The pain on Derek Jeter’s face said it all. It looked like he just saw Medusa as his whole body went stone-stiff with pain. His little toss while lying on his stomach to second base was the dying ember of his season.
The Yankees lost game one of the ALCS 6-4 to the Detroit Tigers, but Jeter’s injury is now the story of the playoffs.
While fielding a grounder to short, Jeter’s left ankle buckled awkwardly as he dove to make the play. Jeter is known for playing through pain, for being a “gamer,” for being the kind of guy a manager would probably have to threaten with death to keep out of the lineup.
But this time it was different. It was confirmed by multiples sources after the game that Jeter had a broken his left ankle. No amount of passion, or sheer will, will get Jeter back into the Yankees lineup for the remainder of the 2012 postseason.
Trainer Steven Donahue and Manager Joe Girardi had to carry Jeter off the field. For a player who has, at times, carried the Yankees, it was a strange site. But even in his pain Jeter wanted to attempt to get off the field on his own.
After the game, Girardi told reporters Jeter said, “No, do not carry me.” But even the toughest, grittiest players can’t always bear the load themselves. You could almost feel the morale of Yankee Stadium drop when Girardi and Donahue were helping Jeter off the field.
Nick Swisher echoed the feel of the fans.
“It’s kind of crushing,” Swisher said after the game.
But enough waxing poetic—there will be time for that later. There is still the little matter of the ALCS. The question now is, how do they replace Jeter? The short and obvious is: they don’t. The longer is, they replace him with Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez.
Girardi told reporters (via USA Today):
“Sometimes one man’s injury is another man’s opportunity and someone has to step up and do well with this opportunity. A lot of players get their chances because of injury.”
It’s an overly rosy take on the situation. But what else is Girardi supposed to say? He lost his future Hall of Famer shortstop and game one of the ALCS in one terrible night for the Yankees.
Although Nix and Nunez will be the primary replacements for Jeter, there is still the matter of Alex Rodriguez. When Girardi referred to “one man’s injury” being “another man’s opportunity” he might as well have speaking of A-Rod.
If there ever was one chance for A-Rod to change his playoff reputation, it is now. It won’t be easy, it won’t be automatic, and in all honesty it probably won’t happen.
His postseason numbers have been well documented, but they’re worth one more look:
Girardi really has no choice now. He must lean on a player who has proven time and time again cannot be trusted in key moments.
Jeter and A-Rod will be forever linked in Yankee lore. One is loved, the other loathed. A-Rod may never get a chance like this again—a strong finish in the ALCS could erase many of the demons he has created during his time with New York. A continuation of his poor play will most likely make the demons an insurmountable force A-Rod will never conquer.