Right Field

Jeter to DL? What It Means for Him and the Yanks

In the wake of Derek Jeter’s grade 1 calf strain injury, which has put on hold the future Hall of Fame shortstop’s quest for 3,000 hits, Newsday columnist Ken Davidoff reminds us that “age is a cruel reality for Jeter.” (Registration required.)

To be fair, Jeter — who will turn 37 this month — hasn’t visited the disabled list since 2003, when he dislocated his left shoulder and missed six weeks. The quality of his game, however, has dropped precipitously since a terrific 2009. . . . 

And the hopes for a bounceback season had pretty much petered out. Jeter entered Monday night with wins above replacement (WAR) counts of -0.1, according to Baseball-Reference.com, and 0.5, according to FanGraphs.com. That puts him either slightly above a replacement-level player — someone you’d call up from Triple-A as a short-term fill-in — or a tick below that caliber.

This homestand quest for 3,000, therefore, offered a rejuvenation burst. An opportunity to show that he still could rev up the old engine and live up to that “Captain Clutch” nickname.

He initiated the homestand needing 14 hits in 10 games, and through Monday night, he managed to go 8-for-31 (.258) with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. That’s very much in line with his .260 batting average for the season. In other words, he didn’t step up.

We didn’t get the myth of the resurgent hero, beating the clock. Just the reality of an aging star. One who, let’s face it, needs to be moved down in the lineup, at least against righthanded starting pitchers, sooner than later upon his return.

He’ll still get the deserved adulation whenever he gets back on the field and completes his milestone climb. The climax just won’t be quite as storybook as it could have been.

Regarding the short-term impact of Jeter’s replacement, (as of tomorrow) 24-year-old Eduardo Nunez, Davidoff offers the following analysis:

At the plate, better pop and worse patience. In the field, better range and worse hands. On the bases, better speed and worse instincts.

Nunez’s regular presence in the lineup could produce some of that “energy” for which fans are often yearning. Or, especially if he struggles on the defensive side, it could have fans counting the days until Jeter’s return.

The Yankees host the Rangers for three games at New Yankee Stadium starting this evening at 7:05 p.m. EDT.

Jason Epstein is the president of Southfive Strategies, LLC. He was a public-relations consultant for the Turkish embassy in Washington from 2002 to 2007.

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