Amid Derek Jeter Tributes, Yankees Ignore Mandate to Win

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Rob Carr/Getty Images

The tributes to Derek Jeter in his final MLB season have bordered on excessive in the eyes of many fans and sports writers. As the Yankees continue what is an unprecedented glorification of an active player, it is if whether the team still has the Steinbrenner win-at-all-costs mentality or if the hunger for ticket and merchandise sales overwhelmed the organization’s mandate to win. Decisions made by Manager Joe Girardi and the front office suggest missing the playoffs is now okay for the Yankees, a concept that was once unthinkable.

Jeter’s commemorative tour

In a season plagued by weak offensive production and injuries to four starters, the Yankees have struggled to remain in the playoff picture. (As of September 4, they trail the second Wild Card leader by four games.) Yet the #Season2Watch train has slugged on, with Jeter receiving an endless stream of gifts and tributes. For a player who ranks sixth in career hits and owns five World Series rings, tributes are certainly in order.

Yet on the field it has not been a productive season for Jeter. Through September 4, Jeter was hitting .261 with 3 HR and 14 2B in 123 games. It’s by far his worst season, which is to be expected for a player at 40 years old. However, the Yankees insistence on batting Jeter second and the order smacks of a desire for a guaranteed first-inning appearance rather than a move designed to win ball games. When Joe Girardi was asked about his reluctance to drop Jeter in the lineup, the Yankees manager challenged the concept.

You look up and down our numbers and there’s a lot of .240s and .230s,” Girardi told reporters after a September 2 loss to the Red Sox. “I’m not so sure why [Jeter] is the one that’s necessarily picked on here.”