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Losing Derek Jeter Hurts the Yankees and Major League Baseball

Posted on October 14, 2012 by Dean Hybl

The Yankees lost Derek Jeter for the rest of the season with a broken ankle in the 12th inning of game one of the ALCS.

The New York Yankees suffered two significant losses in opening game of the League Championship Series. Not only did the Yankees drop a 6-4 decision in 12 games to the Detroit Tigers, but they also lost their captain, Derek Jeter, for the rest of the season with a broken ankle. Losing Jeter is not just a major blow to the chances for the Yankees, but also a huge loss for Major League Baseball.

Even for baseball fans whose two favorite teams are the squad they follow and then whoever is playing the Yankees, this isn’t the way you want to see the Yankees go down. Only fans that have far crossed the line can be pleased to see the symbol of the franchise for the last 15+ years lying on the ground agonizing in pain.

In an era where star power is a major driver of fan interest, Derek Jeter has been among the steadiest players in the game. Though he has never been the league MVP or posted lofty power statistics, Jeter has been a key member of five World Series Champions and collected more than 3,000 career hits. In just the last few weeks some were debating whether he might be the one to break the all-time hit mark held by Pete Rose.

After Jeter went down while diving for a ground ball in the 12th inning of the opening game against the Tigers the thoughts are no longer about potential records, but instead of what baseball will be like without the Yankee captain.

That is something the Yankees have little time to digest as they will be back in action today for game two against the Tigers and must try to overcome not just his loss, but also the fact they are trailing in the series.

There are many examples in baseball history of teams having to overcome a key loss during the postseason.

The Oakland A’s were able to win the 1972 World Series even without slugger Reggie Jackson, who tore his hamstring in game five of the ALCS.

In 1972 the Oakland Athletics lost slugger Reggie Jackson (who would later become known as Mr. October) to a torn hamstring in the ALCS (ironically also against the Tigers), but were able to win the World Series over the Reds even without his services.

The 1975 Red Sox played the entire postseason without rookie slugger Jim Rice, but were able to make it to the seventh game of the World Series before falling to the Reds.

In 1982 the Milwaukee Brewers won the American League East due in large part to the performance of their closer, Rollie Fingers. However, Fingers suffered an arm injury late in the season and was unable to perform in the playoffs as the Brewers eventually lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Given that Fingers had 30 career postseason appearances with a 2.35 ERA and nine saves, his presence certainly would have helped the Brewers.

Everyone remembers that Kirk Gibson blasted the winning homer off Dennis Eckersley in the first game of the 1988 World Series, but that the Dodgers were able to continue on to win the series without the National League MVP playing in another game is a testament to the total team.

Beyond his role as the captain of the team, the loss of Jeter will be most felt by the fact that though many thought two years ago that he was in the twilight of his career, in reality Jeter is still a key player on the field for the Yankees.

At the age of 38, Jeter had one of his finest seasons in 2012. He appeared in 159 games and hit .316 with 216 hits, 99 runs scored and 58 RBI. In the opening playoff series against the Orioles, Jeter was one of the few players not struggling offensively as he hit .364 with four runs scored and two RBI.

Though Jeter does not have the same defensive range that he did when winning five Gold Gloves, he was still a steady fielder in the middle of the infield.

Replacing Jeter in the lineup will be Jayson Nix, who is playing for his fifth different team since first making it to the majors in 2008. He played in 74 games this season for the Yankees, seeing action at second base, shortstop, third base and leftfield. He hit a career-high .243 this season to raise his career batting average to .212.

With their leadoff hitter out of the lineup, Joe Girardi will have to reshuffle a lineup that includes several players who have been struggling during the postseason. It is likely that Ichiro Suzuki, who hit .322 after joining the Yankees in July and had four hits in the opening game against the Tigers will slide up from the number two spot, but Girardi will have some magic to do with the rest of the lineup.

Given their large payroll and the advantages that provides, it may seem surprising that the 2012 Yankees have really been a scrappy, resilient team, instead of a team that overwhelms everyone with their dominating talent. They overcame the loss earlier in the year of Mariano Rivera and then withstood the continued uprisings of the upstart Baltimore Orioles to win the division and advance to the ALCS.

It will be harder for them to win without their captain, leadoff hitter and starting shortstop (all rolled into one), but it would be foolish to count the Yankees out just yet.

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