2011 New York Yankees: Why Is Derek Jeter Leading Off?

Paul CatalanoContributor IIFebruary 16, 2011

The number on the back is where he should be batting.
The number on the back is where he should be batting.

Monday's Spring Training press report didn't have much to say. Joe Girardi said the platitudes, as did Brian Cashman.

Not much except for this:

“We signed (Derek Jeter) to be our shortstop and we signed him to be our leadoff hitter,” Girardi said. “And he’s got a pretty good track history of what he’s done in the game of baseball. He had a couple of rough months last year. The month of September he was back to being Derek, I thought. I’m not really too concerned about him as our leadoff hitter."

Okay, one question. Why?

In almost every single way, Brett Gardner is the perfect leadoff man over Derek Jeter.

As for Girardi's comment about Jeter being back to his old self in September, that's not entirely true. It is true that Jeter batted .287 in the last month, which is better than he batted in any month since April. But .287 isn't what you want out of Jeter.

Jeter can't draw walks like he used to; Gardner can. Jeter can't run like he used to; Gardner has speed to burn. Take September, Jeter's best month since April—he had a .375 OBP. In September, with a severely sprained wrist and his worst month of the year, Gardner's OBP was a .372. In that month—his best OBP month all season—Jeter stole three bases. In his worst month, with a sprained wrist, Gardner stole eight bases.

Look, I get it, Jeter is the captain. The face of the franchise. But would it be such a insult to him to bat second with Teixeira behind him and trying to drive in Gardner with slaps the other way as Gardner creates a hole on the right side of the field? Doesn't that make more sense?

Gardner was eighth in the league in OBP, third in steals, 10th in walks and ninth in runs scored. All while batting ninth in the lineup. The man is a born leadoff hitter. Jeter, at this point in his carer, isn't. And it shouldn't be a slap to the captain. He has batted second more in career than in any other spot, so it's not a big move.

I admire Girardi's loyalty. He played with Jeter and has a bunch of respect for the franchise, but batting Jeter first is a mistake