The baseball gods have been frowning at Derek Jeter in recent months. First, he suffers the dumb ankle injury merely by sliding that keeps him out of the New York Yankees lineup for the first half of this season. Then, the moment he steps back into the lineup, down he goes again.
This time Jeter lasted one game after sitting out 91 and was sent back to the shelf with a strained right quadriceps after it twanged like a guitar string. So far for 2013 the future Hall of Fame shortstop’s line reads one game played, one hit made, two trips to the disabled list. Wait. Not quite. Jeter hasn’t been exiled back to the DL yet. The team is giving him the rest of this week off, and more rest over the All-Star break, before determining if he is capable of playing again by a week from this weekend.
Jeter must be the most frustrated dude on the planet. After nine months of medical treatment, recovery, and rehab, to finally get back on the diamond, it takes about two hours for him to be put of commission. Jeter and the Yankees hope this is only a little blip on the health meter, that he will shrug off the new owie, and resume his place on the field.
But he had better be darned careful nursing his leg for the next week so he doesn’t miss any additional time after the All-Star break. Jeter should lock himself in a glass bubble and let no one near him carrying germs. He should not cut the lawn. He should not chop wood. He should not lift heavy objects. Jeter should not visit nightclubs and dance fast dances. He should not run laps around a 400-meter track. He should not look at his leg (or his ankle) the wrong way.
Jeter should stay in the house. He should stay off his feet. He should kill time by watching old baseball movies like “Field of Dreams,” “Bull Durham,” or “Eight Men Out.” Or maybe his old “Saturday Night Live” performance. He should not even serve himself his own diet soda. Let servants take care of everything more strenuous than blowing his nose.
Right now the best thing Jeter can do is treat himself with the care that would be given to an endangered species. Which is something he pretty much is as he nears the end of his baseball career. Jeter has been in the majors for 19 years and he has spent it all with one team. That’s a rarity. He has 3,305 career hits and that ranks him 10th all-time. He has a lifetime .313 batting average. He is a 13-time All-Star and winner of five Gold Gloves.
Jeter owns all-world statistics and he has all-world credentials. Just last year he posted one of the finest seasons of his career. Wrecking his ankle in the playoffs altered his status from a player overachieving at age 39 (as of June 26) to a player who suddenly seems fragile.
Could the ankle injury have happened to anyone? Of course. Could the strained quad have happened to anybody? Certainly. But would both of the injuries have happened to a younger Jeter? Hmm.
With luck the quadriceps will heal in a week and Jeter will be back in the Yanks’ lineup doing what he does best at short and at bat. The sooner the better for the sport. Fans do not want to see Jeter limping and sidelined for the entire season–unless it means that bypassing 2013 will permit him to come back at 100 percent for 2014.