Keidel: Who’s On Deck After Derek Jeter?

By Jason Keidel
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I caused quite a fuss on Wednesday, picking a fight with the five boroughs over Derek Jeter. Consider this missive a détente – at least until our next bout.

While I failed to harpoon the heart of every bromance with the captain, we agree on one thing: there will come a day when Jeter is no longer the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees, and that day is about two years away.

For a moment, we can combine our brains for the cause, the angst over Jeter and the palpable void in the franchise, the aging icon combed with the loss of George Steinbrenner just last year, and perhaps a titanic truth may be revealed.

No matter your view on King George, he was good theater, from obdurate to opulent to obscene. He gave a damn about his team. His wars, warts, and winning are well chronicled. No need to recount in this column. Nor may we look for his replacement, as Steinbrenner was singular, good and bad.

But with the odd confluence of circumstances – the anniversary of his death buttressed against his birthday – we might ponder the loss of The Boss and, more importantly, of his last star pupil, Jeter, and why it bothers the Bronx and beyond so much.

Perhaps it’s not as simple as Derek’s decay reflecting poorly upon those who worship him. And perhaps it’s not that you’re sad for the man personally, because he doesn’t deserve your pity. He could win the lotto and call it a pay cut. By 40 he can pick his next job, wife, weather, or just chill in a mansion so monstrous they call it “St. Jetersburg.” He’s that dude in the Dos Equis commercial. And he’s real.

Maybe it’s as simple as we don’t have his successor, the next prodigy and progeny of the Yankees’ system, another pretty, gritty, skinny stud yet to fill his bony frame. And we’re not just talking about another .300 hitter, because they’re easy to buy. We’re looking for the next one, the avatar of Yankee Pride, a role Jeter so nobly filled for over a decade.

The Mets had it in the ‘80s, that sense of surging talent on the brink of brilliance, led by Doc and Darryl. A decade later the Bombers had it, led by Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and Rivera, affectionately coined the Core Four.

Teixeira, Sabathia, Swisher, etc., are wonderful players and people, but they’re imports, part of the Yankee narrative of ravenous consumption. They aren’t our kids. Joba was going to be that thing, until he wasn’t; likewise with Phil Hughes. Special rules were enacted for each, and both got hurt, anyway, showing us that special treatment never works, no matter the arm.

In my Jeter column last week I erroneously said you could simply replace the shortstop with Curtis Granderson. You cannot, because Granderson, though a fine player of finer character, is not from the farm. Yes, there’s a difference. Just ask Mets fans how they feel about Jose Reyes. There would be just a fraction of the frothing over the possible loss of the electric shortstop had he not been a product of the Mets’ minor league system.

Sure, the Yanks are on their annual march to the playoffs – where they will likely fall in the fall because of a dearth of dominant pitching – but there’s no buzz about the team (as much as I loathe words like buzz). Their assumed reservation for October doesn’t feel special. Detractors reasonably assert that $200 million should buy you a table at any playoff party. And I can’t argue, even as a Yankees fan.

This year, however, it feels like expectations for big deeds under brown leaves are supplanted by something greater, perhaps a spiritual hunger or chasm.

In the absence of Steinbrenner’s vivid leadership and his fading captain, there’s no replacement for either. But we don’t pay to watch owners own. We pay for play, and it seems there’s no next Jeter, no seed in the farm ready to sprout the way that kid from Kalamazoo did back in 1996.

Are you that excited about Eduardo Nunez? Austin Romine? Jesus (about to be traded) Montero? Those “Killer B” pitchers? The cognoscenti agree that the Yankees have a very fertile farm system. But it’s not something we can fathom beyond the print on a media guide. There’s no…sorry…buzz. We loved what we saw from Ivan Nova for his five minutes in the majors before he was shipped back into the dark obscurity of buses, back roads, and back doors. But it’s tough for a pitcher to become the face of a franchise, particularly the New York Yankees.

We all have friends with whom we chat and spat over sports. I once asked such a friend about trading prospects (like Hughes) for Johan Santana. He said prospects are just that until they prove otherwise, that there’s no such thing as a “can’t miss” kid. Nowhere is that endemic more emblematic than in New York now.

Some of you found Jeter’s successor in Robinson Cano. I’ve met the second baseman with a whip for a bat. You can’t help but feel better in the young man’s presence, leave a chat with a childish giggle. His smile is easy, wide, white, and sincere But there’s an on-field aloofness to his game that keeps his talent from transcending and keeps us from going gaga over him. Cano is a lovely player; he’s just not pedestal material.

Yes, you ultimately root for the laundry, knowing that the pinstripes trump personalities, and that winning a World Series is its own reward. We just wish the laundry included a few discarded diapers, kids we knew from rookie to retirement.

Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com

www.twitter.com/JasonKeidel

Yankees fans: who will be the next face of the franchise? Let ‘er rip in the comments below…

Comments

One Comment

  1. Paul D says:

    It’s not Cano. He just doesn’t have the gravitas. He’s an amazing talent, but not a leader. Truth is, there probably won’t be one for a while. In the Nineties it was Mattingly, as he looked to be the next immortal until a wrestling match in the clubhouse, of all things, derailed that hope for Yankee fans. Texiera is a good spokesman as well as Granderson. But there’s no one in the foreseeable future with the whole package to pull it off. And as a Munson and Mattinly guy, it doesn’t really matter to me.

    1. lydia says:

      you’re right about Cano – he has that aloofness that Jeter doesn’t have. Even though Jeter doesn’t have range, there’s no mistaking that he at least has his head in the game 110% of the time and at least tries to make every play. Cano has shown flashes of pure brilliance in the field, but has also committed his fair share of head-scratchers.
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    2. JK says:

      Agree, Paul, and I’m sorry that creature (Lydia) followed your remark with some pornographic gibberish. It seems we can’t prevent it from happening.

      I too loved Mattingly, though I was more of a Reggie than Thurman guy. As you can see here and on wfan’s fb page, I still drank plenty of bile from the delusional. It seems we can’t even say Derek is aging, as we all do. Indeed, he doesn’t drink water, breathe oxygen, pee or poop. He is not human. And I’m the Antichrist for suggesting otherwise.

      1. Charles says:

        “…I still drank plenty of bile from the delusional. It seems we can’t even say Derek is aging, as we all do. Indeed, he doesn’t drink water, breathe oxygen, pee or poop. He is not human. And I’m the Antichrist for suggesting otherwise.”

        People don’t get upset with you because you make factual observations about Derek Jeter. People get upset with you because you have a habit of being rude towards those who don’t share your opinions. When you come off the bat and say that all Derek Jeter fans suffer from dementia, that’s an insulting and unnecessary thing to say.

        I don’t see how you write the things you do and expect people to respond kindly and politely. I see just as much bile from you as I do from your critics.

      2. JK says:

        Charles, as you stated in your apology, you went way over the line with me, instantly resorting to insults rather than rigorous, clean debate. I’m not interested in talking to you anymore. Please respect that. This is my last correspondence with you. Be well.

      3. Charles says:

        “Charles, as you stated in your apology, you went way over the line with me, instantly resorting to insults rather than rigorous, clean debate…”

        It’s odd to me that you don’t seem to realize that you do the exact same things you accuse me, and others, of doing. Calling people “losers,” telling them that they are mentally ill, and that they have no lives does not represent “rigorous, clean debate.”

        You insult people all the time. That’s why people get upset with you. It’s not that people “can’t handle the truth.” Most people don’t like someone they don’t know calling them an idiot or a loser over something as trivial as professional sports.

        You hold others to a standard that you often fail to live up to. I’m not saying this to start some flame war, nor do I seek to engage in “correspondence” with you. What I am saying is that you should take the time to read the things that you write to, and about, others. It’s your attitude, not your opinions, that generates so many of the negative responses towards you.

        If you wish your readers to conduct themselves in a more logical, rational manner, you would do well to lead by example.

      4. JK says:

        Have a nice life, Charles. Please leave me alone. Thank you.

  2. JK says:

    Mr. Bear – or whatever you like to call yourself while you hide behind pseudonyms – that was Jonas talking to you. Perhaps you’re illiterate among the many lovely qualities you’ve displayed here. I am “JK” while he is “Jonas.” Capiche?

    Please show me where I’ve whined during any part of our correspondences. Then you can show me where you’ve corrected me. Despite the fact that you’re factually inaccurate, I regarded you with respect, something you’re incapable of reciprocating.

    Jonas, we have man in full here with Mr. Bear. He cannot win within reality, so he lurches like a primate at everything and everyone he dislikes, and hence we become the vulgarities he vomited the moment we disagree with him.

    Since we are clearly inferior to you, Mr. Bear, perhaps you should move on to more suitable chats. But please accept my gratitude for blessing this page with your evident genius.

  3. i like the red sox says:

    There will never be another Derek Jeter type player on yankees.We will never see someone give 110% on every play like he did all these years and lead on and off the field.Only sad thing is how yankee brass treated him during resigning.

    1. JK says:

      There we go – a person who can contribute without insults, profanity, and foolhardiness. Thank you, sox.

      But I respectfully disagree, and I’ll tell you why. We can only imagine what Ruth fans thought when Babe left. But there was Gehrig. Then Gehrig fans were surely distraught when he gave his transcendent speech. But there was DiMaggio. Joe D. leaves, and who is waiting? Mantle.

      I think you get my drift. We tend to see players through the narrow prism of our personal experience. So since we only know Jeter, we assume that there can’t be another, when history tells us the reverse is true. I loved Terry Bradshaw, yet when he retired there were Dan Marino, John Elway, and Joe Montana. Not too shabby.

      There won’t be another Jeter, per se, but someone equally gifted and noble will replace him. We just don’t know who it is.

  4. Kurt Spitzner says:

    It would be impossible to find another shortstop to replace Jeter as athe team leader but for what its worth you will have the same issue at any position because people like him are few and far between.All anyone can do is wait for the day he retires and see who comes forth and fills that role,just don’t hold your breath!

  5. Charles says:

    First off, to Jason.

    I apologize for some of the things I wrote in the comments section of your last column on Jeter. While I still disagree with your overall point in that column, I realize that I could have made my points without resorting to insults. Like you, I like to write about sports, have strong opinions, and don’t back down from an argument.

    I assure you that my goal is not to sabotage your columns. I’m just here to offer my two cents. I hope we can put the past behind us and conduct ourselves like civil adults. This is just baseball. It’s really not worth fighting and calling each other a bunch of names.

    As pertains to the subject, I honestly don’t believe that there is any true replacement for Derek Jeter. Shortstops who get 200 hits per season with a little pop, who steal 25 bases per season, and who can, on top of that, deal with living in fish bowl that is NYC are few and far between.

    Additionally, players of that pedigree are usually going to go high in the draft. The only reason the Yankees were able to draft Jeter was that they were such a bad baseball team from 1989-1992. Yankees fans will never accept a few years of missing the playoffs to obtain higher draft picks.

    It’s a different time now. It’s hard to believe, but when Derek Jeter was called-up in 1995, the Yankees had not been to the postseason since 1981. They have since been to the playoffs every season since 1995, except 2008.

    Finding a franchise shortstop who is solid defensively, who consistently bats over .300 with some power and on-base skills, and who effortlessly handles media scrutiny like Jeter does is going to be a very tall order. (I believe that Joe Torre played an invaluable role teaching Jeter how to deal with the media/public. Joe Girardi is not nearly as media-savvy as Torre was/is.)

  6. JK says:

    Thanks, Jonas. As you said, it’s those head-scratchers that preclude Cano from preeminence. I love the guy. The moment you meet him you start grinning like a kid with a water gun.

    Also, the Yanks built the ’90s dynasty while Steinbrenner was banned from baseball. It’s doubtful that he would have had the tolerance to stick with the kids. Bernie, Mo, Andy, etc. would have been shipped for some exorbitant rental. Thank god for Bob Watson and Stick Michael, who had the patience and prescience The Boss didn’t.

    1. Big Bear says:

      JK you have it wrong, Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993, and so the 90’s dynasty was George. Yes, Watson, Stick & Showalter had a huge part of building that team, no questioned about that, but good’o George was in charge, even while he was suspended, the money spend was his.

      The 90’s dynasty started winning in ’94, but really came to play in ’95. George traded for Cone in ’95, Martinez coming to the Yankees in ’96, George.

      The trading of Wells for Clemens was George & Cashman. Straw, Gooden & Wells return to the Yankees, George.

      So you see JK, all those players plus the young ones (Jeter, Petitte, Posada & Mo) were part of the Yankees 4 championship titles & George had something to do for all of them at some point.

      1. JK says:

        I disagree, sir/madam. (Sorry, I can’t call you by that moniker.) EVERYONE gives Watson and Michael credit for those teams, not Steinbrenner. Many have reported that Steinbrenner tried to trade Bernie Williams AND Mariano Rivera but was begged by Stick/Bob to keep them. And you’ll recall Steinbrenner ran his team into the ground during the 1980s, when he bought Jack Clark, Rickey Henderson, Ed Whitson, Steve Trout, Rick Rhoden…and let go of Al Leiter and Jose Rijo! – both young and brilliant pitchers. No, I can’t give George credit considering his penchant for implosion.

      2. Big Bear says:

        JK, moron, idiot, d*ickhead, I’m not sorry; I have no problem in calling you those names. Those players go back to the late 80’s, we were talking about the late 90’s, Yankees 4 Championships correct Einstein.

        You’re learning disabilities overcome whatever intelligence you think you have.

        Owners in every sport make mistakes, but George also made great ones & he should be credited for making them, unlike idiots like you who can’t overcome those mistakes, yet Steinbrenner won more titles than any other baseball owners during his tenure.

        Again, his team, his money, if you really think while he was suspended he did not make decisions, think again.

        Don’t forget your special helmet your way out the door, don’t want you to hurt yourself, one more dead brain cell & we’re talking monkey.

      3. Jonas A-K says:

        Wow, really dude? Other than the complete lack of anything constructive there, you are the most offensive, irrelevant person on the planet. Also, if you’re going to talk about “You’re learning disabilities,” you’d better at least learn grammar. Also, you’re lucky we give you the benefit of the doubt in trying to understand your run-on drivel, as “Yankees 4 Championships correct Einstein” is nowhere near a comprehensible sentence.

        Other than that, I’m quite convinced actually that YOU, Big Bear, are the one with borderline learning disabilities, or at least the inability to read and comprehend a statement. It’s cool, though, as I’ll break down Jason’s comment step by step for ya so you don’t miss a beat:

        “Many have reported that Steinbrenner tried to trade Bernie Williams AND Mariano Rivera but was begged by Stick/Bob to keep them.” This comment refers to two key late ’90s players, and the Steinbrenner in question is the same one that you staunchly defend.

        “And you’ll recall Steinbrenner ran his team into the ground during the 1980s, when he bought Jack Clark, Rickey Henderson, Ed Whitson, Steve Trout, Rick Rhoden…” This portion serves to further his previous point, as demonstrated by the word “And” to begin the sentence.

        “…and let go of Al Leiter and Jose Rijo! – both young and brilliant pitchers. No, I can’t give George credit considering his penchant for implosion.” This now serves to further his previous point – that being that Steinbrenner had traded away other promising young talent prematurely in the past, thus giving much credit to the rumor that he had tried trading Bernie and Mariano, as previously mentioned.

        Nowhere did he discredit that the late ’90s Yankees did win four championships, even though they didn’t – they only won three, as 2000 was not part of the late ’90s. Nor is this article even meant to do any of that, further making me wonder if you actually know how to read and comprehend things without jumping to first-sentence uninformed conclusions.

      4. Big Bear says:

        JK, stop crying, people will confuse you with a girl instead of a man. You were wrong, you were corrected, stop you’re whining.

      5. Jonas A-K says:

        Again, I really question your intelligence. JK hasn’t responded to your second comment yet. You’ll notice (I hope) that “Jonas A-K” is not the same as “JK,” though I imagine they’re easy to confuse when you don’t actually read.

        Also, you were the one being corrected, and have yet to say anything at all in response. I assume you stand corrected on your completely irrelevant, non-constructive, insulting diarrhea of the brain. You’re welcome.

      6. Jonas A-K says:

        P.S. Again, “stop you’re whining” isn’t correct English, so you should definitely stop accusing anyone other than your lowly self of being stupid.

  7. Jonas A-K says:

    Good points as usual, Jason. I was wondering about this as I watched Cano dominate the Derby in a way no one expected. I feel like Cano is the rarity over the past decade in Yankees history: the kid who came up, relatively out of obscurity, and was allowed the chance to develop as an everyday player, no matter how he performed at first, until he became a star. More often than not, the Yankees were known for bringing up prospects and not truly letting them develop at the big league level, with the need to win now persevering over the need to win later. Chien-Ming Wang was like that, too, and he certainly blossomed until he got injured. I really had thought that those two would become the roots of the next “Core Four,” or however many players that ended up being.

    But you’re right about Cano – he has that aloofness that Jeter doesn’t have. Even though Jeter doesn’t have range, there’s no mistaking that he at least has his head in the game 110% of the time and at least tries to make every play. Cano has shown flashes of pure brilliance in the field, but has also committed his fair share of head-scratchers.

    Maybe, if the Yankees don’t trade Montero, he can develop into the next Posada, who was also a leader among the team – as was Pettitte. Maybe after Jeter retires, a guy like Cano will indeed fill those shoes, but just hasn’t stepped up yet because frankly, he doesn’t need to. I’d say it’s still too early to tell maturity-wise for any young player on the Yankees, and still too early to tell among fans who they will embrace when they don’t have Jeter to turn to. But they still do, for now, so they aren’t thinking about the future – just like Steinbrenner never did.

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