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Archive for March 18th, 2011

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Ever since (and even before) the ink dried on his contract extension, there has been a lot of talk about “moving” Derek Jeter, whether it be down in the batting order or to one of the corner positions on the field. So, not surprisingly, Joe Girardi’s recent decision to tinker with his batting order during spring training generated a bit of a buzz.

Before last night’s exhibition game against Tampa, Brett Gardner found himself leading off, while Jeter batted second. Judging by some of the reaction, you’d have thought this constituted a revolutionary change. Even if the move was made on Opening Day, instead of during the exhibition schedule, it still wouldn’t have been a big deal. After all, over the course of his career, Jeter’s position in the lineup has regularly changed to fit the team’s roster at the time.

Most Common Yankees’ Leadoff Hitters, 1996-2010

Year Leader Second Third
1996 Wade Boggs (79) Derek Jeter (40) Tim Raines (38)
1997 Derek Jeter (102) Tim Raines (52) Scott Pose (6)
1998 Chuck Knoblauch (150) Homer Bush (9) Derek Jeter (3)
1999 Chuck Knoblauch (148) Scott Brosius (4) Chad Curtis (4)
2000 Chuck Knoblauch (101) Derek Jeter (21) Ricky Ledee (13)
2001 Chuck Knoblauch (125) Derek Jeter (26) Alfonso Soriano (7)
2002 Alfonso Soriano (150) Derek Jeter (10) Enrique Wilson (1)
2003 Alfonso Soriano (141) Derek Jeter (20) Enrique Wilson (1)
2004 Derek Jeter (62) Bernie Williams (47) Kenny Lofton (41)
2005 Derek Jeter (154) Tony Womack (8)  
2006 Johnny Damon (144) Melky Cabrera (17) Bernie Williams (1)
2007 Johnny Damon (123) Melky Cabrera (32) Bobby Abreu (5)
2008 Johnny Damon (131) Brett Gardner (12) Melky Cabrera (9)
2009 Derek Jeter (147) Brett Gardner (11) Johnny Damon (4)
2010 Derek Jeter (137) Brett Gardner (25)  

Source: Baseball-reference.com

In 1996, Jeter gradually made his way from the bottom of the lineup to the top before establishing himself as the primary leadoff hitter during the World Series. Then, despite starting 1997 by hitting .373/.471/.542 mostly from the leadoff slot, the reigning rookie of the year was dropped all the way to seventh when Tim Raines was activated from the disabled list. Following a prolonged slump at the bottom of the order, Jeter eventually resurfaced back at the top. In 1998, the acquisition of Chuck Knoblauch led to Jeter’s installation as the permanent number two hitter, where he remained for most of the next six seasons. When Alfonso Soriano was traded after the 2003 season, Jeter was again enlisted to be the leadoff hitter, but that assignment corresponded with one of the worst slumps of his career. Bernie Williams filled in the first spot for a stretch, but once he regained his swing, Jeter returned to the top and continued leading off for the next two seasons. In 2007 and 2008, Jeter and Johnny Damon swapped slots in the order, and then in 2009, switched once again. So should anyone be surprised that Jeter, who batted leadoff for most of 2010, once again finds himself with an undetermined position in the order?

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The 1990s Dynasty has its manager back.

Yesterday was a bit of a reunion at Steinbrenner Field as both Johnny Damon and Joe Torre had the chance to renew acquaintances before yesterday’s exhibition game.

Following a three-year estrangement, the Yankees and Joe Torre officially buried the hatchet. According to Torre, the Yankees have already invited him to Old Timer’s Day on June 26, and he has every intention of attending.

Although there had already been some thawing in the relationship when the Yankees invited Torre to attend last year’s George M. Steinbrenner memorial, yesterday’s announcement amounts to a full armistice. Since his departure following the 2007 season, the media, fan base and even the front office seemed to be divided in its sentiments toward Torre. Some viewed the former manager as a martyr who was unfairly treated, while others came to view him as an entitled figure who overstayed his welcome. When Torre released his now infamous “The Yankee Years” before the 2009 season, those factions became even more entrenched. Following yesterday’s detente, however, all parties are now safe to reunite.

That’s water under the bridge, I guess. I never would have changed anything. You wish at the time I left that it could have ended differently, but I don’t know if it could have. I don’t know if either one of us knew how to say goodbye at that point in time.” – Joe Torre, quoted in the New York Daily News, March 18, 2011

The Yankees have never been shy about honoring their legends, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Old Timer’s Day is transformed into a celebration of Torre and his 1996 championship team, which will be celebrating its 15th anniversary. Such an occasion would provide the perfect opportunity to retire Torre’s number 6 and unveil his well deserved plaque in Monument Park. There’s no reason for the Yankees to wait any longer. With last summer’s passing of Ralph Houk, Torre is only one of two living managers to lead the Yankees to a championship, so there’s no point in further postponing the honors he deserves.   (more…)

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