You all know the story. Derek Jeter had the worst statistical season of his career in 2010, but thanks to his reputation and the Yankees' deep pockets, he was still rewarded with a three-year, $51 million contract.
Is he too old? Should the Yankees have let him walk? Will he ever regain the form that made him into one of the best players in a generation?
Those are the questions that Jeter needs to answer.
Wasting no time, and humbly recognizing his shortcomings, Jeter worked with Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long to change his swing. Jeter abandoned the swing that made him a star for one that would keep him a star, or at least keep the bull's-eye off his back.
The early returns were positive, as Yankee fans were delighted to see Jeter bat .328 in spring training.
Jeter's poor performance last season began to fade away like a bad memory—but neither forgiven nor forgotten.
But as quickly as Jeter seemed poised to turn things around, his critics were able to reload with a brand new clip.
Jeter is batting just .206 with two RBI and a .300 OBP through the first nine games of the season.
And that new swing of his? Abandoned.
But why? Jeter had success in the spring. Granted, spring numbers are basically worthless, as we all know. Still, didn't the early return warrant more of a trial run than one week of a 24-week season?
The changes to his swing were designed by Long to get Jeter to drive the ball by striding towards the pitcher instead of towards home plate, which caused Jeter to get jammed and hit those weak ground balls we all hate.
But despite the reasons, Jeter doesn't feel the need to change. Since he's not going to change, neither are the results.
Last season, Jeter grounded into 22 double plays and posted a 1.96 GB/FB rate. So far this season, Jeter has hit into one double play and has a 23:6 GB/FB ratio. As for driving the ball? Forget it. Jeter has just one extra-base hit and no home runs in the early going.
The Yankees had a chance to step on the throat of the Boston Red Sox this weekend but instead dropped two of three, infusing their struggling rivals with new life. Jeter went just 2-for-13 in the series. He didn't score a single run and had just one RBI.
So let's go over this one more time. Jeter has a terrible season in 2010, changes his swing and sees a solid return in spring training, but gives it just one week before he goes back to the same old song and dance.
So what gives? Does Jeter know something the Yankees and Long don't?
You don't become an 11-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger without having some idea what you're doing at the plate. Before last season, Jeter had finished in the top 10 in batting average every season since 1998.
He knows what he's doing.
But is this reversal a result of stubbornness, age or something else?
At 36, the Yankees can't assume Jeter can turn things around on his own. They've already had to deal with where to bat Jeter in the lineup basically every game this season. With all the ground balls, Jeter doesn't make for a good No. 2 hitter. But his terrible BA and OBP make him a poor leadoff man as well.
So what are the Yankees to do?
This is Derek Jeter we're talking about. The guy wins World Series and dates supermodels. Those types of guys don't bat at the bottom of one of the best offensive lineups in baseball, do they?
Unfortunately, the Yankees had their chance this offseason to say enough is enough. They didn't need to re-sign Jeter; they have younger, better defensive options like Eduardo Nunez to play shortstop. If the Yankees wanted to turn the page, they should have done it months ago.
So now they've made their bed and must sleep in it. But it's Jeter who looks like he's asleep.
He's sleeping through a golden opportunity to salvage his career before it's too late. He said no to Long's changes and wants to do his own thing. Certainly he's earned that right, to some extent. But if he's going to be stubborn or think he knows better than the guys watching him, he's in for a rude awakening.
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