World Series games. Losing Jeter’s bat, assuming the Yankees make it into the next round, will also have a negative long-term impact on the team’s play-off run in 2012. The one piece of good news for the Yankees, is that Nix has stepped up behind the plate this post-season when he has had the chance, going 2-4 in three games.
Let’s look at this Yankees team honestly though, this is still a line-up in which you have players like Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki. All of these players are more than capable of stepping up and putting in huge numbers on any given night. The hitting squad is still pretty deep on the Yankees and they should be able to fill in the shoes for Jeter in that department.
The biggest loss that comes to this New York team with Jeter falling out of action is that they lose a play-off veteran and a leader on the field. As mentioned previously, Jeter has thirty-three play-off series to the tune of one-hundred and fifty-eight games played – that’s almost the equivalent of two straight regular seasons of nothing but play-off ball! In this league it is hard to find that kind of experience. Jeter has also been with this Yankees team for sixteen years now, and that buys him a lot of credibility with other players. Never underestimate the ability of a team leader to rally the troops when they are down and behind! It can often surpass that of a manager or coach.
I think back to Phil Esposito when I think of the ability of one player to rally an entire squad. Where would the Canadian Men’s Hockey team have been in the 1972 Summit Series without the passion and leadership of Esposito? Would they have rallied from behind to win the tournament? No one will ever know for sure, but many players on that 1972 Canadian Men’s Hockey Team attribute their spirit and furor to him alone.
A hockey example may not be the most relevant in for the 2012 MLB baseball play-offs, but I think the allusion is clear (plus, being a Canadian, I have to bring up the 1972 Summit Series whenever possible). Having a strong team leader is what wins games! think about the morale of the troops when one of their favourite generals goes down in the heat of battle – it brings the whole squad down. This Yankees team will have a choice to rise and above and be inspired – or lose their courage and fall to pieces.