First off, New York Yankees’ SS Derek Jeter announced his retirement earlier this week, and on behalf of Birds Watcher I certainly salute him for a great career. For Orioles fans it’s probably very tough to admit that Jeter is such a worthy adversary, however I would remind the fan base that the New York fans were very respectful and appreciative to Cal Ripken Jr. during his farewell tour in 2001. Now it’s Baltimore’s chance to return the favor and do the same. Derek Jeter is a class act, and through all of the craziness that’s ensued with that franchise over the years he’s managed to stay above the fray. Much in the tradition of Ripken, he’s a true ambassador of the game, and a sure first ballot Hall of Famer.
Having said that, we now see that starting next spring there’s going to be a vacancy at shortstop
in the Bronx. J.J. Hardy‘s contract is up after this season, making him a free agent – do I need to illustrate any further where I’m going with this? Since Hardy was extended in the middle of the 2011 season, the presumption has been that by the end of that contract Manny Machado would be ready to take over the day-to-day duties at short. However similar to Earl Weaver moving Cal Ripken from third to short, Buck Showalter promoted Manny Machado earlier than expected in 2012 and moved him to third base. At the time, nobody had any idea that Machado would be such a great third baseman, and it’s still something that’s blowing people away.
In that sense it would make sense for the Baltimore Orioles to explore extending Hardy again, and for the record I can say for a fact that Dan Duquette has explored this possibility with Hardy’s agent. However now I would submit that necessity is much greater. Granted Hardy isn’t the only shortstop that’s out there, do people think that New York wouldn’t be interested in taking a piece of what last year was the best defense in baseball? Furthermore from their perspective, they would be inflicting harm on a division rival. So it’s almost a no-brainer that they would want Hardy.
This is not to say that the O’s should tell Hardy to name his price. However needless to say the price has probably gone up a bit. I would submit however that watching Hardy go to the Yankees would be a travesty for the Orioles. Would it be on par with Mike Mussina putting on pinstripes? That’s debatable – for what it’s worth Mussina was an Oriole for much longer than Hardy has been. But the point is that the last thing the Orioles and their fans will want to see is a player that’s thought of as one of theirs being introduced as the new shortstop in New York – and as Derek Jeter’s successor at that.
The O’s are almost in a Catch-22 type of situation in a sense because if they don’t sign Hardy and he walks people will be livid. And if they do sign him some of the same folks will say they overpaid. However my view would be that overpaying just a bit would be better than the bile that would be spit up in Birdland if J.J. Hardy goes to New York.