Jeter dilemma grows as Yanks look forward

New York Yankees' Derek Jeter watches during the second inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on June 14, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
New York Yankees' Derek Jeter watches during the second inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on June 14, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York.
New York Yankees' Derek Jeter watches during the second inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on June 14, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

It should have been simple enough: when your starting shortstop pulls up lame with a calf strain, an injury which has the potential to nag players for weeks, you place your player on the disabled list.

No-brainer, right?

Add in the fact that your already-thin roster faces the added stress of a trip to the National League and can't absorb a banged-up player just sucking up a spot and it's even more of a no-brainer.

Well, when that shortstop is Derek Jeter, nearing the end of his chase for 3,000 hits, and the team is the New York Yankees, that problem is actually a multi-brainer - namely the brains of GM Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi, the team doctor and, of course, Jeter himself.

The fact that the Yankee hierarchy gathered before Tuesday's game to allow Jeter to plead his case for avoiding a DL stint, despite the fact that it was plainly in the interest of the already injury-plagued team, underscores the deference with which El Capitan is treated.

More noteworthy, though, is the fact that Cashman and Girardi felt the need to buffer themselves from Jeter's expected unhappiness by placing the doctor between them ("See, Jete, it's not just us saying this") before making the final call.

And that does not bode well for the much bigger decisions that await the Yankees and their famed captain in the rapidly approaching future. Coming off a well below average 2010 season and a contentious offseason contract negotiation, Jeter continues to underperform, raising the question of where his future lies with the team.

Jeter, who is six hits shy of becoming the first Yankee to reach the 3,000-hit mark and 11 days shy of his 37th birthday, is a notoriously proud athlete - a trait that served him well when his prime and the Yankees' success coincided nearly perfectly. But that pride can easily morph into stubbornness and create a huge headache for the team.

As CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler wrote Wednesday, "the time seems to be coming when it will be obvious to everyone (Yankees manager Joe Girardi included) that Jeter needs to move, either down in the order, off shortstop or both. What happens when it's obvious -- to everyone but Derek Jeter?"

The whispers suggesting Jeter's days are numbered have been growing louder. The New York Post's Joel Sherman writes that the Yank might actually be (gasp!) happy - or at least "not un-glad" - about Jeter's injury, arguing young backup Eduardo Nunez might actually provide the team a lift.

And the Daily News' Tim Smith wrote that (double gasp!) the Yankees should make a play for the cross-town Mets' free-agent-to-be Jose Reyes - a thought that just a couple of years ago would have made Yankees fans vomit or laugh hysterically or both.

Whether Jeter's demise is as imminent as the media coverage would suggest is up for debate. But whether it happens this year or next or the next after that, it's coming. And all indications are it won't be pretty. There's no DL for a shattered ego.