January is usually a slow month for baseball news. So we’ve lined up a series of guest bloggers to entertain you. Next up is Jason from My Baseball Bias.
Jason is originally from Northwest Pennsylvania and currently lives in Salt Lake City. He idolizes Don Mattingly, worships Phil Rizzuto and makes his living as a professional classical singer. He can be found singing here every Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Here is his post:
O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done.
The above verse is the first line of Walt Whitmanâ€™s O CAPTAIN! my Captain!, one of my favorite poems. Iâ€™m always reminded of it when I see Derek Jeter labor for a ball in the hole my Aunt Carolyn could have gloved. With spring training a month a way, Jeterâ€™s defensive has been keeping me awake at night. I know my concern right now should be with the immaturity of the starting rotation or lack of a true set-up man, but I believe his defense will start hurting the team more than it already has.
Iâ€™m sure you are all aware of the criticism Jeter has received over the years for his three Gold Glove awards and the lengths sabermetricians go to discredit his defensive play. And I agree, most of it is warranted, even though he occasionally makes a play that leaves me shaking my head in disbelief. Those spectacular plays aside, however, I wonder how much the organization has discussed life without Jeter at shortstop? Moreover, wouldnâ€™t it be wise to kindly suggest now a position switch beginning in 2009?
Of course there are many obstacles in even uttering the phrase â€œposition switchâ€ to a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I imagine a conversation on the subject wouldnâ€™t go over well with someone who believes he can still play the position. Itâ€™s not like he suffers from a bum shoulder like the one that forced Robin Yount into the outfield and heâ€™s relatively healthy other than a knee that occasionally acts up. But arenâ€™t captains supposed to sacrifice their pride and egos for the sake of their team? Switching positions would even add to his aura as the ultimate team player, the consummate professional.
Jeter has played 1,825 games at shortstop and will turn 34 this coming June. Once he hits the 2,000 game mark (sometime during the â€™09 season), heâ€™ll join the likes of Luis Aparicio, Ozzie Smith, Omar Vizquel, Alan Trammel, Cal Ripken, Jr. and a few other greats at the position. Needless to say, itâ€™s a meaningful milestone. But what if Jeter refuses to move? Should the Yankees allow him stay at shortstop and continue to hurt the team defensively? If they do, I think it would be a serious mistake.
The probable departure of Bobby Abreu from right field via free agency and the uncertainty at first base in 2009 provide two possible relocation spots for Jeter at the perfect time. I think a move to right field rather than first would be more likely given the Yankees need for a power-hitting corner infielder. It wonâ€™t be easy replacing Jeter at shortstop, but it can be done with a little creativity.
Jeterâ€™s defensive play is not why heâ€™s so valuable to the Yankees. His leadership, offensive consistency and clutch hitting are what people admire and will eventually get him elected to the Hall of Fame.
Iâ€™m sorry Captain, but your fearful trip at shortstop is done.