Time could prove to be superstar’s Achilles ankle

Local teenager Kevin Lange's weekly sports column

By: Kevin Lange, Contributing Writer

255 career home runs. 1,254 career RBIs.

Are you kidding me?

I guess it’s one of those perks that comes with being a high caliber threat at the plate for 18 professional years.

Maybe it’s just a testament to his age; the Yankees would like to shy away from gray whiskers for as long as his endorsed Gillette Fusion can hide them.

He’s the Superman of bringing people home.

He’s brought in more runners than a New York City marathon.

He’s accumulated more World Series rings than the Kardashians have trust rings; he’s the Kobe Bryant of the MLB.

Impressive.

More impressive: his were earned, not given.

Let’s face it; he’s beat out New York City’s superhero, biggest attraction on a Saturday morning, and a trio of cougars. What else is there for Derek Jeter to conquer in a career?

A comeback from a grueling ankle fracture.

With as many feats as Jeter has surmounted in his baseball career for a team and city that bows down to him as their messiah, there’s a sense of tentativeness to be as objective as doubting a successful return.

Honestly, is that a crime?

ESPN NY ranked him as the seventh best Yankee of all time.

Their G.M., Brian Cashman, evaluated Jeter by saying he has been “shaping up nicely.”

With a dense surrounding of unconditional praise for the man, a very difficult question is posed: Does anyone have supporting reasons significant enough to form a reasonable conjecture detesting Jeter’s future success?

Despite the disagreement this may stir from Jeter fans, I believe cynical predictions have more than enough backup reasons to lean on.

Don’t believe me?

In almost four months since his left ankle was fractured, Derek Jeter, who was restricted from putting any stress on an uneasy ankle, earned the name publicly thrown at him as “Derek Eater.”

No official weight has been reported from Jeter, but you can say calories were anything but burned this winter.

I thought hibernation was only for bears.

Trust me, as far as baseball goes, I’m fully aware that maintaining superb—or even average—shape isn’t necessarily a necessity to earning the golden ticket to success.

You’ll see guys crush a fastball out to the warning tracks for an evident triple, yet they’ll waddle in with a rounded single.

But until you see that hardball soar over the Green Monster, you haven’t seen their bread and butter.

Just look at David Ortiz, Prince Fielder and Pablo Sandoval.

OK, those examples may be a bit exaggerative to compare to Jeter’s possible case in terms of defining the “sluggish slugger,” but there’s no denying what direction Derek was headed until Spring training saved him.

Less than a week ago, Jeter reportedly ran for the first time in three and a half months.

“I’ve gotten the OK to do everything,” Jeter later said. “It’s a progression. I haven’t used my legs, so I’ve got to get back to using them.”

Hey, it’s a start, nonetheless.

Unless Derek Jeter can pull out even a tenth of what an Adrian Peterson type of comeback looks like, I don’t foresee this 38-year old being back to the Derek Jeter that ESPN thought of when they ranked him as the seventh best to throw on the navy pinstripes.

As (nobody) once said: “Once you hear ‘crack’ you never go back.” Crack of the bone, that is; he’ll be far from hearing a crack of the ball out to left field anytime soon, I’ll tell you that much.

Maybe it’s just natural to be somewhat biased, given the fact that he played so terrible leading up to his injury.

Jeter had his worst walk-to-strikeout ratio since 2004.

Just to show off his age, last season he also had the least amount of bases stolen in his entire 18-year career since his forgettable 15-game rookie season. Heading into the 2012 playoffs rather cold, Jeter came in also not having hit a home run in over a month, along with not having batted in a runner in two-and-a-half weeks of play.

According to his Gillette slogan, that’s not quite “the best a man can get” to say the least.

By the end of 2013, Derek Jeter’s 3-year contract with the Yankees will conclude.

You can imagine Brian Cashman will be on the fence on whether or not to offer a contract renewal to their shortstop for anything more than expensive.

Having a player pushing the big “4-0” in age always makes a front office feel uneasy about potential injuries.

It’d be like buying a gourmet meal and dropping it in the dirt.

The bond of Derek Jeter and his current home can live while it lasts, but the fate could very well lie within this comeback campaign.

Whether it ends in a success or a falter, I think we can agree that, for the sake of a “happy ever after” ending, the Yankees should never let consideration of their shortstop’s trade market value allure them to move on.

Neither should an ankle.

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