[Painting Via The Lost Collector]
Derek Jeter’s near-magical ability to hit his mark in the big moment, to rise to the occasion, has been the subject of some of this century’s worst sports writing, and sparked an understandable backlash in baseball fans who got sick of hearing him slobbered over. But even those who rolled their eyes when the sports media went off on one its over-the-top paeans to Captain Clutch would concede that Derek Jeter deserved a large percentage of that slobber.
So this season — a “nightmare,” as Jeter has repeatedly called it — has been jarring, even though we all know even the most larger-than-life stars are just people, and that people age and their bodies change, and that the end of the road for athletes is rarely neat or easy.
When Jeter came off the disabled list for the second time this season on July 28 (after just a one-game return earlier in the month), he did it yet again: In the very first pitch of his very first at-bat, he homered. “He’s back!” crowed the headlines. But he wasn’t; Jeter strained his calf four days later. Determined to help the Yankees with their tantalizing playoff hopes — only one game out of a wild-card spot, going into Thursday, despite everything — he came back in late August… this time for all of 12 games.
That makes 17 total games played in this lost season. And Jeter is 39. The number of players who have performed at a high level at that age, let alone those who’ve come back from very serious injury to do so, is not very large.
[Picture via It's About The Money]
Do we really need another article about Derek Jeter’s fielding? Even though he’s only played a handful of games this season, even though the topic has been beaten to death? Apparently so, and this one by Ben Lindbergh comes recommended from our pal Hank Waddles. Check it out over at Grantland.
[Photo Via: N.Y. Daily News]
Last week Derek Jeter was on the Jimmy Fallon Show. The Roots and Fallon tried out some new theme music for Jeter’s at bats.
Here’s the winner:
[Photo Credit: N.Y. Daily News]
The Yankees honored Hideki Matsui before the game today and then Derek Jeter made like Derek Jeter and hit the first pitch he saw from Matt Moore over the wall in right field for a home run.
It was the first time a Yankee had homered since the All-Star break, the first time a right-handed Yankee batter homered since Christ was a cowboy.
By the end of the first the Yanks had a 3-0 lead. But then Phil Hughes made like Phil Hughes and he gave it away. Not once, but twice, both on impressive home runs by Wil Myers. The first, a 3-run job, came off a hanging slider that Myers hit it deep into the left field seats. Second one came off a fastball that Myers punched well over the wall in right.
Not to be outdone, Alfonso Soriano hit a 2-run homer–of the cheap-o right field seats variety. He got 4 of the Yankees’ 12 hits (Jeter had 2) including the game-winner in the 9th, a clean single up the middle. He didn’t whack any of them except his homer but hey, 4 hits be 4 hits, right?
So Jeter returns and is a stud, Soriano has a big day, our man Hideki is celebrated. A nifty win on a cool day in the Bronx. Should be mentioned that the Yanks don’t win this game without the stellar work by the bullpen. Preston Claiborne got six straight outs and then Boone Logan, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera each pitched a scoreless frame.
Final Score: Yanks 6, Rays 5.
[Photo Credit: Brad Penner; Kathy Willens]
Guy I know went to the game last week when Derek Jeter returned to action.
Sent me this e-mail:
Went to the game again today, got a $5 ticket, bought it a couple hours before the Jeter announcement.
On the train on the way up, I see a couple. (I was running late so there weren’t many of us). The girl’s wearing a Jeter T-shirt, looking at her cell phone. The guy’s got on a Yankees wife-beater, Yanks shorts, and he’s holding one of those bona fide gray Jeter jerseys that cost like a 100 bucks.
I sidle up and say, “Hey, got the Jeter gear! His first game of the year!”
The guy looks at me then looks away. “I dunno, we don’t follow them.”
The girl keeps on checking her phone.
[Photo Credit: Meredith Winn]
Maddon likes to do what he calls “theme road trips.” There was the pajama road trip, the nerd road trip. For the nerd one, he had the players pose for a photo outside their chartered flight dressed in high-water pants, bow ties, and suspenders. “Some guys won’t do it,” Maddon says. “They think it’s not big-league. They can’t laugh at themselves.” David Price, the Rays’ Cy Young Award-winning left-hander, says, “He asks us for theme ideas. Once, we dressed as cowboys. It’s fun.” Ben Zobrist, a utility player for the Rays, adds, “Joe wants us to do one wearing skinny jeans. Never gonna happen.”
“You couldn’t do theme days with Alex Rodriguez,” I say.
Maddon shakes his head. “I dunno. I hope I could convince A-Rod to wear onesies. He’s not a bad guy.” He looks over at me. “I hear a lot of Yankees like him better than Jeter.”
Maddon says the most important thing he has to do as manager is listen to the players. “I coached for a manager once who told his guys, ‘There’s 25 of you and one of me, so you have to adjust to me.’ I hope I’m never like that guy. The days of dictatorial managers are over.”
When I tell him the hotdogging and emotional outbursts of B.J. Upton (the former Rays center fielder, now with the Atlanta Braves) offend my sense of the way the game should be played, Maddon says, “Aw, he’s a good kid. He was brought to the big leagues too soon. He had to make his mistakes in front of a lot of people and the media. He’s learning mental stuff he should have learned in the minors.”
[Photo Credit: Associated Press]
Blogging will be light today what with the holiday and all.
Meanwhile, Chad Jennings has the recap of Derek Jeter’s first press conference of the spring. As well as some notes on Mark Teixeira and the WBC.
[Photo Credit: Charlie Riedel/AP via It's a Long Season]
Over at SI.com, Joe Sheehan offers this appreciation of Derek Jeter. And while you are there check out Cliff’s 10 worst contracts in baseball history.
Joshua Prager, author of The Echoing Green, has a feature on Derek Jeter and Pete Rose’s all-time hit record today in the New York Times:
“The toughest thing about baseball is you don’t know why you’re doing — or not doing — this or that,” the player, Ichiro Suzuki, said.
Suzuki, a Yankees outfielder, had at that point amassed a combined 3,830 hits in Japan and the United States, a remarkable if unofficial total. But his annual hit total was set to decline for the third straight season. Was age to blame?
“It’s not that your physical body gains weight, but that your thinking gains weight,” said Suzuki, 38. He tightened a belt about a waist that had been 31 inches all his career and explained that expectation was a burden that only grew. The outside world always let you know when a milestone was in reach.
I also like this appreciation:
“I don’t think very many people understand how unique he is, as a hitter,” Bill James, the father of advanced baseball statistics, wrote in an e-mail. “At-bat after at-bat, he is able to hit the ball to right field NOT by swinging late, but by just clipping the inside of the baseball, hitting the ball off-center so that it flares off his bat to right field. Other people do it once in a while by accident, but I’ve never seen anybody other than Jeter do it constantly.”
I don’t think Jeter will catch Rose. Don’t think he’s that single(s)-minded. But it’s fun to consider, isn’t it?
[Photo Credit: N.Y. Daily News]
When Mark Teixeira hit a long home run to left field in the first inning I figured the Yanks would make it a short night for Bruce Chen. It was a two-run shot and the longest homer I recall seeing Teixeira hitting from the right side since he’s been in New York.
Chen settled in, the Royals scored a couple of runs against C.C. in the bottom of the first, and it remained 2-2 until two outs in the top of the seventh when Eduardo Nunez–yes, that Eduardo Nunez–broke the tie with an RBI triple. Chris Stewart–yup, that Chris Stewart–added an RBI and then Derek Jeter–indeed, that Derek Jeter (he of the .404 batting average)–ripped a two-run homer to end Chen’s night the way it was intended.
Final Score: Yanks 6, Royals 2.
[Photo Credit: Minda Haas]
This week we’re featuring the work of the painter Dave Choate.
Check out his site to enjoy more of his work. It’s good stuff.
It was only the bottom of the fourth inning and the Yankees were feeling good about themselves. Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira helped the team out to a 5-1 lead. Hisanori Takahashi, the long man in the Angels bullpen–a junkballing nibbler–walked Russell Martin to start the inning and then Brett Gardner fouled off a bunch of pitches before hitting a single to center field. Derek Jeter took the first three pitches, all balls. Then he snuck a look over at someone in the Yankee dugout.
I figured the look, the hint of a smile, meant he was going to swing, 3-0 if he got a meatball. Sure enough Takahashi laid one right down the middle. Jeter took a huge swing and almost came out of his shoes. It was a swing to make Reggie proud. The ball was fouled back. Jeter fouled off the next pitch too. Then he smacked one over the fence in right field for a three-run homer.
Ivan Nova gave two back in the fifth and another run in the sixth. Could have been more trouble in the sixth but Rodriguez made a nice play to end the inning.
But because this is Sunday Night Baseball things are not meant to be brief or easy. So Rafael Soriano walked the lead-off hitter in the seventh and that man came around to score on a base hit by Albert Pujols. Soriano recorded two outs but left the game with the bases loaded, the Yanks lead cut to 8-5. Fortunately, our nerves were settled when David Robertson got Mark Trumbo to fly out to right field on a 2-2 pitch.
(My mind was calculating: does this set up Mariano vs. Albert?)
A walk and stolen base by Robbie Cano and then a two-out single by Nick Swisher put the Yanks back up by four. Better still, Jason Isringhausen came in and gave up an absolute bomb to Raul Ibanez.
Fuggin thing reached the upper deck in right field.
All Tori Hunter could say was: “Wow.”
Mariano vs. Albert would have to wait. Tonight, it was Logan vs. Albert and Logan struck him out, go figure that.
Final Score: Yanks 11, Angels 5.
A nice way to start the week.
One of the least reported aspects of Derek Jeter’s game is his sense of playfulness on the field.
Last night, Eduardo Nunez almost dropped a pop up in the ninth inning. The wind took the ball and Nunez for a ride but he eventually snagged the ball and made the out. Sure enough, there was Jeter with a big smile on his face. If Nunez had dropped the ball he wouldn’t have laughed–at least not until they were out of camera range. He is always tactful.
Still, Jeter never gets cheated on having fun, does he?
This is supposed to be fun, dammit.
Here’s DJ, via Chad Jennings:
“If I didn’t’ think I was still capable of doing everything, I wouldn’t be playing,” Jeter said. “If I didn’t think I was capable of playing the game at a high level, I would go home. If I wasn’t enjoying myself, enjoying the competition, then it’d be time to go home. Right now, I think I’m capable, and I’m enjoying myself. I can’t comment on what would force me to retire, go home, stop playing. But I have a lot of confidence. I’ve always had a lot of confidence. If that starts to waver, then I wouldn’t do it.”
For more Jetes, here’s Andrew Marchand at ESPN, New York.
And hey, congrats to River Ave Blues who just celebrated their five-year anniversary.
[The Photo I swiped from Lo-Hud. Credit goes to AP]