NO ‘REPLACING’ JETER

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Let’s start with this: No one will replace Derek Jeter. If that’s what the New York Yankees, and their fans, expect of Didi Gregorius, the discussion is dead on arrival.

A recent story in the New York Daily News the Yankees shortstop is believed to be having a difficult time playing in New York. From the day he was dealt to the Yankees, Gregorius has been questioned. “… (Gregorius) can be mentally fragile when things aren’t going his way … ” “Didi, thinks too much … He always seems to have a lot on his mind … ”  Gregorius “is a nervous type, not sure he can handle New York … ”

The 2015 season is just one month old and Gregorius is hitting .221. He has made a few mental mistakes on defense. Fans are chanting “Der-ek Je-ter” when Gregorius is introduced. But who didn’t see this coming?

Comparing Gregorius to Jeter is unfair; suggesting Gregorius is replacing Jeter is flat out ridiculous. Following one of the greatest players in the game, one who is respected on-and-off the field, is an unenviable position.

decinces“I used to get hate mail,” said Doug DeCinces, who replaced Brooks Robinson in Baltimore. “People would write things like, ‘You’re a young punk. You can’t wear his shoes. Why don’t you just quit?’”

“People looked at me as a California kid taking over Brooks’ job – and they didn’t like it. You have to remember, Brooks could have run for mayor and governor in the same year – and won. That’s how popular he was. Even when my name was announced, there’d be some booing (in Baltimore). I had to prove myself all the time. And whatever city I went into, there were the constant questions about me replacing Brooks. There were stories comparing the two of us.”

ziskRoberto Clemente played 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was, and in many ways still is, the face of the organization. When Clemente died, 24-year old Richie Zisk was named the Pirates right fielder; a position every player coveted, but no one wanted under the circumstances. Zisk hit nearly .300 in four seasons with the Pirates but Pittsburgh fans barely noticed. Zisk was overshadowed by “the legend of Roberto Clemente.”

When asked about how he reconciled the idea of following in Clemente’s footsteps, Zisk said:

“I was struggling to get to the big leagues – no matter what position I was playing or no matter who I replaced. I was so wrapped up in my own world. I had tunnel vision. It was like, ‘Let’s worry about Richie and what he can do.’ If I had concerned myself with the whole picture and tried to accomplish what (Clemente) did, I probably would have failed. I had limited physical skills compared to him – he was an amazing athlete – and it would have been idiotic for me to try to compete.”

Eventually, the lack of appreciation began to bother Zisk. He wanted out.

“I asked to be traded from the Pirates because I felt like I was being buried alive,” said Zisk. “I was the Joe Rudi of the National League, except that Rudi at least got into the World Series for exposure.”

trammellTony Gwynn is forever a San Diego Padre. In 20 seasons in San Diego, Gwynn collected 3,141 hits (200+ hits in five seasons), appeared in 15 All-Star games and five Gold Glove Awards. Bubba Trammel was traded to the Padres in 2001 and slotted in right field. Everyone knew Trammel was not the heir apparent to Gwynn, but a placeholder. The Padres eventually traded for Brian Giles in 2003.

batistaCal Ripken Jr. played 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. In 1997, he moved from shortstop to third base. Imagine being Mike Bordick? Ripken retired in 2001 and Tony Batista stepped into Ripken’s clown-sized shoes and lasted two seasons.

The Yankees — and Gregorius — downplayed the talk of replacement from Day One. Remember what Gregorius last December when he was asked how he felt about following Jeter at shortstop?

“Jeter is still Jeter,” he said. “Everything everybody is going to talk about is Jeter.”

Yes, he is and, yes, they are.

Jeter’s advice for Gregorius: “Enjoy himself. Play hard.”

East for him to say. He’s Derek Jeter.

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About the author

John Strubel

Hi. My name is John Strubel. Thanks for visiting my website. I write primarily about my passion: baseball. In addition, I occasionally publish posts and podcasts related to sports media, journalism and technology impacting the industry. You can also connect with me on social media @johnstrubel.

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