The Yankees Leadoff Hitter Question Has Returned

Joe Girardi hints that a change is coming

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Even when he breaks his bat, Gardner produces.

    Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit almost two weeks ago and since that day he has gone 6-for-30 with one walk.

    In that same period, Brett Gardner has gone 15-for-28 with four walks and seven stolen bases. He now leads the American League in steals and has the 13th best on-base percentage in the league at .372. 

    When you realize that Gardner started the year so poorly that his on-base percentage was .280 at the end of April, you can only ask yourself one question. Why in the world is he still batting ninth?

    For the season, Gardner's OBP is 50 points higher than Jeter's, his batting average is almost 30 points higher and, for whatever it's worth, his slugging percentage is 70 points higher. If you were simply looking at these two guys as players and not by names, there wouldn't be any issue about who was batting at the top of the order.

    Jeter's milestone was clearly a stumbling block when it came to shifting the Yankee lineup to best reflect the current state of affairs, but that's out of the way and the only thing that should matter at this point is doing what's best for the Yankees as a team. It's pretty clear that means moving Gardner to the top of the order so that the team's run producers have someone on base as often as possible.

    Joe Girardi, who has long been resistant to making any change, seems to be cracking on this issue. He was asked about it again after Wednesday's win and gave a telling, if cryptic, answer.

    "I might." Girardi said. "He's going so well, it's something I'll definitely consider. Just wait and see what happens."

    This is the best time to make the change. With Alex Rodriguez out of the order, Girardi can simply drop Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano to make room for Jeter in the two-hole and avoid the hyperinflated uproar that would come with dropping the captain to a more reasonable spot in the lineup. 

    You'll have to let the other shoe drop at some point, but this gradual easing into a new role should make that easier. If not, that's tough because it has become clear what the best move is for the team.

    Back in May when the Jorge Posada batting ninth deal exploded, Girardi said that he had to do what he felt was best for the team. In Gardner, he doesn't just have one of his team's best players, he has one of the better players in all of baseball over the last three months of the season.

    That provides him with even more cover for making a move that should have been made a long time ago. Remember what you said, Joe, and put it into action.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.