What To Do with Derek Jeter?

Michael HurleyContributor ISeptember 11, 2008

A friend of mine and I were recently at a neighborhood watering hole, and he mentioned to me, "Derek Jeter will be moved to center field at the start of 2009."  I initially laughed at the comment and told him he had enough to drink and it was time to go home.  

Once I got home, I started throwing the idea around in my head. After a couple of days, I have come to the conclusion that, although I still do not believe Derek Jeter will be manning center field in the first game at the new Yankee Stadium, the Yankees may have a dilemma sooner than I had anticipated. 

First of all, the position of shortstop is unlike any other position, except catcher, in that players are moved toward the end of their career from their natural position to a new one. These are not regular players either, these are Hall of Fame shortstops that are asked to move after many years of manning the position admirably.  

Cal Ripken Jr. or Ernie Banks ring a bell? Ripken especially comes to mind because he paved the way for the "big" shortstops. (Ripken stands at 6'4" and Jeter 6'3".) The move would not be unprecedented. 

For anyone who has seen Jeter's defense this year on a regular basis, it is easy to see that he has definitely lost a step. He was one of the best I have seen going to his right. SportsCenter's Top 10 would routinely contain a Jeter highlight of him, "going to his right, backhanding the ball, and jumping mid-air on the edge of the grass and still somehow managing to get the runner out at first."

His ability to get to balls to his left and to his right has diminished since his Gold Glove days.  

Jeter is basically living on his namesake for his defense. Those of you who argue against me need to take a look at the numbers. Using the Bill James set of statistics, which are arguably the only ones that can gauge players defensively, he has declined in every category since his Gold Glove years.

His range factor, (A+PO)/GP, has declined every year since his last Gold Glove and is actually lower than the league average. The same is true with his range factor per nine innings, {9*(A+PO)/innings played}. These stats may seem foreign to the day-to-day fan, but they are used across the league's front offices to determine a player's worth, defensively.

Now that we have come to the conclusion his skills defensively have deteriorated to the point a position change is inevitable, whereto?

Third base would seem to be the easiest switch, but with another former shortstop signed to play there for almost another decade, it's out. Ernie Banks was moved to first base and former All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra mans it for the Dodgers now, but Jeter does not have the power with his bat to play the position in the A.L.

Left and right field also are deemed power-hitting positions for an A.L. team, so they would be tough for Jeter to fill the role of with his bat. Center field seems to be a possibility. Analysts around baseball constantly refer to him as one of the best infielders at tracking down popfly's.

His routes are always direct to the ball, and he covers a lot of ground. His headfirst dive into the stands in 2004 was most impressive because of the amount of ground he tracked in so little time.

This position also presents a problem, with hot prospect Austin Jackson only a year or two away. Second base is the only position left, excluding the obvious nix on catcher and pitcher. Why not make a switch?

Cano has one of the strongest arms in the league for the position and covers a lot of ground.  A lot of his errors are attributed to him playing too lax, which maybe would force him to change at the ever-busy shortstop position. It is one of the positions that power with the bat is not a prerequisite.  


Would Girardi ever do it? Doubtful. Torre is the only manager in baseball with enough clout in New York to even suggest such a move, and he is on the wrong coast to be making such decisions.

Girardi will be in his second year next year and will not need the questions from a Jeter position-switch along with all the other pressure he will face. It is hardly the most-pressing issue this offseason.

It will have to be Mr. Jeter himself to make the switch. Or else we will experience our first couple years at the New Yankee Stadium with a barely average defensive shortstop.