Emotionally, psychologically, whatever, this is one hell of a big deal. I mean, it’s Derek Jeter. Captain, face of the franchise, world icon. It’s almost impossible to imagine a Yankees team without him. It was also almost impossible to imagine a Yankees team without Mariano Rivera. Rivera got hurt on May 3, when the Yankees were 13-11. The Yankees finished 82-56. The argument isn’t that the Yankees wouldn’t have been better with Rivera healthy; the argument is that the Yankees obviously weren’t crippled by his absence.
With Jeter, you could make it as simple as just looking at his WAR, if you wanted to. Three years ago, he was worth 2.8 wins. Then 2.3 wins, then 3.2 wins, for an average of three wins per 162 games. Let’s say he has a replacement-level substitute. Against an average team, you’re talking about roughly a two-percent drop in win expectancy. That is, this year, the Yankees won 58.6 percent of their games. Subtract three, and they would’ve won 56.8 percent of their games. It’s a meaningful difference, but it isn’t a dramatic difference. The Yankees didn’t just lose Robinson Cano or CC Sabathia.
As hard as it is to process the Yankees without Jeter, and as hard as it is to process the idea that downgrading from Jeter to Jayson Nix isn’t devastating, that’s the truth.
...I think there’s a very compelling argument to be made that Derek Jeter’s playoff replacement at shortstop should be Alex Rodriguez. I’m not in a position to be able to know that for sure, and obviously, it would be challenging for Rodriguez to move over overnight. The Yankees can’t really afford to have Rodriguez make some crucial defensive mistakes in Game 2, after having lost Game 1. It’s safer to go with Nix, and it might well be wiser to go with Nix. I don’t think Girardi even gave the Rodriguez idea much consideration.
And one can imagine how things might’ve gone for Rodriguez in New York if he went hitless and also made some miscues in the field. The Rodriguez idea is just an idea; the reality is going to look a lot more like Jayson Nix, filling in for Derek Jeter. This is going to be weird. It’s probably not going to be crippling, but it’s most definitely going to be weird.