Why time is gaining on Derek Jeter

How well will Derek Jeter return from his ankle injury suffered in last season's ALCS? Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

TAMPA, Fla. -- Don't tell Derek Jeter this, but time is gaining on him.

He has heeded Satchel Paige's advice and refrained from looking back, and last summer he all but thumbed his nose at age. He fought off inside fastballs and rolled out 216 hits at age 38, the most since he was 25. He was an All-Star, finished seventh in the MVP voting and passed a whole bunch of Hall of Famers on the all-time leaderboards.

At the end of his season, when he collapsed on the field with a broken ankle, he refused to give in to time. When New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi reached him while Jeter while sprawled on the dirt, the first thing Jeter said -- knowing that he was seriously injured -- was that he didn't want to be carried off the field. So he half-limped, half-walked off, supported by others, before anybody thought about bringing out a cart.

But time is relentless. You may have heard that it posted 50 years on Michael Jordan today, who seemed an immortal in his time. It will get Jeter eventually.

Will that happen this summer? Who knows? Jeter has spoken confidently about his rehab work, about how he's right on schedule, and after his resurgence over the past year and a half, we'd be fools to doubt him.

But he's now reached the stage of his career when it wouldn't be a surprise if the decline came at any time. If his batting average plummeted from the .316 of last season to something much lower, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and Cal Ripken would probably nod their heads and say, Yeah, it happens. In the summer of 1973, when Aaron was 39 years old, he clubbed 40 homers. The next season, he hit 20. Two years after that, he retired.

Jeter will meet with the media today and will grin at the questions that are couched in doubt. He has earned that right, for sure. I thought he was at the beginning of the end at the outset of 2011, when his swing generated a whole bunch of ground balls -- and I'd bet I wasn't alone in that assessment. Jeter -- like Jordan and Kobe Bryant and a whole bunch of other players who have been the best of their time -- feeds on those doubts, which is part of what makes him great.

But time is gaining.

There have been only a very small handful of players who have ever played shortstop regularly at an advanced age. Jeter turns 39 on June 26. John Fisher and Kenton Wong of ESPN Stats & Information dug out this list of players who at 39 or older played at least 50 percent of their games at shortstop and had at least 500 plate appearances since 1901 (table on right).

None of the teams for which Vizquel, Aparicio, Appling, Maranville and Wagner played in those seasons referenced reached the postseason -- and, in fact, only one had a winning record.

2007 Giants (Vizquel): 71-91

2006 Giants (Vizquel): 76-85

1973 Red Sox (Aparicio): 89-73

1949 White Sox (Appling): 63-91

1947 White Sox (Appling): 70-84

1946 White Sox (Appling): 74-80

1931 Braves (Maranville): 64-90

1915 Pirates (Wagner): 73-81

1914 Pirates (Wagner): 69-85

The Yankees made the playoffs last year, when Jeter was 38. If he has a 160-hit season, he would climb to sixth on the all-time hits list:

5. Tris Speaker -- 3,514

6. Cap Anson -- 3,435

7. Honus Wagner -- 3,420

8. Carl Yastrzemski -- 3,419

9. Paul Molitor -- 3,319

10. Eddie Collins -- 3,315

11. Jeter -- 3,304

With a 90-run season -- a mark he's surpassed 14 times in his career -- he would climb into ninth place in runs:

8. Cap Anson -- 1,999

9. Stan Musial -- 1,949

10. Alex Rodriguez -- 1,898

11. Lou Gehrig -- 1,888

12. Tris Speaker -- 1,882

13. Jeter 1,868

Jeter needs 26 doubles for 550 in his career, two more stolen bases to reach 350, and with 449 at-bats, he'll become only the ninth player in history to achieve 11,000 in his career.

News and notes

• Even before the end of the World Series last year, there was some resignation that Pablo Sandoval's weight was going to be an issue this year, because he played well last year when he was heavy and because he was destined to enjoy himself in the aftermath of the Giants' success. And sure enough, the Panda came in very overweight.

Mike Trout says he's not fat. From Mike DiGiovanna's story:

    Yes, the 21-year-old outfielder reported to spring training at 241 pounds, about 10 to 15 pounds more than he weighed in 2012 and five pounds heavier than slugger Albert Pujols, who checked in at 236.

    And, yes, with his thick neck and muscular build, the reigning American League rookie of the year looks more like an NFL fullback than a major league leadoff hitter, causing an uproar among fans on Twitter and message boards, where Trout has been called, among other things, "Blimpy" and the "Hindenburg."

    But most of the added weight is muscle -- Trout's body fat is 9 percent -- and he expects to lose about 10 pounds during camp, which would put him right around the weight he finished last season at, 230 pounds.

    And he has not gained 30 pounds, as some have speculated. Though he was listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds last season, he actually weighed between 225 and 230.

    "I think it's pretty funny," Trout said of the response to his weight gain. "I usually lose five to 10 pounds in spring. I figured if I came in at the weight I want to play at and lost five to 10 pounds, I'd be underweight to start the season."

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is going to golf with the president.

• As far as Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting is concerned, it's playoffs or bust. From Rob Biertempfel's story:

    Pirates owner Bob Nutting has high expectations for this season.

    "My expectation is the same as everyone within our organization, and that is winning our division and competing for our sixth World Series championship," Nutting said in an interview with the Tribune-Review. "That is and has to be our objective every year. We all expect the progress we have seen over the past two years on the major league level to continue.

    "We need to continue to give our fans a team that they can believe in. The strong show of support from our fans has further crystallized for me just how important the Pirates are to so many generations and strengthened my commitment to completing this turnaround."

Chipper Jones was in the Atlanta Braves' camp, with no itch for a comeback, David O'Brien writes. From O'Brien's story:

    Despite inevitable speculation that Jones will consider a comeback once he gets the itch, the switch-hitting slugger indicated that was about the last thing on his mind.

    "I just haven't had the urge," he said. "I'm here, and I thought today would be difficult not to get the itch to put the uniform on. I don't even want to put that uniform on, to be honest with you. I'd much rather just kind of walk around in anonymity and just hang out with the guys, and just kind of wean myself off this clubhouse."