Derek Jeter Closer To Return -- And Yes, The Yankees Miss Him

Stop the presses! Clear some bandwidth on the Inter-webs! Derek Jeter can run again! Jeter can swing a bat again! Jeter can throw again!

Ahh, life is getting closer to returning to shorstop for the New York Yankees, and to his pursuit of becoming the first player in franchise history to amass 3,000 hits, after spending time on the disabled list with a calf strain. Jeter won't come off the disabled list on Wednesday when he is eligible, but it does not seem like it will be much longer than that.

The Yankees are 8-3 with Jeter out of the lineup and 24-year-old Eduardo Nunez filling in, and that led Baseball Nation's Jeff Sullivan to wonder if the Yankees even miss their Captain.

Sullivan examines the question in a few different ways, including by looking at the comparable batting lines between the two, which are shown below:

Nunez -- .259/.301/.367
Jeter -- .267/.336/.357

Among his conclusions is this line:

... when you strip away everything that doesn't matter or hardly matters, Eduardo Nunez is about as good a player as Derek Jeter.

Pardon me? I beg to differ with that statement, and with anyone who thinks the Yankees don't miss Jeter -- or wouldn't miss him if he were gone the rest of the season.

The funny part about this is that it has nothing to do with Jeter's offense, his pursuit of 3,000 hits or with him being the Captain. It has to do with his oft-maligned defense. For all of his potential, his speed and the rockets that occasionally come off his bat, Nunez is right now an awful fielder.

If you saw Sunday's game against Colorado you saw a routine double-play ground ball go right through Nunez's legs, his eighth error in 24 games (184 innings at shortstop). Nothing is ever routine when it is hit to Nunez, or when he picks it up and heaves it across the diamond toward first base.

Jeter, on the other hand, has 10 errors in the last season and a half, covering 209 games and 1,808.2 innings. When Jeter gets to the ball he makes the play -- it's as simple as that. The plays that are supposed to be routine, and have to get made by a big-league shortstop, get made.

The reality is, in late September in the late stages of a close game in the pennant race the Yankees would feel very comfortable if the ball were hit to Jeter. If the ball were hit to Nunez, it would be time to hold your breath and hope nothing bad happens. He will be a terrific player and this stretch with Jeter sidelined is great experience for him -- he just isn't a dependable shortstop yet.

So, let's not try to make the argument that the Yankees don't -- or won't -- miss Jeter eventually.

I just find it pretty amazing that, with all the criticism his defense has taken over the years and with people -- myself included -- wondering how much longer the Yankees can leave Jeter at shortstop -- that it is actually his glove work that the Yankees miss most.

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