Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Girardi tries to quell Jeter leadoff fire

Joe Girardi is trying to prevent a potential controversy from brewing by firmly insisting that Derek Jeter will bat leadoff when he returns from the disabled list to the New York Yankees. But the real question is how long Jeter will hit first.

Girardi is not going to embarrass Jeter by shifting him out of the top spot before he reaches the 3,000-hit milestone. But once the well-deserved celebration dies down, how long will Girardi keep Jeter in the leadoff spot in the Yankees lineup? It’s not like the manager doesn’t have other options. The #1 spot has been kind to Nick Swisher, who has raised his game after struggling for most of the season, while Brett Gardner definitely has the speed and explosiveness to bat first in the lineup.

The problem with moving Jeter is that it likely means moving him to the bottom of the lineup. As well as Curtis Granderson is hitting, you can’t displace him from the #2 spot. The heart of the Yankees lineup is set with Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. I don’t think Girardi would put Jeter even behind Cano at #6 because ideally a hitter with a little more pop would be in that spot to protect Robinson.

Jeter has stated several times that he doesn’t care where he hits in the lineup although he has also stated a preference for batting in the first inning. Any move would be an adjustment for Jeter, particularly since he hasn’t hit in the bottom of the lineup since very early in his career. You’d have to hope that his pride doesn’t take too much of a hit when he is moved down in the batting order. But this is Jeter, who will probably be the last person in New York to acknowledge that his skills have diminished with age. He likely won’t be happy with a lineup move.

Girardi can only prevent this fire for so long. Sooner or later, it will burn out of control.

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