Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Plenty of time for Jeter to redeem his season

For the next week, everyone in the New York Yankees universe will be consumed with Derek Jeter’s historic drive for 3,000 hits. After Jeter achieves his milestone, everyone will move on to more important things, including the Yankees captain himself.

Jeter’s subpar offensive season and whether he should continue batting leadoff for the Yankees will immediately become the focus of all-things Jeter once the celebration dies down. The Yankees shortstop, his teammates and especially his manager Joe Girardi are going to have to get used to answering some very uncomfortable questions about Jeter’s place in the lineup. No teammate is going to dare to criticize him publicly (I don’t even think Alex Rodriguez is dumb enough to make that mistake again), but surely the whispers will start if Jeter continues his run of futility at the plate.

The Yankees first-place standing has taken a lot of pressure off of Jeter. If the Yanks were five games behind the Boston Red Sox or some other division foe, then Jeter would be facing a much-worse onslaught of questions about his performance. But as it stands, the Yankees have survived a series of damaging injuries and three weeks without their captain just fine.

Now Jeter has plenty of time to redeem himself in the second half of the 2011 season. If Jeter can get on a hot streak and push his average close to .300 (still below his lifetime average, but very respectable), then the daily musings about his ability to continue leading off games will slowly fade away. I still believe, perhaps naively, that Jeter can turn his season around and become, if not the player he once was, then a solid representation of the clutch guy we all know and love. Jeter has to not only believe it but prove it too.

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