Sometimes one great player can make all the difference.
The New York Yankees played its first 91 games without No. 2 in the lineup and the offense struggled mightily. However, in Jeter's debut Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, New York played with an edge that hadn't been seen this season. In short, Jeter just being in the lineup gave the Yankees a special boost.
After Andy Pettitte allowed three runs in the first to the Kansas City Royals, Jeter came up with one out and the bases empty and did what he has consistently done throughout his 17-year career - got on base and scored.
In his first game back from a broken ankle he suffered nine months ago in the first game of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers, Jeter looked like his old self - at least for a little while (A tight quad muscle forced him to leave the game in the 8th inning). He went first to third on a single and scored on a sacrifice fly in the first inning and added an RBI groundout as part of a 1-for-4 day at the plate.
The rest of the Yankees followed suit in the 8-4 win, which salvaged a 2-2 split of the four-game series against the Royals.
It's hard to put into words, but Jeter's impact has so much to do with what he represents. He has five championship rings and is the most iconic winner of a generation that produced many chemically-induced superstars. There was never going to be discussions about whether or not the Yankees were still ‘Jeter's team' or if Robinson Cano had passed The Captain in leadership on and off the field. Proven superstars like C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Mariano Rivera know it starts and ends with Jeter.
Coming off a devastating ankle injury at age 38, no one knows how much Jeter has left in the tank. He moved very well Thursday while only DH-ing, but Jeter suffered a Grade I strain to his quad, which will sideline him at least until the Yankees return from the All Star Break.
Jeter will not play the final three games before the All Star Game, and the Yankees hope he can avoid another trip to the disabled list. Jeter and the Yankees are finding out that father time is undefeated in matters such as these. The final two months of the regular season will serve as a preview for what kind of career Jeter has in store for himself as he approaches his 40th birthday. Even if he's not able to play every day at shortstop and serve as the designated hitter, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer has so much to offer inside the New York clubhouse.
Derek Jeter is a symbol of hard work, integrity and most of all winning, and that is something the 2013 Yankees need badly at this time.