Only One Way To Replace Jeter
by Eddie Mayrose

Imagine that you’ve booked Tom Clancy to speak at a writing seminar and, on his way to the podium, he falls and breaks his ankle. Just when you think all is lost, Clive Cussler rises from his seat in the audience and agrees to take over.   Imagine, still, that Elton John will be performing at your daughter’s Sweet Sixteen party.  As he’s stepping out of his car, however, he falls and breaks his ankle.  As your little girl begin to cry, the father of one of her friends, some guy named Billy Joel, mentions that he plays the piano a little bit and would be happy to step in.  Impossible scenarios?  Absolutely.  But, despite the odds, it’s exactly where Joe Girardi finds himself this morning. 

It’s unlikely that many Yankee fans are familiar with the name Mickey Stanley.  However, he is now the model for Girardi to follow if he wants to give his Bombers their best chance for a ring,

In 1968, as his Tigers headed into the World Series, manager Mayo Smith made a bold decision that allowed him to get an extra bat into the lineup.  Faced with the dilemma of losing one of his four heavy-hitting outfielders, Stanley, Al Kaline, Willie Horton or Jim Northrup, Smith inserted Stanley at shortstop for the anemic Ray Oyler, despite the fact that Stanley had never played the position.   All four hit the ball well dueling the Tigers’ seven game win over the favored Cardinals, while Stanley made two insignificant errors.  

Those were the wonderful old days when managers led with their instincts and did not answer to “the book”- the bible of baseball to most of today’s skippers, Girardi chief among them. The problem with “the book” is that it defies observational logic, telling you that all southpaws are more effective against left handed hitters than righties, no matter their talent level.  Or that a reliever pitches a specific inning of a game, with no regard for the batters he’ll be facing.  What “the book” actually does, is protect the manager from the second guess, serving as baseball’s version of The Emperor’s New Clothes, as  neither the media or fan base challenge these decisions, lest they reveal that they don’t know about “the book”. 

So, now, “the book” tells Girardi that Jayson Nix or Eduardo Nunez becomes the shortstop that will take the place of his best hitter.  To that end, we’ll be told by anyone in pinstripes that the move will serve as the smallest disruption of the lineup and maintain the menu of pinch hitting choices for Girardi to use late in the game, or some such nonsense.  No matter the explanation, however, nothing trumps the simple, obvious and indisputable logic that a batting order featuring Alex Rodriguez and Eric Chavez is stronger than any alternative.  Never mind the fact that Rodriguez, before his move to the hot corner, was the greatest to ever play the position.

And what of A Rod’s ability to handle a return to the middle of the diamond? The question to be answered is not whether Rodriguez can be the shortstop he once was.  Nor is it a concern that it’s been seven years since he was penciled into the lineup at short.  The only concern for Girardi should be- “Will      Alex play the position better than Nunez and/or Nix?  That the answer is a resounding YES may not matter, unless the Yankee skipper somehow finds it somewhere in the back of “the book”. 

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