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Why Derek Jeter's poor start matters

The Yankees' Derek Jeter hits a double against

The Yankees' Derek Jeter hits a double against the Texas Rangers in the third inning. (May 7, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

Derek Jeter produced his best game of the season yesterday, slugging two homers to lead the Yankees over Texas. In the past two days, Jeter more than doubled his season total of extra-base hits, going from two to five.

For weeks now, Yankees folks have tried to push the notion - however half-heartedly - that Jeter wasn't the only Yankees hitter struggling. His outburst of the past two days gives him a .276 batting average, as Erik Boland notes - third-best among Yankees regulars.

Today, I'll play devil's advocates to the devil's advocates, if you will. Or, as New York Magazine might phrase it, I'll offer backlash to the backlash.

Jeter has not received undue attention for his miserable start, IMO. For these reasons:

1) His OPS is now at .680, seventh-best among Yankees regulars (ahead of Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada). No, Jeter doesn't get paid to slug, but as those who watch the Yankees regularly know, he didn't hit the ball over an outfielder's head until his double Saturday night.

2) He's coming off a 2010 that ranks as the worst season of his career. So we weren't really discussing the small sample size of a month-plus. It was more like eight-plus months, counting last year's postseason.

Swisher, on the other hand, is coming off the best year of his career.

3) He turns 37 next month, and he's just starting a contract that guarantees him four years. Poasda, who turns 40 in August, will be a free agent following this season. If what we're seeing now is really him, then the Yankees can thank him and wish him the best shortly.

4) He's hitting leadoff, and moving him down is going to be a more awkward conversation than the one between Lane and Beth when they meet (in flashback) in "Better off Dead." It's added tension for everyone around the team.

So that's why Jeter's bad beginning brings more agita to it than, say, that of, say, Brett Gardner, or even Alex Rodriguez's recent slowdown.

Maybe this past weekend kicks off his renaissance. Maybe he reverts to something resembling the 2009 Jeter. It wouldn't shock me. We are talking about a Hall of Fame player with great pride and a great work ethic.

But we certainly need to see more. And we need to appreciate that Jeter's struggles carry with them a unique brand of agita. This isn't just another guy with a rough April.

--Don't have time for links this morning, unfortunately. We'll be back in full force tomorrow (at least, that's the plan) with morning stuff, a contest and a report from Yankee Stadium.

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