Will Jeter, A-Rod or Ramirez Have Most Pennant Race Impact?
Three of the most accomplished players of their generation—Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez—are working their way back to the major leagues through the minor league systems of their respective teams, the New York Yankees for the first two and the Texas Rangers for Ramirez.
When it comes to experience in pennant races, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better trio of players, with the three having played on a combined 20 pennant-winning clubs over the course of their careers.
But all three are closer to 40 than 30 (Ramirez is 41), and all three of them have yet to make their MLB debuts in 2013, which leaves us with more questions than answers.
The last time we saw Ramirez in a major league game, he took the coward's way out, quitting on the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 after being handed his second suspension for violating MLB's drug policy.
While he resurfaced in Oakland's minor league system last year, hitting .302 with 14 RBI in 17 games with Triple-A Sacramento—and hit .352 with eight home runs in 49 games for the EDA Rhinos in Taiwan earlier this season—those numbers don't mean squat.
The last time he faced major league pitching, Ramirez managed only one hit in 17 at-bats.
Even if Manny returns to the big leagues with Texas (of which there is no guarantee), there's no telling how he'll fare against big-league arms, or how he'll react to not being an everyday player.
There's always the risk of Manny being Manny—and we know that typically doesn't end well for anyone involved.
Like Man-Ram, A-Rod has dealt with the issue of performance enhancing drugs as well, and while he's yet to be suspended for his admitted past use, that hammer could fall at any time as the MLB continues its investigation into the Biogenesis clinic in Miami.
That said, Rodriguez was somewhat productive for the Yankees last season, hitting .272 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI, but he was a non-factor in the playoffs and became a major distraction for the club.
With a pair of surgically repaired hips, there are legitimate concerns as to not only if he'll be able to stay healthy, but if he'll ever be able to generate the kind of power that made him one of the most feared hitters in baseball.
Which brings us to Jeter, the heart and soul of the Yankees.
Who will have the biggest impact on this year's pennant races?
Yes, he too is dealing with coming back from a major injury.
He broke his left ankle against Detroit in last year's ALCS and had his return to action further delayed by another small fracture found during a CT scan in May.
But unlike his counterparts Ramirez and Rodriguez, who have seen their level of play drop off considerably in recent years, Jeter is coming off of his best season since 2009, one that saw him finish seventh in the American League MVP voting and lead baseball with 216 hits.
While his already diminished range at shortstop may be further compromised by the ankle injury, it's unlikely to have a major impact on his ability to produce at the plate.
When it comes to which of the three players will have the biggest impact on their clubs down the stretch this season, it's not even close.
Derek Jeter is the pick by a wide margin—both for his production on the field and his impact on his teammates off of it.
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