Ben Shpigel of the New York Times has an excellent, must-read piece about Derek Jeter’s work with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long this week.
Interestingly, Long told Shpigel that Jeter has always has always had a slightly flawed swing, due to the familiar stride that he takes towards the mound with his left leg. Coming off the worst season of his career, Jeter is now willing to make some changes.
“It would have been asinine for me to go in and try to change him before,” Long said. “He’s been so good for so long, what really needed to be done?”
But that stride grew longer and drifted toward the plate, which caused Jeter to lean over. It altered Jeter’s bat path, and his timing suffered.
“Now,” Long said, “he starts to get jammed a little more. Maybe his bat slows down just a hair, but that’s significant. We can say age all we want, but I’m not buying into that. I think if we fix this, that age factor dissipates.”
Long is optimistic that Jeter will find similar results to Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, perhaps the most prominent example of someone who shortened his stride as he got older. Molitor adopted changes and batted .312/.362/.432 over his age 39-41 seasons, retiring with 3,319 hits, ninth all-time.
Sure, there may be some distractions about his Jeter’s contract and the talk of him eventually switching positions, but I’m far more interested to see his new approach at the plate during spring training.
Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.
That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.
Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.