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For most of his career, Derek Jeter has been a mainstay atop the Yankees lineup. Since the start of the 1998 season, the Captain has started only one game lower than third in the batting order, and that time he was called upon to hit cleanup. That’s why the idea of shifting Jeter back toward the end of the order has become such a controversial topic.

Don Mattingly was a fixture in the three-hole for over a decade.

Even before the ink dried on his new four-year extension, there were rumblings about how long Jeter would last as prominent figure in the batting order. Joe Girardi has always been quick to deflect that speculation, but with his shortstop hitting .242/.308/.263, the questions are likely to begin once again.

During Saturday afternoon’s telecast on YES, Michael Kay broached the topic of batting order position with Paul O’Neill by asking him about the time he permanently replaced Don Mattingly in the coveted three-hole. Although the conversation was inspired by Nick Swisher’s constant movement throughout the lineup, it was impossible to not think of Jeter, which made O’Neill’s further elaboration all the more interesting.

Manager Buck Showalter, who earlier this season reacted harshly when asked about switching Mattingly and O’Neill, began contemplating the new-look lineup last month and then discussed it with both players”. – Jack Curry, New York Times, July 21, 1994

Although Mattingly had frequently batted second and fourth during his prime, the third slot was his primary home since he first emerged as a superstar in 1984. As the 1994 season progressed, however, an impending lineup change seemed unavoidable. Nonetheless, even with O’Neill batting over .400 well into June, Showalter continued to resist the change by deflecting the mounting questions. Soon, however, the Yankees’ manager could no longer put off the inevitable.

The changing of the guard finally took place on July 20, 1994 in Oakland. Although O’Neill incorrectly recalled that the occasion occurred in Texas, his memory was dead on in one regard: Mattingly was exceedingly gracious when it came time to make the change. Always the consummate teammate, Mattingly deflected any notion of resentment and fully embraced the decision. In other words, he did what Captains do.

If I was the manager, I would have done it a long time ago with the way Paul is seeing the ball. I talked to Paul about it. You want to try to get him the most at-bats.” – Don Mattingly, quoted in the New York Times, July 21, 1994

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