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 Post subject: Jeter in center
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 5:11 pm 
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Location: Saranac Lake, N.Y.
What do you think of the idea of moving Jeter to centerfield, the subject of this article in the NYT?


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 8:46 pm 
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I'm all for it. I actually just came here to start a thread on this very issue, but you beat me to it.

To me, the considerations break down this way:

1. The Yankees have no center fielder.
2. The Yankees cannot trade for a good center fielder without giving up Chien-Ming Wang or Robinson Cano.
3. The only clear free-agent choice would be Johnny Damon, and I hate it when the Yankees and Red Sox dampen the Rivalry by signing each other's players. I also hate Johnny Damon.
4. Alex Rodriguez is a better baseball player, and a better defensive shortstop, than Derek Jeter, always has been, and always will be.
5. Jeter is a slightly faster sprinter than Rodriguez.
6. Considerations 4 and 5 together would mean that moving Jeter to CF and Rodriguez to SS would improve the Yankees' defense at both positions. You'd have the player with softer hands, and faster reaction time, at short, and the player better able to run down fly balls in center.
7. Most Yankees fans (I consider myself an exception) are beholden more to anecdote than to empirical fact, and are convinced that Jeter is one of the great shortstops of all time, and so if you're ever going to move him, you need a way to spin it to Yankees fans. Happily, that spin exists: You talk up all the great players (including Mickey Mantle) who made the switch from middle infield to center, and put Jeter in their august company. You can even let everyone (including Jeter) believe that this is a promotion for him, all the while achieving the only things that really matter -- getting the best shortstop since Honus Wagner to play shortstop again, and having a viable center fielder.

(Hat tip to Bob Klapisch of The Bergen Record for suggesting the spin)


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 11:14 pm 
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I know that infield range and outfield range aren't always connected, but I can't see how a SS with terrible range is going to cover all that ground in center.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2005 12:19 pm 
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The problem with Jeter's defense at short has always been his poor reaction time to sharply hit balls up the middle, which has more to do with quick decisions and turns than running speed. My guess is that in center, with more time to gauge his response, he'll be superior because he can quickly get to where he needs to be. No more "Aaand ... past a diving Derek Jeter!" calls from John Sterling.

Part of the cause of the mythology of Jeter's "great defense" among my Yankee fan brethren is that he has quite a knack for making easy plays look hard (and thus impressive when he barely makes them).

Of course, this inspired switch is never going to happen. Brian Cashman sayeth so.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2005 9:44 pm 
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I think being able to read the ball off the bat is just as paramount to playing defense as a center fielder as it is for a shortstop, so I'm not convinced that Jeter's weaknesses would be minimized at all by a position shift. Further, he doesn't have the strongest shortstop's arm, and I think that weakness would be magnified in center. Jeter may well make two or three ESPN Web Gem catches over the Death Valley fence each year, thus further mythologizing him as an alleged defensive god, but he's likely to miss many more sharp liners and gap drives to the power alleys than most natural center fielders.

If the move were to be made, however, and needed to be sold to Yankee fans, I would start by mentioning Robin Yount.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2005 1:07 am 
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A good centerfielder doesn't so much react to a hit as he does to the pitch, stride and swing after considering the situation before the pitch is thrown.
Jeter could probably cover as much ground as Johnny Damon and throw better.
He'd probably be at least as good as Matsui is out there.
His value is chiefly on offense and at the gate.
With the Yankees needing a centerfielder, having an excellent shortstop at third and a ton invested and owed to Jeter, the move to center makes sense.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2005 1:29 am 
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Considering there just isn't a premium free-agent center fielder out there (and I think Damon's due for a big dropoff), I agree that the move makes as much sense as any other option available to the Yankees. And they could go get Kenny Lofton — again — as his late-inning defensive replacement.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2005 4:17 am 
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The Yankees are denying the story, and it sounded far-fetched at first, but it really does make sense. Jeter might not be the greatest reader of ground balls, but he tracks down fly balls like a madman. And as Wayne said, center isn't about reading the ball off the bat -- that's hard to do in center because you don't have as good an angle on the batted ball's trajectory as you have in left or right.

I predict, when the dust settles: Jeter in center, A-Rod at short, Nomar at third (seriously).

By the way, I like how the Reuters reporter who broke the story is named Larry Fine.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2005 1:48 pm 
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Yeah, and Larry Fine has since been eviscerated by Torre and Cashman for (they say) quoting Torre out of context, though it was nice to see Murray Chass stand up for Fine in Sunday's Times. Sounds a lot like the Republicans attacking anyone who dares question them about anything (see Murtha, John, most recently), but that's another thread.

I am in favor of the move of Jeter to center and think it makes a lot of sense. Hank Aaron is among Yount, Mantle and even Bobby Murcer as players whose careers began in the infield. If it's good enough for Hall of Famers Aaron, Yount and Mantle, it's good enough for Jeets, let me tell you.

But I don't think it will happen, just because the perception (incorrect though it is) is that it's a ridiculous move.


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