Monday night's victory over the A's followed a script that's become pretty familiar to the Yankees. A starting pitcher couldn't get out of the fifth inning, the bullpen stepped up with an excellent night's work and the offense brought enough thunder to keep pace in the war of attrition the Yankees are fighting with the Rays.
With no end in sight to the current state of affairs, the Yankees are going to need all hands on deck to score more runs than the opposition. That brings us to Derek Jeter, who is well on his way to the worst offensive season on his career. He's hitting just .244 since the start of June, his power has disappeared and it is clear that we're looking at something more than your garden variety slump. So clear, in fact, that the Captain's long slump actually took top billing over the ongoing pitching nightmares in the New York Times on Tuesday morning.
The article, which would have been written ages ago if it were about any other player, treads lightly. Days off are hinted at but waved away with a vague answer from Joe Girardi and a shrug of the shoulders from Jeter. A batting practice session which features Jeter laying down bunts from the left side of the plate is used to portray Jeter's lightness in the face of his offensive downturn and makes up a good portion of the text.
It's a telling vignette. Can you imagine the reaction to a similar story about Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson or any other member of the Yankees goofing around in the midst of a brutal stretch at the plate? They'd be pilloried for not taking the game seriously enough while you're left with the general impression that Jeter's just a bit unlucky and will see balls start falling in any day now.
That feels unlikely. Jeter isn't hitting line drives, his strikeout and walk rates are heading in the wrong directions and there aren't any obvious indicators that things are a good day away from turning around. If there were some mechanical change, you'd expect it would have been made by now. If there was an injury limiting Jeter's ability, you'd hope he'd stop trying to play through it when it is obviously affecting his ability at the plate.
The third option, that the decline phase of his career has simply accelerated, is the scariest because there isn't much you can do but sit back and watch it happen. So root for hidden injury, because the thought of the next few years with a Jeter like this is much, much worse.