Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 6/20/13
Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports This year has not been pretty for the Yankees. Considering the team they have had to field most of the season, they have actually been very successful. Nearly every Yankee “regular” has gotten injured and missed time this year. One of the more notable is Derek Jeter, not only because of his stature in the game, the fact that he is the Captain and one of the greatest Yankees of all time, but because he said all offseason that he would be the starting shortstop on Opening Day. Well, not only was he not the Opening Day shortstop, but he hasn’t played a single inning or had a single at bat this year. This season, for the first time ever, Yankee fans could be getting a look into the future. The season did not get off to a bad start with Eduardo Nuñez playing shortstop for the Yankees. Even though his hitting seemed to slide a little bit, it appears he has conquered a few of his fielding issues. For a while Nuñez was not playing all that bad and it looked like it he could be a viable successor to Jeter whenever he decided to call it a career. Then Nuñez started to fall off at the plate, leading to a .200 batting average in 27 games.  An oblique injury on May 6th could keep him out of the lineup longer than Jeter. After Nuñez went down, Jayson Nix and Reid Brignac picked up the slack at shortstop. Both are playing well on defense, but have not hit at all. Nix is a career .221 hitter with a .290 OBP, this year he is actually playing above those numbers with a .259 average and .319 OBP and is actually hitting better as of late, with a .298 average so far in June. Reid Brignac on the other hand is a player who has always been known for his glove and glove alone. Brignac owns a career average of .221, yet since being acquired by the Yankees on May 18th, he has batted just .100 an OBP of . 122 (he has been on base one time other than his hits). Not only is he hitting .100, Brignac has just four hits and one walk with the Yankees, meaning that in just about one month, he has reached base just five times. That is simply not going to cut it. We all know there is going to be a drop-off after Derek Jeter retires. Maybe the drop-off will not be in physical production like it has been with Nix, Nuñez, and Brignac, but there will be a drop-off. The team will miss Jeter’s production of course, but also his leadership and presence in the locker room. People try to knock Jeter for not being the best player, and I will agree that there are players who year in and year out put up numbers similar to and even better than Jeter. But you cannot deny that Jeter plays the game differently than the players who can put up numbers like his. This year shows that more than ever with Jeter missing more time than he ever has in his career. This year has shown that of course the Yankees could find a better defensive shortstop than Jeter, but they of course haven’t hit as well. The replacements also haven’t been leaders in the same way that Jeter has been (not that the Yankees are looking for Jayson Nix to rally the squad). Derek Jeter was a different type of ball player that the Yankees will not stumble upon again. So who will replace Jeter when it is time for the Captain to hang up the cleats for good? Maybe Eduardo Nuñez is the guy to replace him. Nuñez has shown in the past that he has been able to hit enough to stay in the majors, in fact GM Brian Cashman actually said this offseason that the Yankees wanted to keep him in the majors this year because of his bat. The surprise with Nuñez has always been his glove/ arm, which this year was solid and actually dependable before he got injured. Although Nuñez is young and showed this year he figured out his defense, (word arrangement) I doubt that he will be the Captain’s replacement. I find it more likely that the Yankees next shortstop is in their farm system, college, or even on another team. There does not look to be a long-term option in the upcoming free agent class, but maybe there is a trade out there or a free agent the Yankees are really targeting over the next few years. This is the best glimpse the Yankees have gotten at their life as a franchise following the departure of Derek Jeter. Maybe this is a view of what the shortstop position is going back to. Maybe the days of the majority of MLB shortstops hitting .300 are over, and middle infielders hitting 25-30 home runs will be an anomaly. Regardless of what this half season might show about the Yankees or MLB, it shows one thing, there is nobody like Jeter right now and nobody who can replace him. -Goldberg
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