Friday, March 6, 2015

Yankees don’t need a captain now, but Derek Jeter won’t be last one

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman brought Derek Jeter to the forefront of Spring Training Thursday when he suggested to Mike Lupica on his ESPN New York radio show that the club should not name another captain – ever.

“As far as I’m concerned – and I’m not the decision-maker on this – that captaincy should be retired with No. 2,” Cashman said, as reported by Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. “I wouldn’t give up another captain’s title to anyone else.”

That’s a strong declaration and it delighted some Yankees fans and annoyed some others. Cashman’s belief might be a bit over the top, but the general sentiment provided by Yankees manager Joe Girardi rings true – the Yanks don’t need a captain now; they have plenty of leaders in the clubhouse scattered through the factions of the team.

“I don’t think you have to have a ‘C’ on your chest to be a leader,” Girardi said. “I think it evolves in the clubhouse no matter what. We give the freedom to our guys in the clubhouse, whoever wants to speak up, I don’t care how many days (in the big leagues) you have, you can speak up.”

Girardi’s statement makes sense, and maybe Cashman really meant the same thing but got carried away on the show. No doubt Jeter’s absence left a void and his presence is missed, but with players like CC Sabathia, Andrew Miller, Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran and Chase Headley does there need to be one select person to lead the club?

Of course not.

Now, down the road, will there be a longtime member of the organization like Jeter, Don MattinglyThurman Munson and Lou Gehrig (to name a few) who demonstrate superior leadership qualities? Indeed. It might be to Cashman’s dismay, but if a player comes along that fits the bill, ownership at that time may well choose to rally the troops around a singular player.

The captaincy is an expression of gratitude – a status symbol if you will – to the player for the obvious team-first mentality he displays on and off the field.  Ownership loved how Jeter represented the team, and bestowed the honor upon him.

The Yankees of Jeter’s tenure certainly did not need him to be named the captain; the players in the clubhouse gravitated to him naturally. Not to mention there were players alongside him who were by and large every bit the leader that Jeter was. The rest of the Core Four – Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte – immediately come to mind.

But Jeter was the face of the Yankees for 20 years. Some fans might suggest Jeter REMAINS the face of the Yankees right now. That will change in time.

Cashman’s comments generated significant buzz and opinions from both sides of the spectrum, but might very well have stoked the fire in the belly of one of the club's current players, one who wants to be the next Yankee captain. Maybe it’s Gardner, McCann or one of the young guys just now making a name for himself like Dellin Betances. It could be one any of the recent draftees, international free agent signings or someone not yet in the organization, but it will happen.

No one knows for certain when it will come about but the ownership, the players and the fans will recognize when the next captain is in the Yankees’ clubhouse. Once a man has proven himself to be worthy, Derek Jeter’s legacy will not be standing in the way of the next Yankees’ captain.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer and sports media strategist. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly Closer Report column. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.