With the New York Yankees getting older, manager Joe Girardi will have to be more conservative with the amount of playing time he gives a lot of the core players on the roster.
Derek Jeter will be high on the list of players who need to be monitored.
When last we saw Jeter, he was being carried off the field at Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. He was diagnosed with a fractured right ankle that required surgery.
The rehab time for Jeter appears to put him on track to return around Opening Day on April 1 against Boston.
The Yankee Captain told Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News that he feels great right now and is having no issues getting back to full strength.
When I start baseball activities, I always do what I just did right there. The first week or two, I don’t get off the grass, I stay right there. Spring training is six, seven weeks, know what I mean? I don’t have to be ready to play a game Feb. 16 or 17. I don’t have to be in game shape that day and, now with my ankle, I don’t have to be in game shape by Feb. 20-something when we start, so it’s a process.
If Jeter is completely healthy by Opening Day, then by all means, put him in the lineup and let him go. He seems to age in a manner differently than most players, as evidenced by the fact he hit .316 with 216 hits and played in 159 regular season games at the age of 38 in 2012.
Yes, Jeter still has the same problems that have plagued him for a long time (defense, lack of power), but if you are getting 200 hits in a season near the age of 40, you are doing a few things right.
Considering what the Yankees have to deal with this season, including the uncertainty surrounding Alex Rodriguez's hip, an aging roster that is starting to see stars like Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson decline and lack of payroll flexibility for the first time ever, this team has to do all it can to keep key players healthy for the long haul.
Jeter is going to push himself as hard as he possibly can because that's the kind of competitor he is. He doesn't care how old he is, as long as his name is the lineup card every single day.
It is on Jeter, and to a lesser extent Girardi, to take a step back and see what is going on with this team right now.
Jeter is also quoted in the Daily News piece as saying that he believes the Yankees are experienced, not old.
Experience is a nice story to sell the media on, but given what we know about baseball, the older you are the less likely it is that age will hold up over the course of a six-month regular season and nine months of game action if you include spring training and—assuming you get there—the playoffs.
Time is an important factor for Jeter and the Yankees. They don't have a lot of it left with this core group, so if they hope to win a championship it is important they are fresh when it counts.
That competitive spirit is why baseball fans love Jeter. It could also be a problem if he doesn't want to rest 20-25 games during the regular season.