Jeter Still Sets The Tone
After a season opening sweep at the hand of the Tampa Bay Rays the Yankees and their fans were a little on edge. Some were panicking while others preached patience, but you would be lying if you were not getting a little antsy while waiting for their first win of the season. Joe Girardi kept preaching no panic but the expectations and the Yankees payroll can make that difficult. Who else would you expect to set the tone to turn around the turmoil other than Derek Jeter?
Jeter led off Monday’s game in Baltimore with a single and ended up scoring on a Mark Teixeira RBI single to give the Yankees an early lead. With a 3 game losing streak it is very important to get out ahead early so thoughts of the losses do not creep into your mind. There was no classic Jeter moment on Monday like his flip throw vs. Oakland, his leadoff homerun vs. Bobby Jones in the Subway Series, his diving catch in the stands against Boston his Mr. November homerun, or his 3,000 hit last year, but just a classic Jeter workman like performance. Jeter went 4-4 Monday in leading the Yankees to their first win of the season. He wasn’t done on Tuesday. He led off the game with a homerun that helped set the tone for the 2nd win of the season for the Yankees. Jeter’s attitude of never letting the previous bad game effect the next is something that has helped the Yankees the last 16 years and will continue to as Jeter enters his 17th season.
About one year ago at this time Jeter was under heavy scrutiny when it looked like his days as a productive player may be numbered. Jeter was coming off a career worst season in 2010 when he only hit .270, with 10 HR’s, 67 RBI, and a .710 OPS. His defensive range was also coming under constant criticism. This led to a tense negotiation with the Yankees that got somewhat ugly, but Jeter signed for what could be for 4 years and 56 million dollars. Jeter did nothing to silence those critics in the first 3 months of the season as his batting average stood at .254 at the end of the June. However, Jeter finished the season on a tear and ended up batting .297 and has carried it over to this season. He looks very spry in the field and even saved a run with a diving play to his left on a Chris Davis grounder last night.
Whether Jeter is struggling or surging his leadership, professionalism, and confidence will always help the Yankees when they are desperate for a win. I do not believe that chemistry is important in baseball like it is in basketball and football because baseball is too much of an individual sport. The 1978 Yankees are an example of not needing to like each other to win. But if you think Jeter’s intangibles have no impact then you have not been paying close enough attention for the last 16 years. You can see some of Jeter’s toughness rub off on Ivan Nova as he got out of jam after jam to keep the Yankees ahead. The Yankees are out from under their 0-3 start in large part due to Jeter’s efforts and the rest of the team needs to continue to follow his lead.