As the Yankees move to 9 – 3 over the last two weeks; there are a few statistics to point out. First – Curtis now leads the American League in runs scored. This is a stat that has no equal. The game is about scoring runs and powering out the opposition. Second – the Yankees power hitters are on a tear. It is no surprise to me how the warm weather has brought a smile back to Swish, Tex and Gardy; and suddenly the year of the pitcher has been quelled as we are beginning to see many Major League hitters moving closer or exceeding what they have done in the past. But; to be honest with yourself and what is taking place, you have to wonder what has changed and is it for the best in the long run in 2011?
I think Mickey Mantle said it best – “If I could have made the decision sooner I would not be staring at a .299 lifetime average today. Those last few years were tough; but at 36 and all my injuries, my biggest regret was the final decision should have been made a week earlier.” Mickey hated to watch all of the great statistics that he piled up start to level off and go down over his last three years. It was more painful for him than dealing with getting the uniform on past his knees. Derek Jeter is a living legend and it is my hope that he can maintain the level of play over the next few years that would allow him to stay close to what he is posting lifetime today.
So it begs the question – should Joe Girardi announce to the media that Derek will move right back into the leadoff spot once he returns? Is this really the best for Derek? Is this really the best for this team in 2011?
Here are some things to consider: 1) The top of the order is setting the table and the team has consistently scored 5 or more runs in almost every game since Derek was injured. Coincidence or is something happening here? 2) Gardner is hitting the best we have seen since this switch occurred. Coincidence or is he a true leadoff batter? 3) Strikeouts are down almost 40% at the 1 – 4 batters in the Yankees lineup since the injury. Coincidence or are they doing what we have always done – work the pitcher dry?! 4) Nunez is hitting .293 and has only struck out twice in the last 12 games. He is doing so well that Tex even quipped, “I LOVE what I see from him! He has been a true spark and helped to turn the BOTTOM OF THE ORDER.” Yes; he has committed three errors but not one of them have cost the Yankees. If anything; he has brought more speed and enthusiasm to a team that has enjoyed the youth injection.
So where does Derek go? How do we preserve his legacy and prominence that we all want for him? Of course; I want Derek back at SS just like everyone else. But; here are some ideas that may make him a more productive Yankee; allow for longevity and cut down on injuries and keep his batting average lifetime in the .300 catagory where he rightfully belongs. 1) Have Nunez and Derek platoon – 50/50 approach where Derek is the DH when Nunez is on SS. 2) Have Derek DH in the 9 hole. Having Derek turn the order will contribute to the new found speed and allow the team to take advantage of his bat. Having Derek bat ninth will give him more pitches to hit and put incredible pressure on the opposing pitcher. Imagine Derek; Gardner and Curtis back to back!! It excites me to think about it. I’ve been screaming all year that Curtis needed to be in the two; and man, has it ever paid dividends. 3) Batting ninth will allow Derek to cut down on strikeouts and maintain a better average. Both of these areas will be of great benefit to Derek and will take pressure off of him and allow him to focus more. He will have less at bats but in the long run; will allow him to maintain his stats overall and be a key offensive contributor with every at bat. 4) And this is the BIG reason – I don’t want to see him just fold up tent like Mickey did in the middle of a season and hang ’em up. I want him to go out on top – with his offensive stats and pride in tow. This man is one of the best 10 Yankees that have ever worn the uniform and more than that; has been the premier face of baseball for the last decade and a half.
Derek is the current SS and Nunez may very well be the future. The NY Yankees have a great opportunity to make this work and keep the speed and power alive. I will go as far to say this – if they do this; they could have the greatest run scoring NY Yankees team of all time.
Please let me know your thoughts and opinions and ask yourself – what is the best thing for Derek Jeter and the NY Yankees moving forward?
Time waits for no one.
NY Yankees Universe