October 15, 2012

MLB PLAYOFFS: Postseason won't be same without Jeter

NEW YORK (AP) -- A player stood at shortstop at Yankee Stadium, yet the shortstop was missing.

click image to enlarge

OUCH: Trainer Steve Donohue, left, and New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, right, help Derek Jeter off the field after he broke his left ankle during Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers early Sunday morning in New York.

AP photo

For 16 years and 158 consecutive games, Derek Jeter had been in the New York Yankees' postseason lineup, the Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken of October.

"When you think of postseason, you think of Derek Jeter," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.

And now Jeter was absent for Game 2 of the AL championship series against the Tigers on Sunday, off undergoing tests after his left ankle cracked during another stressful moment in another sapping game. Taking the captain's place was Jayson Nix.

Jeter's body gave out Saturday on one of those autumn nights that has defined him, transformed him from a strong-willed student to revered statesman.

Trailing the Tigers one game to none, the Yankees faced the troublesome task of regrouping without their longtime leader.

First Mariano Rivera, whose knee tore during batting practice in May. Then Jeter.

Not since Game 6 of the 1981 World Series had the Yankees played in the postseason without both Jeter and Rivera

"We had to move on from a lot of different things this year," manager Joe Girardi said. "We've lost the greatest closer of all-time, where people left us for dead. People left us for dead in August and September, said we were panicking. And we laughed at it, and we said no, we're going to be fine. We won more games in the American League than anyone."

Moving on minus the slumping Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees did that.

But this is Jeter, as much a part of Yankee Stadium as the pinstripes, monuments and 27 World Series banners. Not since rookie Mickey Mantle's knee buckled during Game 2 of the 1951 World Series had such an integral part of the team gotten hurt so severely during a postseason game.

"He's indestructible," former Yankees manager Joe Torre said in front of Detroit's dugout.

Maybe at 25. Maybe at 30.

But not at 38, when more gray can be seen around the temples, when the muscles get more sore and the bones become more brittle.

Jeter had scans Sunday, which confirmed the fracture. He was in a splint and on crutches, and will soon see foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C. Jeter will not accompany the Yankees to Detroit, and his recovery is expected to take three months.

Jeter also texted Nix, hoping he would produce in this unexpected opportunity.

"He just said good luck," said the understudy, thrust into a lead role. "He said he believes in me, and go get 'em."

This wasn't the first time Jeter had trouble with his left leg in the last month or so.

Girardi pulled him from a game at Boston on Sept. 12 because of what Jeter said was a sprained ankle. Jeter was a designated hitter for the next four games. Jeter fouled a ball off his left foot in Game 3 of the division series, again was taken out early, and was at DH the next day before returning to shortstop.

Without Jeter, there's little core left in the Core Four, with only Andy Pettitte still in uniform and Jorge Posada watching from retirement.

Jeter's injury literally changed the sound at Yankee Stadium, and not just because he caused a collective gasp when he sprawled on his stomach, immobile on the infield dirt.

His ankle broken, yelled out in pain. He also had some words for Girardi when the manager and a trainer rushed out to check him.

"Even when I went to the field and I was going to carry him in, and he said 'No, do not carry me.' That is the kind of guy he is," Girardi said.

(Continued on page 2)

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