If A Captain Falls In Tampa, Does He Make A Noise?: The State of the Empire Week 3

jeter

Yankee Captain Derek Jeter suffers another setback.

And here I was going to write positive thoughts this week!

Since last week’s post, the Yankees have gone 4-1 (of course the one game I attended during that stretch was the loss, go figure), and look to finish off the sweep of the Arizona at The Stadium tonight. Despite the preseason concerns over losing so much power from the line up due to injury and departing players, now needing to find ways to manufacture runs, the Yankees headed into today’s action tied with Oakland for the AL team homerun lead, and only trailing the ridiculously hot Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies for the MLB lead. Scrap heap pickups Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner continue to crush the ball, Robinson Cano is doing Robinson Cano things, and the pitching staff – especially the two headed monster of CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda – is keeping opposing offenses in check. Hell, even Kevin Youkilis is on board in the Bronx, trailing only the aforementioned Hafner for the team lead in batting average at.327 and Hafner and Cano for total bases with 26 (Are pigs flying outside? Has Hell frozen over? That was the most difficult sentence I’ve ever had to type. Tell me everything’s going to be okay, please.). With an 8-5 record on the season, and only 1.5 games behind the Red Sox for the AL East lead early on, the Yankees got out of the gate in much better fashion then expected through the first 2+ weeks of the season.

And then, today, this was announced.

Granted, the Bronx Bombers have gotten off to this hot start without their Captain, and there was no concrete timetable for his return to begin with, but knowing The Captain would be back in Pinstripes in the near future was a comforting thought in the hearts and minds of Yankee fans. Now it’s gone.

You can make the statistical cases that Jeter is overrated. That he’s far beyond his prime and over the hill. That his performance doesn’t warrant the demanding positions he plays in the field or bats in the order. I can’t necessarily argue those positions, though Jeter has remained an very productive player well into his late 30’s. Regardless of any of that though, Derek Jeter still is the Yankees. He might not be the most valuable Yankee (that nod should go to Cano or Sabathia), he might not be the most statistically accomplished Yankee (that would probably go to A-Rod or Mariano Rivera), but he, along with Rivera, is easily the most symbolic for this team. Sure, it’s been talked about to death already, but that’s because it’s true: Jeter, Rivera, and Andy Pettitte are the only three lifers (more or less) still around from the mid-late 90’s run of World Series crowns and pure domination. Pettitte gets ousted from that group due to his time in Houston and year of retirement, and Mo is on his Farewell Tour already. We know the end is coming for Jeter soon, but this is a harsh reminder that it’s sooner and certainly not much later.

So what does this mean? Many can say they’ve heard this before, but it’s time for free-agent-to-be Robinson Cano, along with CC Sabatha, to step up as not just the statistical leader of this team, but also its emotional and symbolic one. Sabathia is already something of an outspoken leader, and Cano needs to follow this example more. It also means Eduardo Nunez’ temporary sublet as the Yankees’ shortstop has been extended to the baseball equivalent of a 6-month lease. Hopefully the regular playing time can finally help to clean up his sloppy defense and continue to get his intriguing bat every day at bats.

Largely though, this is yet another signifier of a transitional period of Yankee eras. The old guys are slowly fading into the cornfields, and the young guys…are still only at Double A Trenton at best. The present may be bright for the 2013 Yankees, but with Rivera’s retirement, Pettitte’s most likely looming in the near future, and Jeter’s future uncertain, not to mention Cano’s pending free agency and everything else the front office has to juggle (including getting under the tax threshold) the future is as uncertain as ever. Let’s hope Pronk and Vernon Wells don’t stop drinking from the fountain of youth.

**Writer’s note: For anyone that was looking for my Monday Fantasy column, I deleted it after the horrific and tragic events at the Boston Marathon. The fact of the matter is that, while in the spirit of humor and sarcasm, it was a post that most certainly wasn’t the right thing to put up that day, or in the day’s aftermath. I’ve been working on a rewrite but in the interest of it not sucking I’ve deciced to not rush the post, but rather use it for this Monday’s column. I hope you understand, and let’s continue to keep the city of Boston in our thoughts and prayers.

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Posted on April 18, 2013, in 2013, Yankees and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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