Over at LoHud, Chad Jennings has the latest on the Captain's rehab: he's running on the treadmill, taking grounders that are hit right at him -- no jokes -- and is still expecting to be ready for Opening Day. As Robyn Hitchcock sang, "There's nothing in the future and there's nothing in the past; there is only this one moment and you've gotta to make it last." There are few people for whom that statement can be more true than the going-on-39 shortstop.
For all the handwringing this winter about the team's haphazard path towards budgetary contraction, it doesn't seem like there has been nearly enough questioning of Jeter's outlook. There has been perfunctory wondering about when he'd be ready to start the season and if in the aftermath of the broken ankle his already-limited range might be further reduced. It's hard to say exactly what the right amount of worry is-no need to tear your clothes off and run screaming through the streets-but it's still hard to overstate what a tiny jewel of a miracle Jeter's age-38 season was, and how unlikely it is to happen again.
Don't take my word for it; I've been predicting Jeter's demise for too long at this point to be at all credible on the subject. Then again, one reason I've been wrong for so long is that I never realized that the Yankees would insist that Jeter's offensive value outweighed his defensive shortcomings longer than any other team in baseball history that was confronted with a similar problem. It used to be common to hear fans ask what position Jeter would someday move to; there was an understanding that at some point he would be too old to play shortstop. It's not that that moment never came, it's that it came and the Yankees ignored it.
Jeter is now 51 games from second place on list of all-time games at shortstop, and his appearance there is only possible because the Yankees made a valuation about his continued presence there. It would be hard to argue they were wrong about it given their record over the second half of Jeter's career, but you could also argue the opposite point of view and suggest that a lot of what we think we know about Yankees pitching over that period has been distorted by Jeter's persistence at short.
Either way, Jeter is already half a step removed from his peak on defense, when he was already half a step worse than most other shortstops. Even without the ankle injury, he was bound to give a little ground with an additional year under his belt. Given that Eduardo Nunez is the only alternative to that, I guess you grin and bear it... but then, a player like Jeter only comes around once or so in a hundred years; it was always going to be a long way down once he couldn't do it anymore.
One other important bit from the LoHud update: Curtis Granderson doesn't have a problem moving to left field. Granderson has his flaws as a player, and it's going to be fascinating if he can recover from what was basically a three-month slump, one so terrible he went 3-for-30 with 16 strikeouts in the postseason. That's about as close to helpless as you can get, and one can't help but wondering if something more than flawed mechanics was at work.