Derek Jeter has been the face of the Yankees since New York’s late ’90s-early 2000s dominance. David Ortiz has been the Red Sox’ main man since Boston’s 2004 World Series title. Each went into the offseason with a rather unpredictable future, and now they’re experiencing two very different seasons.
Jeter broke his ankle in Game 1 of the ALCS, while Ortiz’s 2012 campaign was derailed in August by an Achilles injury. Adding to Ortiz’s situation was free agency, which the Red Sox ultimately settled by inking the slugger to a two-year pact. It was a weird time to be a fan of either the Yankees or the Red Sox, as two of the most prominent players in the rivalry’s fierce history faced the possibility of missing Opening Day.
There’s no direct link between the two injuries, but the plot twist we’ve seen over the past couple of months has been an interesting side note in each team’s year to date. Each player took a different approach in his rehab, and it’s led to incredibly different results.
Now, Ortiz is back and looks to be in midseason form for the red-hot Red Sox, while Jeter will be out until after the All-Star break.
Jeter had his sights set on Opening Day, while Ortiz seemed to have more of a “when I’m ready, I’m ready” approach to the whole situation. It’s hard to fault either player for how he handled the offseason and spring training, but we’re seeing now that Ortiz’s stance — while perhaps less admirable in the eyes of many — was more beneficial.
Jeter — or anyone in the Yankees organization — will never admit that his recent setback was the result of pushing too hard during spring training, but given the competitive fire that burns inside the shortstop, it’s realistic to think he may have been his own worst enemy during the whole process. Jeter came out and said publicly during his rehab that being ready for Opening Day was his goal, and he might have went a little over the top just to make good on his word, thus leading to the current situation.
While that’s purely speculation, Jeter’s teammate, Mariano Rivera, recently discussed his own personal rehab experience. Since the two Yankees greats are seemingly cut from the same competitive cloth, Rivera’s comments might reveal something about how hard Jeter was going in order to start the season on time.
“Sometimes we push a little bit harder than what we need to push,” Rivera said last week. “But that’s our nature. We want to help the team as much as we can. But this time he has to be selfish.”
No one is going to label Jeter selfish, regardless of the approach he takes when battling back from an injury. He needs to be more forward-looking, though, as his strong push to be ready for Opening Day — while done with the best intentions — has elongated the Yankees’ current pickle.
Ortiz, who was brought along slowly, eventually beat the timetable that many set for his return. Rather than being out until May, Ortiz missed just 15 games to start the season, and he’s now back to mashing baseballs all over Fenway Park.
It’s understandable that players want to be ready for Opening Day. It marks a fresh start, which is something every injured player longs for. But getting overly aggressive in an attempt to reach a specific date typically ends up complicating matters in the long run.