NEW YORK — A player stood at shortstop at Yankee Stadium, yet the shortstop was missing.
“When you think of postseason, you think of Derek Jeter,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.
And now Jeter was absent for Game 2 of the AL championship series against the Tigers on Sunday, off undergoing tests after his left ankle cracked during another stressful moment in another sapping game. Taking the captain’s place was Jayson Nix.
Jeter’s body gave out Saturday on one of those autumn nights that has defined him, transformed him from a strong-willed student to revered statesman.
Trailing the Tigers one game to none, the Yankees faced the troublesome task of regrouping without their longtime leader.
First Mariano Rivera, whose knee tore during batting practice in May. Then Jeter.
“We had to move on from a lot of different things this year,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve lost the greatest closer of all-time, where people left us for dead. People left us for dead in August and September, said we were panicking. And we laughed at it, and we said no, we’re going to be fine. We won more games in the American League than anyone.”
Moving on minus the slumping Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees did that.
But this is Jeter, as much a part of Yankee Stadium as the pinstripes, monuments and 27 World Series banners. Not since rookie Mickey Mantle’s knee buckled during Game 2 of the 1951 World Series had such an integral part of the team gotten hurt so severely during a postseason game.
“He’s indestructible,” former Yankees manager Joe Torre said in front of Detroit’s dugout.
Maybe at 25. Maybe at 30.
But not at 38, when more gray can be seen around the temples, when the muscles get more sore and the bones become more brittle.
Jeter had scans Sunday, which confirmed the fracture. He was in a splint and on crutches, and will soon see foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C. Jeter will not accompany the Yankees to Detroit, and his recovery is expected to take three months.