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All Together Now

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Where’s my disco whistle?

Let’s Go Pi-Rates!

The Great 2014 American League Wildcard Sudden Death Elimination Game

tumblr_ncp11u7aCN1qbhl2oo1_1280 The 2014 playoffs start tonight in Kansas City in a great match-up of gun-for-hire Ace pitchers: James Shields–Big Game was Worthy, remember–vs. sour ass Jon Lester. It’s likely the last game of one of those players’ careers with that their team–and even the winner is likely to split from his team via free agency as well. I don’t have a strong favorite in tonight’s game. Either way, I’m going to be rooting for the winner big time over the Angels. I’d like the see the A’s win more only because I like the idea of the ALDS being between divisional rivals. And it’d be pretty funny if the A’s pulled it out of their ass and got to the ALCS. So, let’s sit back and take it all in and be happy there’s still some baseball left–the best part, some might say. Should be fun. Let’s Go Base-ball! Picture by Bags.

Our Great Yankee

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox

The most memorable part of the final weekend of Derek Jeter’s career wasn’t the 2 hits he collected, the tasteful tribute on Sunday by the Red Sox, or the many ovations he received. It was the sense of relief that enveloped him. For most of his career, Jeter has rarely displayed emotion when talking with the press. Occasionally, he’s been sharp, other times, kidding. But usually, he’s deadpan and emotionless by design. But ever since his final game at Yankee Stadium last Thursday, Jeter showed a vulnerability and tenderness, that made him more accessible than ever before. His famous monotone gave way to something softer, both less sure and more intimate.

And for the first time, he looked unsure of himself at times on the field.

“I’m happy, man,” he told reporters after the last game of his career on Sunday in Boston, in which he went 1-2 with an RBI. “Because it’s hard. It’s a lot of stress, too. Like I said the other day, you try to play it cool, but out in the field with the bases loaded, one out, you’ve got Manny Ramirez at the plate, it’s not a comfortable feeling at times. When you’re facing Pedro (Martinez), trying to get a hit, it’s not a comfortable feeling.

“I remember running into Shawon Dunston a few years ago in San Francisco, and I had never met Shawon Dunston. I saw him on the street; me and Jorge were going to lunch and ran into him. I said, ‘How are you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m stress-free. I don’t have to worry about hitting any sliders anymore.’ So I’m looking forward to it. I gave it everything I had physically, and I gave it everything I had mentally during my time. Now it’s time to step back and, like I said, let someone else play.”

Jeter sat out Friday night’s game but played on Saturday, striking out and reaching on an infield single. He took himself out of the game and sat on the bench for the rest of the afternoon, smiling, laughing his teammates. Since the Yankees and Red Sox were both out of playoff contention, the gamed had a surreal, spring training feel. Then, yesterday, he lined out to short in his first at bat then reached on a Baltimore chop the next time up. The final at bat of his career. He watched the rest of the game from the dugout, and again, seemed relieved.

“I said I was going to play, so that’s why I played,” Jeter said later. “There are a lot of fans that told me that they came a long way to see these last games, so I felt it was right to play here. But don’t think I didn’t think about that, I thought about it. People say, maybe New York was your last game because you want to remember that as the way your career ended. But you can’t take that memory away. I don’t care if I played for another three weeks, that memory is going to be there and it’s never going to go anywhere. I played out of respect for this rivalry and the fans here.”

Jeter’s finale seemed interminable at times but in the end–the classic finish at Yankee Stadium, the relaxed, earnest sendoff in Boston–he delivered one last time and was afforded the chance to take it all in. He showed more of himself than ever before and went out on a high note.

Also, we’ve likely seen the end of Ichio! and our man Hiroki Kuroda. They’ve been fun to watch, and Kuroda, especially, has been a favorite. Man, could be all she wrote for David Robertson too and boy, he’s been a good Yankee. Don’t forget our boy Cervelli, either. Lousy as the season was in some ways, it could have been worse and there were pleasures to be had: Port Jervis, Zelous and Zoilo. How about the bullpen, especially Dellin Betances!

This has been the 12th season we’ve covered the Yankees here on the Banter. The coverage is less intense than it was 5, 10 years ago because I’ve got other interests and besides, now there are so many other wonderful Yankee blogs out there. But I still love watching the team and rooting them on and am humbled to have you guys stop by and hang with us.

The season might be over for the Yanks but this ain’t football–we do this everyday. We’ll be here–served fresh daily!–for the playoffs and beyond.

Thanks for coming through. I really appreciate it.

[Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images]

 

And Now, The End is Here

Derek Jeter

The Yanks got pounded yesterday to the tune of 10-4. Today gives their last game of the season.

One last time to say goodbye to our pal Jeter.

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Derek Jeter DH
Brett Gardner CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Stephen Drew SS
Francisco Cervelli C
Chris Young LF
Jose Pirela 2B

Never mind the DVR:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: AP via Chad Jennings]

2 Left for Number 2

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No Jeter, no problem. Yanks beat the Sox, 3-2.

This afternoon, Cappy’s the DH.

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Derek Jeter DH
Brian McCann C
Chase Headley 1B
Chris Young LF
Stephen Drew SS
Jose Pirela 2B
Brendan Ryan 3B
Eury Perez CF

Never mind the pigskin:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Picture by Bags.

Anybody Home?

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Captain Jeter sits tonight.

Dig this lineup:

Jose Pirela 2B
Eury Perez CF
Francisco Cervelli 1B
Chris Young LF
John Ryan Murphy C
Austin Romine DH
Brendan Ryan SS
Zelous Wheeler 3B
Antoan Richardson RF

Never mind tomorrow:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Sophie Barbasch via MPD]

Well, What Did You Expect?

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There are countless statistics that fill out Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame résumé, and I’ve heard them all on an infinite loop over the past few weeks, the final weeks of the Yankee captain’s career. I know that he is the all-time Yankee leader in games played, at bats, hits, runs, doubles, and stolen bases, and I know that only five players in major league history have more base hits than Jeter. I know that he won five World Series rings and has more postseason hits than any player ever to have played the game.

I know all of that, but none of that begins to explain why he has meant so much to me for so long.

I fell in love with the New York Yankees in the summer of 1977 when I was seven years old. I was already crazy about baseball, so during a family vacation to New York City, I convinced my parents to take me to a game at Yankee Stadium. Chris Chambliss hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning for a 5-3 win over the Royals that afternoon, and my life changed forever. The Yankees would win the World Series that season and again the next, but I looked to the team’s past.

I devoured every baseball biography I could find in the local library, especially those of the Yankee legends — Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, and Mantle. I memorized their statistics, marveled at their World Series success, and wished with every ounce of my baseball-loving heart that I could’ve seen them play or that I could’ve lived in an era when the Yankees were always in the World Series.

And then came Derek Jeter.

The Yankees drafted him in 1992, and I monitored his progress through the farm system, digging through the minor league stats in the back of USA Today’s Baseball Weekly. When he finally took over as the Yankees’ starting shortstop in 1996 at the age of 21, he was already my favorite player. When he helped the Yankees to a World Series championship that season, then three more from 1998 to 2000, the seven-year-old boy in my soul rejoiced. I finally had my Joe DiMaggio.

Baseball is about statistics, and many of the game’s legends are so connected with a particular number (Henry Aaron and 755, Ted Williams and .406, Lou Gehrig and 2130, to name a few) that we’ve actually lost a true understanding of how great some of these players were. They’ve been obscured by one glaring measure of one aspect of their game. This will never be so of Derek Jeter. His career is measured in moments, and the back of his baseball card will never explain the player that he was.

When my grandchildren ask me about Derek Jeter, it’s these moments that will come flooding back, not the numbers, and I’ll weave them a story of greatness one play at a time. I’ll rise to my feet and act out the improbable flip from foul territory to get Jeremy Giambi at the plate, salvaging a playoff win over the A’s in 2001, and I’ll certainly tell them about Game 4 of that year’s World Series, when he lived out every kid’s Whiffle ball dream and hit a game-winning home run on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning. I’ll describe his bruised and bloodied face following his dive into the stands in that epic regular season game against the Red Sox in 2004, and I’ll detail the playoff game in 2006 when he capped off a 5 for 5 night with a majestic home run to center field, sending the Old Stadium into delirium. Oh, and I’ll probably mention the day he got his 3,000th hit, a can-you-believe-it home run that was just one of five hits he had that afternoon, the last one driving home the game’s winning run.

Jeter certainly had a flair for the dramatic, as if he were secretly writing the script himself, then jumping in front of the cameras to act out one improbable scene after another. (It should’ve been no surprise, then, when he came up with the game-winning walk-off hit in his last game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. Just Jeter being Jeter.)

But as iconic as those moments are, none of them does justice to the player that Jeter has been for these past two decades. What I’ll remember most — and miss the most — are the moments that we saw every day. His last look over his shoulder at his teammates just before leaping up the dugout steps to lead them onto the field for the first inning; the tip of his cap to the opposing team’s manager before his first at bat; his good-natured banter with the media who covered him day in and day out.

I can’t imagine a great player who had as much fun as he did. He never stopped ribbing Alex Rodríguez about his struggles with pop flies, and he never grew tired of giving teammates the stone face when they returned to the dugout after hitting a home run. The game belonged to him, and he knew it.

As I watched his final game in Yankee Stadium with tears in my eyes, my nine-year-old daughter asked me who my favorite player would be now that Jeter was retiring. I’ve know the answer to that question for quite some time now. For me, no one will ever replace Derek Jeter. When he arrived twenty years ago, he was more than just a baseball player to me. He was hope, but he was even more than that. When the cameras found his black father and white mother in the stands, I saw my own parents. When I read about his childhood declaration to one day play for the New York Yankees, I remembered countless birthday wishes from my own youth. When I looked at Derek Jeter, I saw myself if my own dreams had come true.

The thing about growing up, though, is that you quickly realize that the reality is sometimes far better than anything you could have imagined for yourself as a child. When Jeter rifled a line drive through the right side of the infield to win the last game he’ll ever play at Yankee Stadium, I sat on the couch watching with my two youngest children; I’d watch it again an hour later with my wife and older daughter. Tears were rolling down my face, but I couldn’t have been happier.

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[Photo of Jeter/AP]

S’long Old Chum

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Derek Jeter plays his last game in the Bronx tonight. It’s the first home game he’s ever played when the Yankees were out of playoff contention.

It’s been raining all day but word is they’ll still play. Our man Hiroki’s on the hill.

Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Brian McCann C
Mark Teixeira 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Chris Young LF
Stephen Drew 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Jose Pirela DH

Never mind the Kleenex:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Picture by Bags.

Don’t You Worry

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The Yankees’ feeble October dreams were dashed for good yesterday. El Cappy went hitless for the first time on the homestand.

Today gives rain–all day and into the night. I’m sure they’ll everything they can to at least start it. Give Jeter just one at bat. Imagine if yesterday was it, though? Last at bat a ground out to first? Wouldn’t be the worst way to go, quick and painless and without too much ado.

Picture by Bags.

Couple Few

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The Yanks and O’s play a matinee this afternoon in the Bronx.

Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter DH
Chase Headley 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Francisco Cervelli C
Stephen Drew 2B
Chris Young LF
Antoan Richardson RF
Brendan Ryan SS

Never mind Father Time:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Picture by Bags]

Magic Denied

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Brandon McCarthy had a rare crappy outing and Derek Jeter had but one lousy infield hit. Still, there was the Captain in the bottom of the 9th inning, tying run on first.

One last moment? We wuz cheering. But it wasn’t to be. He struck out and the  Yanks lost, 5-4.

Picture by Bags.

Going, Going…

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Three home games left for DJ.

Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Brian McCann C
Chase Headley 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Chris Young LF
Stephen Drew 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Jose Pirela DH

Never mind the sunset:

Let’s Go Yan-kees!

Picture by Bags.

Once Last Time Around the Ball Park

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We’ve payed special attention to Derek Jeter all season, taken the time to appreciate every last hit, stolen base or nice play in the field. The hits are gratifying, of course, but I think the moments that have provided the deepest satisfaction is when Jeter’s fouled off a two-strike pitch to keep an at bat alive. He did it again yesterday in his third at bat. He was 0-2 at that point with an RBI. Second pitch he rips foul down the left field line. Would have been a 2-RBI double. So what happens? Jeter works the count full, fouls off another pitch and then hits a 2 RBI double to left. Again, to left. I’m not sure if he’s cheating or if he’s slightly changed his approach but a majority of Jeter’s hits on this homestand have been to left.

Michael Pineda was fantastic, the Yanks won 5-0, and Jeter gave us reason to cheer.

The man does rise to the occasion, doesn’t he?

[Picture by Bags]

The Final Four

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…home games of Derek Jeter’s career.

Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Brian McCann C
Chris Young LF
Chase Headley 3B
Francisco Cervelli 1B
Stephen Drew 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Jose Pirela DH

Never mind yesterday:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Picture by Bags]

All in the Family

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There have been many constants in Derek Jeter’s career—hits, runs, rings, endorsements, and beautiful girlfriends—none more endearing than the site of his family watching him from the stands. They are the modern family—his father Charles is African American, his mother Dorothy is Irish and German. Fifty years ago Jeter’s blackness would have been an issue; today, in the age of Obama, race has never been an issue for Jeter—it’s as if he’s beyond race. They are often joined by Jeter’s younger sister, Sharlee, her two-year old son, Jalen, now in tow. Sometimes there’s an aunt or a girlfriend.

They are still here at the end, rooting harder than ever—suffering with every near miss—as if he were a rookie or a kid playing an American Legion game on a cold rainy spring morning. When Jeter makes an out, their suffering seems worse because the inescapable truth is that his time is short. Including yesterday’s 5-2 win over the Blue Jays in which Jeter had 2 hits for the 4th straight game, he has—what, 20-25 at bats left at Yankee Stadium? Each at bat is precious and if Jeter has retained his usual stoic countenance you can see the desperation in his parents’ reactions.

A few weeks ago, when he was in the middle of a slump, Jeter hit a ball to deep left center field against the Rays. It was his third at bat of the game (0-2: groundout, flyout, both weak) and he hadn’t turned on a pitch in what seemed liked forever. He hit it hard enough for the crowd to react but not well enough to go over the outfielders head. The ball was caught at the warning track.

The TV replay showed Charles Jeter in his seat watching the flight of the ball. Next to him, Dorothy sat up straight and said “Oh” when the ball was struck. As the watched it she said, “Please go, please go, please go.” She paused a beat and said it one last time. She jerked back into her seat when the ball was caught, clasped her hands behind her head and leaned back. Charles Jeter smiled and looked down, almost sheepish as if it was greedy to expect more.

On Friday night, Jeter sent another fly ball to the warning track in left field. He’d already gotten 2 hits in the game and there was hope that he had one last flourish left in him during his final home stand. Jeter’s dad stood up when his son hit the ball. Dorothy gasped and put her hands on her cheek, eyes were wide with concern. Her sister was next to her leaning forward, hands pressed together in prayer. Dorothy covered her eyes when the ball was caught. She fell back into her seat. Oh, a mother’s agony.

Charles Jeter smiled and sat down. Their son has given them more thrills than they ever could have ever dreamed of and you can’t blame them for wanting more.

The $64,000 question around the Yankees is will Jeter cry before the season is over? Chances are he won’t, but if he does, I suspect it will be in his parents’ arms.

Tanaka Time

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If the Yanks play and lose does it matter so long as Jeets gets his two hits? Well, they played and lost yesterday but Jeter got 2 hits so you tell me.

Five home games left for the Captain. That’s what–20-25 at bats?

Tanaka’s back:

Let’s Go Yankees!

Picture by Bags.

Saturday in the Bronx

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Derek Jeter with 2 hits the last couple of games. What if he makes a thing of this during his final homestand? That’d be sweet.

Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Brian McCann DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Chris Young LF
Chase Headley 3B
Stephen Drew 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Francisco Cervelli

Never mind the chill:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: dw*c]

Take a Picture, It’ll Last Longer

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Couple more hits for Jeter last night as the Yanks beat the Jays, 5-3. It’d be cool if Jeets and the Yanks go on a little run here.

 

 

Jeter’s Last Friday Night in the Bronx

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Friday Night fun ski.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Derek Jeter SS
Brian McCann C
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran DH
Brett Gardner LF
Stephen Drew 2B
Chase Headley 3B
Ichiro Suzuki RF

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Picture by Bags.

Like Old Times

jeterhomer Maybe it’s the change in weather but I woke up with this morning with a scratchy throat. Then I remembered yelling–bouncing off the couch with a scream–when Derek Jeter turned around a meatball from R.A. Dickey and hit it over the left field fence for a home run. His first home run at Yankee Stadium this year.

Remember that feeling? Shouting when something good happens? I’m out of practice. Maybe that’s why my throat is raw this morning. Or it could just be the fall chill in the air.

Either way, it’s a familiar sensation. So was the look on Jeter’s face when the winning run scored in the bottom of the 9th. He shouted too, and raised his fist.

Even if this is all there is, for a moment it felt like a revival–and that’s enough.

[Photo Credit: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images]

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver