February 16, 2004

Move Over, Derek. So says the front page of today's New York Daily News. The Daily News and the Post are divided over which player should be the Yankees shortstop -- right now, Rodriguez has the edge (1 - 2 - 3 to 1). ... The Toronto Sun: "Rodriguez at third? Give it 20 games"; another columnist says: "By the Fourth of July it'll be A-Rod SS, Jeter 3B."

My partner Laura - who is both a diehard Yankees fan and an Alex fan - says: "Whatever the relative merits of Jeter/Alex/3B/SS may be, at the home opener on April 8, Yankee fans will see their man Derek Jeter - who they revere - in his rightful spot at SS. Anything else would be perceived as a massive, collosal dis and Torre will not do that. How it will play out in the long run, that's another story. But starting the season with Jeter at SS and Alex at 3B is not going to cost them anything significant." ... While it's true that starting the season with Jeter at shortstop wouldn't hurt that much, wouldn't it be a better idea to make the transition before the real games begin? Of course, doing that and then moving Jeter back for the home opener (the 7th game of the season) would be weird. And Torre does have a history of veteran loyalty. ... My take? Both players will practice at third base in spring training and at some point before New York heads to Tokyo to start the season, it will be decided that Jeter moves to third.

Jim Baker, ESPN Insider: "There is one word for the notion that Derek Jeter would be allowed to stay at shortstop while Alex Rodriguez would move to third to accommodate him: silly. Tradition, pride, primacy -- these are all nice words but there are baseball games on the line here. Jeter has gotten so bad at shortstop that not even the staunchest Yankee fan even bothers to defend him anymore." [Well, that's debateable, but anyway ...]

Range Factor among qualifying AL shortstops
2003: Rodriguez -- 5th (4.54); Jeter -- 10th/last (3.75)
2002: Rodriguez -- 4th (4.73); Jeter -- 12th/last (3.81)
2001: Rodriguez -- 2nd (4.72); Jeter -- 10th/last (3.82)

Zone Rating* among qualifying AL shortstops
2003: Rodriguez -- 6th (.859); Jeter -- 10th/last (.791)
2002: Rodriguez -- 1st (.919); Jeter -- 12th/last (.803)
2001: Rodriguez -- 4th (.853); Jeter -- 10th/last (.789)
* ZR: The percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive "zone," as measured by STATS, Inc.

Baker: "A-Rod should not be displaced defensively by anybody except an Ozzie Smith-caliber shortstop. Just how bad is Jeter at this point? Consider this: defensive Win Shares per 1,000 innings. Most shortstops are over 4.00 in this category. All but four -- including the scrubs, fill-ins, part-timers and cup of coffee drinkers -- were over 3.00. Derek Jeter was at 1.31. Fellow Yankees Eric Almonte and Enrique Wilson were also in the ones while Damian Jackson of the Red Sox was at 2.23. ... Defensive stats are a lot more murky than their offensive counterparts, but the discrepancies between A-Rod and Jeter are so vast that they transcend any murkiness caused by the shortcomings of the tools."

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