Via Buster Olney –
Simply put, what Derek Jeter will try to do in 2014 — be a regular shortstop for a playoff team in the summer in which he will turn 40 years old — is unprecedented. No one has ever done it before.
The closest was Luis Aparicio, the Hall of Fame shortstop. He turned 39 in April 1973 and that year, he played 132 games for the Boston Red Sox, hitting .271 with 18 extra-base hits in 561 plate appearances. The Red Sox went 89-73, but the next season, Mario Guerrero was their shortstop and Aparicio was cut, which gives you some insight into how he played.
“Luis was at the end of the line, as much offense as defense,” says Peter Gammons, who covered the Red Sox then for the Boston Globe. “The next spring Darrell Johnson was the manager and he released Aparicio and Orlando Cepeda the same day in spring training.”
Jeter’s ankle trouble limited him to just 17 games and 73 plate appearances last season. The fact that Jeter posted a .542 OPS is really irrelevant, because it was such a small sample size, and Jeter was never fully healed and able to do the sort of conditioning and preparation he usually does, after spending a lot of last offseason in a walking boot.
The fact is that nobody really knows, as of now, what Jeter could be next summer — not the doctors who have worked with him, not Manager Joe Girardi, not Jeter. And the future Hall of Famer and the Yankees should go into this year with eyes wide open to all possibilities.
There should be regular conversations between Jeter and the staff about how he’s playing, about what’s working and what’s not working, because the Yankees have too much at stake this year, after failing to make the playoffs last season and spending almost half a billion dollars to upgrade the roster, to simply commit the whole season to a player surrounded by so many question marks at such a key position.
I still have this feeling that, not too deep into Spring Training, the Yankees are going to have to go to Jeter and say “You can’t play short any more. We want you to start taking grounders at third.”