COMMENTARY | If the Chicago Cubs intend to make Joe Girardi a "serious" offer to replace the ousted Dale Sveum, as ESPN is reporting, I think the New York Yankees should cut ties with Girardi and ask Derek Jeter to make the transition from captain from manager.
Jeter is 39, coming off a series of injuries, and no longer the player he once was. Yet he remains the leader of the Yankees -- someone who leads by example, handles the New York media with ease, and has the respect of his teammates.
Who better to lead the Yankees in a time of transition?
Until the mid-1950s, player/managers used to be common around baseball. In the years after, it was something that both Jeter's mentor and the man whose hit record he's chasing did with varied success. Joe Torre led the 1977 New York Mets, who were 15-30 when he took over, to a 49-68 record the rest of the season before retiring from playing. Pete Rose, baseball's last player/manager, led the Cincinnati Reds to a 194-100 record from 1984 through 1986 before similarly retiring.
By the time Rose took over the Reds' managerial duties, the former outfielder had been playing a majority of his games at first base for 5 years. Jeter, meanwhile, has expressed a desire to remain at shortstop, where his defensive range has deteriorated. If anything, if Jeter agreed to serve as manager, he'd likely make himself a part-time designated hitter/backup shortstop -- a role that would allow him to play without hurting the team.
With a Jeter move to the dugout, the Yankees could sign a full-time shortstop like Brendan Ryan. While some Yankees fans argue that Ryan's offense is not worth inserting into the Yankees' lineup, one can easily argue that his leather-work more than makes up for his light bat. Ryan hit .220/.258/.305 (51 wRC+) with one home run in 62 plate appearances after being acquired in mid-September. However, his range at shortstop more than made up for his offense. In just 17 games with the Yankees, Ryan's dWAR was 0.6 compared to Jeter's dWAR of minus-0.5 over the same number of games.
In the past, Jeter has brushed aside talk of managing. Last year, when asked whether or not he's considered managing when his playing career was over, he told a Chicago reporter, "No chance. No chance. Nada. Zero. No, not a chance."
The same reporter asked White Sox manager and former Jeter teammate Robin Ventura about it. Ventura said, "I don't know. I'm sure he's probably saying no right now but you never know."
Personally, I think it was classic Jeter-speak. That is, straight and direct with no chance of being asked follow-up questions. This is a man who is the face of the Yankees and beloved by millions of New Yorkers. He's no idiot and he's got the brains and baseball acumen to take over a club. He's watched former teammates (Girardi, Ventura, and Don Mattingly) succeed in the role, and I think he likes a challenge.
If anything, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman should at least inquire about whether Jeter wants the job.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
- Sports & Recreation
- Derek Jeter
- New York Yankees
- Joe Girardi
- New York Mets