For the last 19 seasons, Derek Jeter manned the shortstop position while breaking records and cementing himself as a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But while Jeter’s bat and leadership thrived, during the later years of his career, he didn’t have much range and wasn’t a dynamic fielder. When Jeter retired, the Yankees were looking for someone to replace him at the shortstop position and they did that when they made a three-team trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers to acquire Didi Gregorius.
For the last five weeks, we’ve seen what Gregorius could do; he has tremendous range, has a canon for an arm and makes the most difficult plays look simple. Many have raved about Gregorius in camp and even media writers are impressed with Gregorius’s hustle and athleticism. If the Yankees were looking for an upgrade on the defensive side of shortstop, they sure found one in Gregorius.
“I think he’s outstanding in the field,” Joe Girardi said to the media following yesterday’s 6-5 loss to the Rays. “And I think he’s really swung the bat pretty well. You look at his last two weeks, he’s hit the ball consistently hard. He’s hit left-handers, he’s hit right-handers. I feel pretty good about it. … The other day, he smoked a ball (against a lefty). He’s swung the bat against left-handers as well. There’s a lot of talent there. Sometimes it’s just getting that opportunity to do it every day and maybe not looking over your shoulder that really brings it out.”
Gregorius hasn’t been known as a terrific bat, but over the last few weeks he has done well. He’s known for struggling with left handed pitching in the past, but Girardi decided to put him in the lineup against lefties, claiming Gregorius hitting against a lefty was the only way he was going to learn. And so far, it’s paid off.
Gregorius will never be Derek Jeter. He won’t hit .300 every season, he probably won’t be a Hall-of-Famer and he won’t have that leadership presence Jeter had in the clubhouse. But Gregorius playing shortstop and showing the Yankees what he could do has lessened the blow of losing Jeter and for the most part has helped fans and the team move forward from the ‘Derek Jeter Era’.