BRADENTON, Fla. - Well, that's one way to steer some attention from Alex Rodriguez.
Speaking on ESPN Radio Thursday, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman restated something he said last September during Derek Jeter's last weekend as a Yankee: When the club hangs up Jeter's No. 2 at a date that has yet to be determined, the title of team captain should be officially hung up as well.
"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 on the radio Thursday.
Speaking at McKechnie Field here after the Yankees' 2-1 victory over the Pirates, Cashman didn't back away from the comments.
"Same thing I said in Fenway Park with you guys in September,'' he said. "It's always ownership's call, but I'm not interested in giving the captaincy out anytime soon.''
Cashman reiterated that isn't his call -- it's ownership's -- but indicated Jeter was a perfect fit for the role, calling him a "once-in-a-lifetime player.''
According to the team, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner was out of town and could not be reached for comment, though all indications are that the Yankees have no plans to fill the role of captain this season.
Said Joe Girardi, "I didn't think we'd name a captain this year.''
Nor had there been much in the way of rumblings within the organization about doing it the following year, or the one after that.
Girardi and Cashman, in their own way, gave voice to a dirty little secret regarding the title of captain in baseball: It's a largely ceremonial title with no real meaning or responsibility.
"I think there's leadership that comes a lot of different ways,'' Cashman said. "Derek wore it so well for so long, but I think we've had a number of guys leading this club over the years. Mariano [Rivera] led the relievers, [Andy] Pettitte at times [led the rotation] or [Roger] Clemens. Leadership comes in different forms and fashion. I don't think we need to do a captaincy, personally. I haven't said anything [Thursday] I haven't said before.''
There generally is no letter designation for a captain in baseball the way there is in hockey, although former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek wore a "C'' on his jersey. Though many believe Jeter wore the proverbial "C'' for his entire career, that isn't the case. George Steinbrenner named Jeter, whose first full season was 1996, the club's 16th captain on June 3, 2003. He was the first Yankee so designated since Don Mattingly retired after the 1995 season.
When Girardi played for the Yankees from 1996-99, they were captain-less -- and managed to win three World Series in that time (and another in 2000).
When asked if it feels different now not to have a captain, Girardi said, "I think it [leadership] 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 majors] you have, you can speak up.''
The longest the Yankees have gone between captains was 35 years. Lou Gehrig held the title from April 21, 1935, until June 2, 1941, and another captain wasn't named until Thurman Munson on April 17, 1976.
"There was a period of time they were giving them away like Tic-Tacs,'' Cashman said of Yankee captaincies in the franchise's history.
Will the Yankees miss Jeter's leadership in the clubhouse?
"It's hard to say because I'm not in this clubhouse with these guys, but I would say that, again, we've had a lot of guys over the years lead this team a number of different ways at different times,'' Cashman said. "But Derek is a once- in-a-lifetime player that we were lucky to have, but he's not here now. He retired. Voids will get filled. The game goes on. New people step up and take on different roles of importance on the club.
"In terms of the designation of a captaincy, it's not something I'd be recommending. But those are ownership calls.''