Yesterday, Derek Jeter became the twenty-eighth person to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame with the New York Yankees as their primary team. While he may never have been the most skilled player on the field at any given time for the team, he will certainly be remembered as one of the most influential. Jeter notoriously led the Yankees to five World Series victories, and the team was 1,811-1,253 (0.591) from 1996 (his first full season) to 2014, good for a 96-win average. He flat-out was a winner, no question about it.
But aside from simply being a winner, he was a leader. He was named captain on June 3, 2003, and led and inspired not only on the field but off the field as well. If the team was playing poorly, you knew who was going to step up. You knew who was going to get the big hit. The issue I am getting to is simple: who on the 2021 Yankees is our Jeter? Of course, no one will ever wholly replicate the Captain. Yet given the streakiness the team has shown this year, it could benefit immensely from having “that guy.” You wanted Jeter up at the plate with the game on the line in the playoffs. I’m not sure I can point that guy out this year. The past couple of seasons it likely would have been DJ LeMahieu. Not this year. Aaron Judge? He’s been great, but is prone to some streakiness, as has most everyone in the lineup.
If you had to pick someone who could theoretically be the next captain, it could be Judge. But it could also be Gerrit Cole. Cole seems to have a similar drive to win and is often seen clearly frustrated with himself whenever he misses a spot, even if it doesn’t result in a hit or a run. The problem is Cole can only go out every fifth game. And now his status is in jeopardy given that he tweaked his left hamstring in Tuesday’s game.
I will once again refer to the graph of their game results:
It seems as if most of the green bars are very small, indicating a close win, while there is no shortage of large red bars. And this just illustrates how streaky this team has been. The scary thing is that this may not just be a 2021 issue — if changes are not made, from the players to the coaches, this could carrying over to next year and beyond. Heck, this was even evident last season.
I’m not in the locker room, so I obviously don’t know what is being said in there. But the team needs someone whose voice carries some weight in the locker room and on the field each and every day. The Yankees need a Jeter. They will never get an exact copy, but they need someone close.