Jeter, coming off his worst offensive season, is in no danger of losing his hold on the leadoff spot in the lineup. The rest of the pieces will take time to sort out, unlike last year, when Girardi was choosing between Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson for the No. 2 spot. As for Jeter, Girardi said: "We signed him to be our shortstop and we signed him to be our leadoff hitter. And he’s got a pretty good track history of what he’s done in the game of baseball."
He added, "I’m not really too concerned about him as our leadoff hitter. But as we all know in this game, you have to prove yourself year in and year out, no matter who you are. That’s just the nature of the game, and there’s always people trying to take your job.
I'm so glad Girardi specified the game. Because the word on the street is that Jeter's one hell of a pickleball player, too.
Seriously, that is exactly what Girardi should say, each and every word.
Would it make sense to lead off Brett Gardner, at least against right-handed pitchers? Yeah, probably.
But managers don't like to move every-day players around in the order, mostly because the players don't like it.
Jeter's probably going to bounce back this season, with an on-base percentage in the .350-.365 range. Gardner's probably going to drop off just a tad, with an OBP in the .355-.375 range. Even considering Gardner's considerable baserunning edge -- due mostly to his base stealing; Jeter's still a great baserunner -- there just isn't a considerable difference between them, in terms of run production.
It is a shame that Gardner winds up batting ninth, because he really is the prototypical leadoff man. There are so few of those guys, and the Yankees are sort of wasting theirs. The alternative is to move Gardner into the No. 2 slot, and shift Nick Swisher down near the bottom, presumably seventh (ahead of Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin).
Of course, it's all sort of playing around at the margins. Nothing Girardi might reasonably do will make more than a one- or two-game difference in the standings. Which isn't to suggest a manager shouldn't take those games where he can find them. In this case, though, it's a lot easier and probably smarter to leave Jeter where he's been, until his performance forces you to make a change. And that hasn't happened yet.