Saturday, February 13, 2010

No one can replace Captain Jeter

The New York Post published a story this morning about the New York Yankees supposedly pursuing Cuban shortstop Adeinis Hechavarria to replace Derek Jeter. Good luck with that, Yanks!
Let's start with the team's decidedly mixed record signing Cuban players. The Yankees struck gold with Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, but Jose Contreras and other Cuban players were noteworthy only for their underwhelming performances in pinstripes.

Jeter's toughness is one of the reasons he's lasted so long at shortstop. It's a mental and physical toughness that would be difficult to replace. In an interview with Mike Francesa yesterday, former Yankees manager Joe Torre talked about how he truly never knew whether Jeter was hurt or healthy because of the shortstop's refusal to even discuss the issue with Torre and the trainers, let alone allow injuries to prevent him from playing. But Torre speculated Jeter may have finally been healthy all last year. "He looked like he willed himself to have that kind of season," he said.
The biggest problem is that whoever they hire to play shortstop after Jeter is going to be living under the strain of his tremendous shadow. The one person in baseball I would least want to be is the guy who has to replace Mariano Rivera as the Yankees closer, followed closely by the guy who has to play short after Jeter. Imagine try to live up to the regular season and playoff heroics of Captain Jeter. Talk about pressure.

I question the timing of this article, with the story emerging after a week of being bombarded with news of the non-negotiations for a new contract for the Yankee Captain. The timing seems more than coincidental. But if the team is trying to smooth the path for a Jeter transition off of short or assert that they are preparing for life without him, they'd better be careful because these things have a tendency to backfire.

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