Those Derek Jeter Obituaries Were Premature

Jeter's calf injury was a blessing in disguise.

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Aug 17, 2011  |  Updated 8:32 AM EDT
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Another couple of weeks like this and they'll start the 4,000 watch.

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The biggest moment in Tuesday's 9-7 win over the Royals that lifted the Yankees back into first place all by themselves was Robinson Cano's fourth inning at-bat against Danny Duffy.

There were two on and none out with the game tied at five and Duffy on the ropes after a wild first few innings when Cano strode to the plate for a 12-pitch at-bat which seemed to take slightly less time than your average Yankee-Red Sox game.

Cano fouled off pitch after pitch until he finally got one in his wheelhouse and deposited it into the fountains beyond the outfield fence.

The game certainly changed on that hit and it made a winner of an undeserving Ivan Nova (seven earned runs in 5.1 innings), but it would have never happened without the latest bit of Derek Jeter's renaissance. Jeter plated the first run of the inning with a double he pulled down the left-field line and scored the tying run on Mark Texeira's single just before Cano went boom.

Jeter had one other hit on Tuesday night and his average since coming off the disabled list in early July now stands at .326. His August average is up to a ridiculous .382 to go along with a 906 OPS, shocking numbers for a player who looked absolutely finished when he hurt his calf back in June.

The shock doesn't end there. Jeter also has 13 extra-base hits in the last two months, more than he had in more at-bats before that calf injury.

As his torrid hitting continues, it becomes clearer and clearer that the calf injury did more than halt Jeter's run at 3,000 hits. It saved his season.

Jeter credits his turnaround at the plate to mechanical adjustments made while on the disabled list while Joe Girardi believes the pressure of his milestone chase was getting in Jeter's way. We're more inclined to believe Jeter, especially after seeing the return of his power and ability to pull the ball, but either explanation fits the notion that a little time off served his body, mind and game well.

That's a good sign going forward, so long as the Yankees can get Jeter to buy into a system that rests him more often in the years to come. Jeter doesn't need a long break, he's hit better in games coming after just one day off and wouldn't be the first aging player to see gains from a less grueling work schedule.

All of that is about the future, something that is a pleasant topic to talk about in regard to Jeter again after a long spell when it looked as bleak as that of the music industry. That's what happens when you move from liability to asset thanks to a calf injury and a desire to make fools of everyone dancing on your grave.

If A-Rod shows the same return to life when he comes off the disabled list this week, the Yankees might start making furloughs mandatory for their veterans.

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.

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