Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Night Jeter Broke Gehrig's Record

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Two nights later, a rainy September Friday, the Yankees staged a pregame ceremony to mark the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that changed the world. The crowd of 46,771 honored the fallen, waited through an eighty-seven-minute rain delay, and then listened as Jeter walked to the plate with the elegant sound of Bob Sheppard booming over the public address system in his voice-of-God way.

At ninety-nine, Sheppard was no longer strong enough to work the Yankee games he had been working since 1951, but Jeter was not about to take a cut in the Bronx without that voice introducing him to the crowd. He asked Sheppard to record his voice so it could be played for the balance of the captain’s career, and the P.A. announcer called that request one of the greatest compliments he had ever received.

So Sheppard shepherded him to the plate one more time. Now batting for the Yankees, Numbah 2, Derek Jeter, Numbah 2. The fans were standing and the camera lights were flashing until the mighty Casey struck out.

The captain went down on a curve ball from Baltimore’s Chris Tillman before he ended the newspaper countdowns in the third inning, with puddles forming on the warning track and fans huddled under their wet ponchos. Jeter cut loose his classic inside-out swing on Tillman’s 2-0 fastball and laced it past first base, past a diving Luke Scott, and into a deep corner of Yankee lore. The hit was nearly a carbon copy of the one that had tied Gehrig’s record two nights earlier, nearly a carbon copy of a thousand other singles (or so it seemed) in Jeter’s career.

The shortstop rounded first base, extended his arms wide, and clapped his hands together. It was 9:23 p.m., and Derek Sanderson Jeter stood as the most prolific Yankee hitter of them all.

Jeter approached the first-base coach, Mick Kelleher, and rested an arm on top of his head. The Yanks came pouring out of the dugout, led by Alex Rodriguez, and one by one they hugged their captain as the crowd roared its approval. Jeter raised his helmet high, waved it to all corners of the Stadium, and pointed and pumped his left fist toward his family’s suite above the on-deck circle, where his parents, sister, and his serious girlfriend, actress Minka Kelly, had lifted their arms to the sky.

Wearing a military cap with the interlocking “NY,” Kelly grabbed the pendant around her neck and looked up adoringly at the woman some close to Jeter expected to be her mother-in-law. Nick Swisher, up next, dug into the batter’s box, but the fans kept chanting Jeter’s name, forcing him to wave that helmet one more time.

Once again, Charles and Dot had ordered their son to enjoy this moment. “It’s still hard to believe,” Derek would say. “Being a Yankee fan, this is something I never imagined. Your dream is always to play for the team, and once you get there, you just want to stay and try to be consistent. This wasn’t a part of it. This whole experience has been overwhelming.”

Jeter was surprised by the sight of his teammates coming over the dugout railing, and he was touched by the number of fans who had waited out the rain. “They’re just as much a part of this as I am,” the captain said.

George Steinbrenner would call his shortstop during a second rain delay, and the failing Boss would release a statement through his publicist that began like this: “For those who say today’s game can’t produce legendary players, I have two words: Derek Jeter.”

From The Captain

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Day Derek Jeter was Discovered

In honor of Dick Groch, who is in attendance tonight to watch his blue-chip recruit chase history

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Dick Groch first saw Derek Jeter at a baseball camp in Mount Morris, Michigan, where the shortstop fi elded ground balls, showed off his arm, and ran the sixty-yard dash. Groch was standing next to an assistant coach at Michigan State who was taken by the teen’s talents and who wanted to get Jeter on his mailing list.

“You’d better save your postage,” Groch told the coach. “That kid’s not going to school.”

The Yankees’ scout had been watching Jeter for only half an hour when he ruined that Michigan State assistant’s day. Groch had been a junior baseball coach for eighteen years, and he had seen dozens of prospects come and go as a scout. He knew a star when he saw one.

“When you look in the window of a jewelry store,” Groch said, “it doesn’t take long to see that big ring. If you’ve been in it as long as I had, you know the difference between going to the Kentucky Derby and the county fair.”

From The Captain

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Day in Cleveland Jeter Proved Clyde King Wrong

George Steinbrenner's trusted aide, Clyde King, wanted rookie shortstop Derek Jeter benched before the '96 season opener in Cleveland

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Jeter was batting ninth in Torre’s order, and he represented the Yankees’ sixth different Opening Day shortstop in six years. Jeter was facing a forty-year-old Cleveland pitcher, Dennis Martinez, who had been signed by the Baltimore Orioles before Derek was born.

The rookie felt the butterflies in his stomach, butterflies with condor wings. He struck out looking in his fi rst at-bat when Martinez used a sidearm delivery that caught Jeter by surprise. Up again in the fifth inning, Jeter got ahead 2-0 in the count and waited to see if the ageless Cleveland starter would make a mistake. Sure enough, Martinez threw a high fastball, and Jeter turned on it as few thought he could.

He hit it 395 feet and into the left-field stands, giving the Yankees a 2–0 lead. “Wow!” Torre said. “I didn’t see that all spring.” Joe Girardi had the same reaction, as did most of the Yanks.

Clyde King, watching on TV, suddenly had an appraisal that sounded nothing
like the one he had issued in Torre’s Tampa office.

“When he hit that home run,” King said, “I went, ‘Wow, this could be
some kind of player.’ ”

From The Captain

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jeter and Tiger and Scandal

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

The captain’s rocky 2010 actually started near the end of 2009, when his friend Tiger Woods was exposed as a serial adulterer in a scandal that would cost Woods his marriage and good name.Reports said that Jeter had introduced Tiger to one of his mistresses at the center of the storm, Rachel Uchitel, and that Jeter had also dated her at one time.

With so many superstar sports figures engulfed in scandal, Tiger and Jeter had represented the last men standing. That all changed when Woods crashed his Cadillac SUV into a fire hydrant and tree outside his home in the hours after the first Thanksgiving dinner of the rest of his life, unleashing a bimbo eruption to end all bimbo eruptions.

For Jeter, seeing his name connected to the Woods story in any way was an unfortunate development much too close for comfort.

“Man, they’re trying to bring me into this thing with Tiger, and I’ve
got nothing to do with it,” Jeter told a friend. “You see why I didn’t get

From The Captain

How Jeter Got An Extra 4-5 Million Off Randy Levine

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

They met in the skyscraping Trump World Tower home Jeter had put on the market for $20 million, this while Cashman met with his other future Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, to work on the closer’s free agent deal in Rivera’s suburban Westchester home. The Rivera talks were as quiet as Rivera himself, even as the Red Sox were making an attempt to extricate him from the Bronx.

Jeter was the one who had to scratch and claw for his money while millions of fascinated fans looked on. Inside his Trump home, Jeter told Levine he wanted more money added to the incentives clauses in the proposal. At the time the offer included bonuses for winning awards such as league MVP, World Series or League Championship Series MVP, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove.

Jeter spent a couple of hours arguing that those awards are very difficult to win, and that the contract numbers didn’t reflect the degree of difficulty. He made persuasive arguments. Levine absorbed the captain’s points, called Cashman and Steinbrenner while Jeter called Close, and the two sides ended up a yard or two away from pay dirt.

As it turned out, Jeter made himself about $4 to $5 million in extra money in that meeting with Levine. The Yankees agreed to raise the ceiling on the incentives plan to $9 million, and that night the parties set up a meeting for late the following afternoon to close the deal at the Regency in the city.

From The Captain

Monday, June 13, 2011

Steinbrenner's Alternate Choice For Captain

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Derek Jeter was named captain of the New York Yankees on June 3, 2003. The announcement came out of left field, in Cincinnati, where Joe Torre acknowledged he was not even consulted on George Steinbrenner’s appointment.

Not even six months after he publicly questioned whether Jeter was fit to be captain, and whether Jeter partied too much for his own good, Steinbrenner had cut against his own grain for the sake of old times. He was firing and rehiring Billy Martin all over again.

“It’s something I’ll always treasure,” Jeter said of the captaincy, “and I’ll do it to the best of my ability.”

Strangely enough, entering spring training, Steinbrenner had floated Roger Clemens as his possible choice for captain to a couple of people inside the organization. Clemens over Jeter would have been a terrible judgment call, as the Rocket had established himself with the Red Sox and was not an everyday player. But the Boss adored Clemens’s John Wayne swagger. The thought did not gain any traction, and the homegrown Yankee was left as the logical choice.

from The Captain

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why Cleveland didn't draft Jeter at No. 2

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Cleveland had the number-two pick, and its young scouting director, Mickey White, saw Derek Jeter play on an injured ankle on a soaked field. White liked what he saw, but not as much as the Indians scouts who had watched Jeter run on two healthy feet.

Bill Livesey was there with White on that same ungodly afternoon, but the Yankee scouting director was experienced enough to catch Jeter again three days later. White was in his second year on the job, and he confessed that his time management skills left something to be desired. He did not return to Kalamazoo.

White had heard Houston would take Jeter at number 1, anyway, and later came to believe — despite Dan O’Brien’s claims to the contrary — that the Astros picked Nevin because they thought he would be easier to sign than Jeter.

Either way, Cleveland had drafted Manny Ramirez the year before and Jim Thome in 1989 and was more interested in pitching. The Indians wanted the best arm in the country, and that arm belonged to Paul Shuey, a right-hander out of the University of North Carolina. Shuey had his mechanical flaws, but he had a Juan Marichal leg kick that made his 95-mile-per-hour heater that much harder to see.

When you talk about the draft, White said, “it’s like you’re in a Fidelity Mutual discussion and you’re trying to figure out what an investment is going to reap.” The Indians thought a power closer out of the Atlantic Coast Conference was a better investment than a high school shortstop.

from The Captain

John Wooden's One Problem with Derek Jeter

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

The scoreboard announced,“attention fans: welcome to november baseball,” and Jeter and Kim engaged in the longest duel of the night — nine pitches, four foul balls, and a full count.

As he fought to stay alive in the at-bat, Jeter represented the battered state of the Yankee offense. Paul O’Neill and Scott Brosius were planning to retire, Martinez was approaching free agency and the realization the Yanks weren’t bringing him back, and the benched Chuck Knoblauch knew he was done in the Bronx, too. This was a dynasty running on fumes, trying to sputter its way home one last time. So the shortstop who had been hearing his mother implore him to “do something” all week finally did something no major leaguer had ever done: he hit a home run in November.

At 12:04 a.m., Kim’s 3-2 pitch had landed on the other side of the 314-foot sign in right, not far from Jeffrey Maier–ville. The Giants’ Barry Bonds had belted a record 73 homers in the regular season, and none of them packed a wallop like this Jeter shot that cleared the wall by a matter of inches.

A fan held up a sign that read “Mr. November,” and as Jeter approached the plate and the manic pile of teammates surrounding it, he decided to take the kind of lunar leap Bobby Thomson took to punctuate his Shot Heard ’Round the World half a century earlier; Jeter had better hang time.

“It was the only showboating thing I ever did,” Thomson had said. Jeter could have made the same claim. One of his biggest fans, John Wooden, who likened Jeter to his championship point guards at UCLA, watched from his California home and said he was surprised that baseball’s most selfless superstar engaged in this celebration of self.

“Joe DiMaggio would’ve just rounded the bases and touched the plate,” Wooden said.

From The Captain

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jeter's Playoff Prank in the '07 Cleveland Series

Following the famous midges playoff game in Cleveland in '07, Jeter's playoff prank at Doug Mientkiewicz's expense.

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

The next day, a workout day in the Bronx before Game 3, the day before the Yankees faced the possibility of a third straight first-round exit, Mientkiewicz found humor in his team’s desperation, referencing the captain’s personal brand of cologne.

“The joke around the guys is that we all had Derek Jeter’s ‘Driven’ on,” Mientkiewicz said. “That’s why all the bugs were attacking us.”

Jeter woke up to the quotes the following day, game day, and decided Mientkiewicz would regret that remark. Rome was burning, Steinbrenner was blustering, and Jeter was busy proving that no situation was too alarming to make him forget he was a man playing a boy’s game.

In the clubhouse before Game 3, Jeter made a point of completely ignoring Mientkiewicz, who returned to his locker after batting practice to find a letter resting on his chair, a letter supposedly from Macy’s. The letter read something like this:

Dear Mr. Mientkiewicz. Thanks to your comments to the media, we’ve had to pull 12.2 million bottles of Derek Jeter’s Driven off the shelves. You’ve cost my company and Mr. Jeter millions of dollars. I hope this turns out well for you.

Mientkiewicz nearly passed out. He thought that he was done as a Yankee, and that he would be sued for everything he had.

“I was crushed, and my stomach was in knots,” Mientkiewicz said. “Derek wouldn’t even look at me. And then right before he takes the field for the game, he runs by me and says, ‘That letter was bullshit. It was a joke.’ I’m bent over, hands on my knees, going, ‘You’re an asshole. I know this playoff thing is easy for you and it’s another game for you, but it’s not for me.’ And Derek’s over there giggling his ass off.”

Laughing before an elimination game. This was the essence of the postseason Jeter, never sweating the stakes.

from The Captain

Derek & Alex & Thurman & Reggie

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Rodriguez? The magnitude of his talent, contract, stardom, and personality made him a natural threat. So Jeter was not beyond taking an occasional poke at him, as he did the time two female reporters who happened to be wearing pink shoes stopped at his locker.

Jeter mentioned the matching shoes, and when one of the reporters playfully asked him where his pink shoes were, Jeter said, “I don’t have any.” He then rolled his eyes toward A-Rod’s locker and joked, “He might.”

It was clear Jeter and Rodriguez needed a Kissinger-like mediator the way Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson did. Back in the day, the simmering Jackson-Munson feud was settled — or tempered, anyway — when backup catcher Fran Healy and clubhouse attendant Ray Negron persuaded the two stars to meet inside a hotel restaurant in Detroit.

On arrival in the Bronx, Jackson had his own Esquire moment — he was quoted (erroneously, he swears) in Sport magazine as saying, “I’m the straw that stirs the drink. Maybe I should say me and Munson, but he can only stir it bad.”

Munson was just as furious with Jackson’s remarks as Jeter would be with A-Rod’s nearly a quarter century later, but the two eventually got past it and won a couple of championships together before Munson died in a plane crash.

“Thurman is Jeter and Reggie is Alex, and I’ve told Jeter that,” said Negron, who became an adviser to George Steinbrenner. “Jeter is more to himself like Thurman was, and Alex is more outgoing like Reggie.”

Jackson was among those who tried to improve relations between Jeter and A-Rod. He spoke to Rodriguez and Jeter separately, telling A-Rod about his own isolation in Munson’s and Billy Martin’s clubhouse, and advising Jeter on his responsibilities as a team leader.

“I spoke to him as a captain, not as Derek Jeter,” Jackson said. “I told him what I thought was needed, and I think he took pieces of what I said that he agreed with and didn’t take the pieces he disagreed with.

“I certainly hope Derek and Alex can win together like I did with Thurman. Alex has a good heart, but sometimes he doesn’t express himself well, and he tries to express himself too much. If he would say less and let his bat do the talking, no one can talk like him with a bat. But when he tries to say the right things, it just doesn’t work.”

from The Captain

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Night Nomar was No-More

Jeter's Diving Catch in the Stands in 2004, and the Night Nomar was No-more

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

If Jeter was baseball’s most respected figure even before Trot Nixon lofted that ball over Alex Rodriguez’s head, Garciaparra was not far behind. But something changed forever the moment Jeter made the catch and turned his landing into an X Games stunt gone wrong.

A television camera caught Garciaparra alone on the bench, with the rest of his teammates on the dugout rail, while Jeter was risking life and limb. For a franchise and a fan base waiting some eighty-six years for a championship, the juxtaposition was impossible to ignore.

“It was just straight superstition that Nomar always sat in a certain place in the dugout,” Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo said. “And our fans were like, ‘Look, Derek Jeter’s diving into the stands and busting his face up, and Nomar’s sitting on the goddamn bench and not even cheering for the team.’ It was just one of Nomar’s superstitions, and he got ripped for it.”

Nomar’s decision to sit out the thirteen-inning game was not the primary reason he was traded. It was merely on the list of reasons that made a deal sensible.

“It was weird,” Jeter said of Boston’s reaction to Nomar’s no-show on July 1, “because I didn’t think Nomar deserved to be treated the way he was. I thought that was bad.”

It was now official: Jeter had outlasted the most conspicuous challenges to his shortstop throne. Rey Ordonez, who was supposed to battle him for New York supremacy, had long been traded by the Mets and had already played his final big league game. Alex Rodriguez had surrendered the position to join a winner in the Bronx. And Nomar Garciaparra had been shipped out of the rivalry and out of the American League, out of sight and out of mind.

From The Captain

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Steve Caruso, Jeter's first agent, gets his drafted client signed

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

The Yankees’ Brian Sabean immediately began negotiations with Steve Caruso, a labor relations consultant turned beginner agent who landed Jeter as a client after landing A. J. Hinch, the Oklahoma high school star.

Caruso would come to see Jeter as the second-best teenage prospect he had ever seen, right behind a Miami phenom named Alex Rodriguez. On a strong recommendation from Hinch’s father, Charles Jeter had invited Caruso to Kalamazoo and, over a few slices of pizza, agreed to let him represent his son.

“Then [Scott] Boras showed up at the airport and he was bugging Charles a couple of weeks later,” Caruso said. “Charles, to his credit, wouldn’t let Boras come over because he’d already made a deal with me.”

Caruso would go to bat for Jeter, a client he saw as “a skinny seventeen-year-old who barely said three words,” a client who lived in a home modest enough to greet a visitor with a broken handle on the screen door. That modest existence was about to change in a big six-figure way.

Sabean faxed Caruso an opening offer of $550,000. The agent assured the Yankee executive these negotiations would not be nearly as acrimonious as the Brien Taylor talks but also told him that bid would not get it done.

Caruso wanted to beat the $725,000 bonus Toronto had given the California high school star Shawn Green and his agent, Moorad, the year before. As the faxes and phone calls went back and forth, Jeter phoned the Michigan head coach, Bill Freehan, to seek his counsel. Freehan was in a delicate spot — he wanted Jeter on scholarship in the worst way, but as a former All-Star catcher with the Tigers he understood the lure of the big leagues.

“The kid wanted to go to Michigan,” said Freehan’s assistant, Ace Adams. “No one knows this, but Jeter did not want to sign [with the Yankees]. He wanted to go to Michigan with his girlfriend, and he wanted to play there.”

But the Yankees kept inflating their offer. Derek called the Michigan ead coach and said, “Mr. Freehan, what should I do?” You’ve got to sign,” Freehan finally told him. “You’re crazy if you don't."

Adams was flabbergasted over his boss’s show of integrity and good aith. “I don’t think many college coaches would’ve ever said that,” dams said, “but Bill was such a classy guy.”

Jeter listened to Freehan. On June 28, 1992, two days after his ighteenth birthday, Jeter signed an $800,000 deal with the Yankees hat included a $700,000 bonus (Caruso’s 5 percent cut amounted to $35,000) and enough to cover the full ride to Michigan that Jeter was giving up.

His deal at number 6 doubled Chad Mottola's at number 5 and beat those signed by the top three picks.

from The Captain

How Jeter Almost Ended Up Wearing No. 19

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

The assignment of a single-digit jersey was no small matter in Yankeedom. Billy Martin was number 1, Babe Ruth number 3, Lou Gehrig number 4, Joe DiMaggio number 5, Mickey Mantle number 7, Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey number 8, and Roger Maris number 9. All those numbers had been retired.

“When you project a single digit at Yankee Stadium,” Buck Showalter said, “you’d better be right.”

Showalter and Gene Michael agreed Jeter was worth the shot. Nick Priore, the longtime equipment manager, was not so sure. When Priore assigned number 51 to the promising center fielder, Bernie Williams, Showalter asked him, “Don’t you think Bernie will be a better player than that?”

“If it’s f---in’ good enough for Willie McGee,” Priore shot back, “it will be f---in’ good enough for Bernie Williams.”

But Priore gave in on Jeter. So did George Steinbrenner, who told Showalter, “You’d better be right about this,” words that did not shake the manager’s faith.

“I knew by the time Derek proved he wasn’t worthy,” Showalter said, “I’d be long gone anyway.”

In ’95, Jeter batted .250 without a home run or stolen base in fifteen big league games, and he had homered only twice in 123 games in Columbus the same year. Maybe Priore did not think Jeter was single-digit material. With Showalter gone and Michael in a reduced role, maybe Priore thought he should act on his gut instinct.

Either way, the equipment manager decided to change Jeter’s number to 19. His assistant, Rob Cucuzza, wrote down the number on a card and posted it above Jeter’s locker.

“Robin Yount wore 19,” Priore said, “and he started his career as a shortstop.” If 19 was good enough for Robin Yount, the equipment manager reasoned, it would be good enough for Derek Jeter.

Only Derek saw it differently. “He came to me and said, ‘You’ve got to get me number 2 back, you’ve got to get me number 2 back,’ ” Cucuzza said. “I think Derek was a little scared to go to Nick. I was caught by surprise that he was so locked in on number 2.”

Was Jeter suddenly locked in because he realized the historical significance of number 2? “Oh, I know Derek had that in mind,” Cucuzza said.

Jeter was given number 2...

from The Captain

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Derek Jeter, AAU Basketball Player

On Derek Jeter, AAU basketball prospect with the Kalamazoo Blues

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Jeter was so serious about baseball and his favorite team, said Monter Glasper, one of his roommates, “he even wore Yankee boxers to bed.” The Blues joked with him about that. “But you could tell he was never joking when he said he’d end up playing for them,” Glasper said.

Once on the court, Jeter was no longer a daydreaming shortstop, but a basketball player as serious as Glasper and Kenyon Murray, who would earn scholarships to Iowa. If Jeter was not a strong ball handler, at least not by top-shelf AAU standards, he was among the Blues’ best shooters and defenders and perhaps their most fearless presence in the final minutes of a frantic game.

Jeter’s favorite shot was the three-pointer from the corner. David Hart, a point guard who would earn a scholarship to Michigan State, would penetrate and kick it to the gunner many Blues likened to the Pistons’ trigger-happy reserve, Vinnie Johnson.

“It didn’t matter if Derek had missed twenty shots in a row,” Hart said. “If the game was on the line and he got the ball again, he was putting it up.”

Jeter’s parents, Charles and Dot, took in every game from the stands, “and it was definitely unique,” Hart said, “because I came from a two-parent home, too, but a lot of our guys didn’t.” Charles and Dot filmed the Blues’ games, and with no operating budget to speak of, the Blues’ coaches would borrow their fi lm and show it to the team on the locker room or hotel walls, complete with Dot’s running commentary on her son’s play.

Dot knew the game. “Sometimes she was hollering, ‘Go, baby, go,’" Williams said, “but she was very on point. She could be very critical of Derek’s performance.”

So could the Blues’ coaches. During one film session, Williams drove Jeter to tears by repeatedly pointing out open big men in the paint while he was firing away from the perimeter. The assistant coach had to apologize to Derek a few times for shredding him in front of the team.

But all in all, Jeter was a basketball coach’s best friend. The Blues played a powerhouse Oklahoma team in one prominent national event, “and on paper,” said Hall, their head coach, “we didn’t belong in the same gym with those guys. And Derek came off the bench and shot Oklahoma right out of the tournament.”

Everyone agreed Jeter had major college ability, even if basketball rated as a distant second love. Derek had what his father called a quiet arrogance on the court. “He always wanted the last shot,” Charles Jeter said. “He usually didn’t make them, but he was never afraid to fail.”

from The Captain

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Girardi's Forecast that Jeter Would Switch Positions

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Jeter said he did not pay attention to sabermetric rankings, and he was incredulous when asked why.

“A computer?” he said. “I don’t know anything about it. I haven’t learned about it, and I really don’t care to learn about it. . . . I think it’s literally impossible to do that, because everybody doesn’t play in the same position and doesn’t have the same pitcher. The ball’s not hit to the same spot, and you don’t have the same runner. . . . One day he’s got a leg problem, the next day he doesn’t.

“You just can’t do it. There are too many factors that go into it.” Only it was not just the computer. Even the most ardent Jeter fans were seeing a slower and less supple version of the shortstop’s former self in the field.

One was his former teammate and coach Joe Girardi, National League Manager of the Year in Florida who was fired by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria in a clash of stubborn personalities. Girardi had become an analyst for the YES Network, and he thought as much of Jeter’s tangible and intangible skills as any teammate the captain ever had.

Girardi saw Jeter as a baseball player who could beat you eight days a week. But as he watched his old teammate cheat to his left to compensate for lost range up the middle, watched him get to fewer ground balls than he used to, Girardi told a couple of friends something he took no delight in saying.

“I feel sorry for the next Yankee manager,” he said, “because he’s the one who’s going to have to tell Jeter he can’t play shortstop anymore.”

From The Captain

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Ron Washington, Oakland third-base coach, on sending Jeremy Giambi home and straight into DJ's famous flip play.

Washington had the same feeling as he moved down the line, escorting Giambi home. Back when he had scouted Jeter in the minors, Washington was the one who decided Derek was “not no goddamn shortstop” and wrote him up as a future third baseman. If Oakland’s third-base coach had long accepted the fact that he was wrong, he was about to discover just how wrong he was.

By the time Jeter caught the ball on a bounce on the first-base line some twenty feet from the plate, running toward the Yankees’ dugout and away from Posada, Washington knew he had made the right choice. Jeter’s intangible brilliance was not going to overtake the tangibles of the play, not this time.

Momentum and time and gravity were all working against the Yankee shortstop. But somehow he called an audible on the fl y. Jeter converted himself into a wishbone quarterback and delivered a pitch to the tailback that would have made J. C. Watts proud. Jeter did not just make a backhanded flip to Posada; he had the presence of mind to fl ip the ball against the grain of his body, so the catcher would receive it on the third-base side of the plate. “That son of a bitch threw the ball back this way,” Washington would say, “because he knew it would tail back in. He threw it so all Posada had to do was catch and tag.”

Washington on his reprimand of Giambi: “I walked into the dugout and everybody’s patting Giambi on the back for the effort,” Washington said. “And I point-blank told Giambi right there, ‘You’ve got to fu--in’ hit the dirt.’ That’s exactly what I saidd. He didn’t say anything.”

from The Captain

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Beane and Jeter and Benjamin Button

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

“Jeter is Benjamin Button,” said Oakland A’s general manager Billy
Beane, a sabermetric scholar whose charts had been most unkind to
the shortstop in previous years. But late in the 2009 season, Beane
looked down at those same charts and saw Jeter ranked as the third best defensive shortstop in all of baseball.

“My God, it’s amazing,” Beane said. “My whole front-office career
I’ve been waiting for Jeter to slow down, and this year he’s as good as ever. His grace and elegance in everything he does, and his ability to be the same exact guy today that he was the day he stepped into the big leagues, is just incredible.

“It’s hard to have a negative thought about the guy even as you are
competing against him. . . . If you’re in Fenway and [David] Ortiz hits
a home run, as a GM you’re going, ‘F---in’ Ortiz,’ even though Ortiz
isn’t a guy you dislike. You would never say that word in front of Jeter’s name. You can’t deface it. You have the term ‘Damn Yankees,’ but there’s never a ‘Damn Jeter.’ ”

Beane was married to his metrics, if only because they helped him
build a consistent contender on an absurdly small budget and helped
him become the breakout star of Moneyball.

Only no matter how much he worshiped at the metric altar, Beane
said, “One guy I’ll never criticize if the metrics don’t match up with
the player is Derek Jeter. It’s like someone saying they don’t like the
mole on Cindy Crawford’s face. . . . As someone who believes in metrics, I’m here to give you the good news: I still think Jeter is an incredible player.”

From The Captain

Billy Beane Couldn't Bear to Watch Jeter in Game 5

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Terrence Long, the same batter whose Game 3 double led to Jeter’s forever flip to Posada, lifted a high foul ball behind third base, and the shortstop chased it the same way he chased Shane Spencer’s errant throw. Jeter looked at the ball, the stands, the ball, the stands, and the ball again. At the time, he had already driven home what would be the winning run on a sacrifice fly, and at age twenty-seven he had already collected his eighty-sixth and eighty-seventh career postseason hits to break the record held by Pete Rose.

Beane was not in his seat to watch Jeter break Rose’s record or give
the Yanks a 4–3 lead; he had left the Stadium after his A’s went up
by a 2–0 count in the second inning, too tormented to watch. Beane
jumped on a train to Manhattan and tried to forget about the game. He closed his eyes and fantasized about popping back into the Stadium in the ninth inning to watch the A’s win.

“I didn’t want to go through the hell of watching them beat us again,”
Beane said. “I figured if I disappeared at that point in the universe,
something crazy would happen and we’d win.”

While Beane was riding the subway, Jeter was going over the rail.
He went head over spikes and crash-landed flat on his back against the cement floor of the photographers’ pit. The crowd of 56,642 gasped when Jeter disappeared from view, fearing serious injury and an extended at-bat for Long.

There would be neither: Jeter suffered only a cut on his elbow. Of
greater consequence, he had caught the ball. Scott Brosius grabbed it
out of his glove and fired to second, but Chavez had already tagged up and beaten the throw. It didn’t matter; the A’s were pronounced dead on the spot.

From The Captain

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Flip Play in Oakland

The Jeter flip play in Oakland, Game 3, 2001

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Up in his executive suite, Beane was locked in the same state of
shock that gripped the hushed crowd of 55,861. His A’s had lost a Game 5 to the Yanks the previous fall, and now they had opened the Game 3 door to the same crushing fate.

“This was in the heart of the Yankee aura,” Beane said. “It was a time when you were a club like Oakland,and you were playing the Yankees, at no point did you think they’re not going to come back and beat you.”

J. P. Ricciardi, Oakland’s director of player personnel and a Boston
Celtics fan out of Worcester, Massachusetts, likened the play to Larry
Bird’s indelible steal of Isiah Thomas’s inbounds pass in the 1987 Eastern Conference finals.

Ricciardi’s boss, Billy Beane? He was not angry over Jeremy Giambi’s failure to slide, and he was not exasperated over Danley’s failure to see the play as a tie-goes-to-the-runner proposition. Beane was simply awed by Jeter’s grace.

“It’s almost as if Derek designed it,” he said, “like, ‘Hey, I’ve got to
go into the dugout anyway.’ It had to be perfect and fit right into his
schedule. There were two outs, he flipped to Posada on his way to the dugout, and just sort of disappeared.

“Derek Jeter even has an elegant way of breaking your heart.”

from The Captain

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Charles Jeter's Career at Fisk University

Derek's father was moved from shortstop to second base at Fisk University in Nashville to accommodate a teammate with a stronger throwing arm, Victor Lesley.

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

Charles Jeter was hardly thrilled with the demotion yet never mentioned it to his coach. Though he did not have a male figure in his household while growing up -- Jeter never met his father -- he knew how to conduct himself as a perfect gentleman, a credit to the mother and housecleaner named Lugenia who raised him.

"Cordial, nice, carried himself the right way," Fisk head coach James Smith said. "I never heard Jeter use a curse word. Ever."

On a strong team comprised of African-Americans from the South and a small circle of Caribbean recruits from St. Thomas, Jeter was an excellent fielder and base runner, a decent hitter who liked to punch the ball to right field, and a selfless teammate who knew how to advance a runner from one base to the next.

Jeter was as reliable a sacrifice bunter as Smith had ever seen. "You could ask him to bunt with three strikes on him if the rules had allowed it," Smith said.

Charles Jeter fit the serious-minded mold. Only once did Smith have to reprimand him, and that was after Jeter was thrown out trying to steal second. Smith had never given him the steal sign, and when a teammate committed the same mortal baserunning sin the next inning, Smith went ballistic.

Smith shifted the incumbent (second baseman) to right field to clear room for Jeter, whose quickness and hand speed made him a natural at turning the double play. Jeter had a glove as flat as a pancake, "and we teased him about it all the time," said Ulric Smalls, one of his teammates from St. Thomas. "When Jeter put it on the ground it had no shape, but he was flawless in the field."

From "The Captain"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Derek and Alex and the art of faking it

Brian Cashman confronted Jeter about his broken relationship with A-Rod in 2006, asking the captain to fix it for the sake of the team.

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

One friend of Jeter's who agreed with Cashman's take tried to persuade the shortstop to make more of an effort to bring A-Rod in from the cold. "Now you're sounding like everyone else," Jeter told the friend. "Don't you think I've tried? I try, and sometimes I've just got to walk away and come back and try again, but you know I've tried. And every time I try, he'll do something that pushes me away."

Don Mattingly, hitting coach and former captain, told Yankee officials he tried giving Jeter the same advice. Mattingly could not stand teammate Wade Boggs, once his chief rival in Boston.

"But I faked it with Boggs," Mattingly said he had told Jeter. "And you have to fake it with Alex."

It was a tough sell. One Yankee official said he was afraid to approach Jeter on the subject of his relationship with A-Rod "because it would've been the last conversation I ever had with Derek. I would've been dead to him. It would've been like approaching Joe DiMaggio to talk to him about Marilyn Monroe."

from "The Captain"

How Cashman tried to stop Torre from Overworking Arms

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

One constant issue was Torre's use, or overuse, of certain members of the bullpen, the most recent and obvious case represented by the dangling right arm belonging to Scott Proctor, who had pitched 102 1/3 innings over 83 games in 2006.

Over the winter, Brian Cashman consulted with members of Torre's coaching staff and arranged for an intervention. Cashman called in bench coach Don Mattingly, third-base coach Larry Bowa, first-base coach Tony Pena, and bullpen coach Joe Kerrigan.

Most, if not all, shared the general manager's opinion that Torre needed to adjust the way he used relief pitchers and do a better job of protecting valuable arms. Cashman did not bother inviting Ron Guidry, the pitching coach, because the GM saw Guidry as a blind follower of Torre's who would never cut against the manager's grain.

Once the meeting started and Torre figured out its agenda, he got so defensive that the coaches turned stone-cold silent, hanging Cashman out to dry. Suddenly a group intervention became a faceoff between the GM and Torre. It did not go well, and after the meeting ended, Kerrigan, Bowa, and Mattingly apologized to Cashman for, in effect, chickening out.

From "The Captain"

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chad Curtis on the cost of his Seattle tiff with Jeter

Chad Curtis paid a price for confronting Derek Jeter after the shortstop famously traded phantom jabs with the Mariners' A-Rod during a 1999 brawl between the two teams in Seattle.

From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"

The night he confronted Jeter was the night he guaranteed he would not be wearing pinstripes for long. Seven weeks after he helped the Yanks repeat as champions or the first time since 1978, Curtis was traded to Texas for Brandon Knight and Sam Marsonek.

One Yankee executive said Jeter was indeed among the chief reasons Curtis was dealt, and that the shortstop -- who did discuss personnel matters with George Steinbrenner during occasional offseason visits -- made it clear he wanted the outfielder gone.

Either way, Curtis believed Jeter's feelings for him represented at least a contributing factor in his exit. "Every decision has multiple reasons, and did that have one tiny part?" Curtis said. "I don't think that was the reason, but I think it adds in.

"Derek's the guy that, rightly so, this organization needs to empower to lead. And if I was some affront to that leadership, even if it's just a little bit, then I needed to go."

from "The Captain"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tino and Jorge on Jeter Out on the Town

From my book, The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter

Tino Martinez: "In Boston, first three or four years of Derek's career, no matter where we went guys would get loud and shout, 'Nomar's better than you. Nomar's the man.' They were always trying to get Derek fired up and say, 'Go f--- yourself,' but he wouldn't do it. Derek would just say, 'Hey, you're right. It's cool. Nomar's a great player.' And it would defuse the situation."

Jorge Posada on Jeter in clubs: "He was always looking around. He knows if that lady's standing right there and she looks, he knows that lady's coming about ten, fifteen minutes later to either say hello or do something. He sees the whole room. He's unbelievable, how he can scan people and really read them. We'll be out and there will be a situation that puts us in a spot, and he'll know to take off right away. He analyzes things before they happen, which is what he does on the field."

Tino on Derek's dates: "If he's dating a girl, it's dinner and a movie, and no drinking until four in the morning. Maybe when you win the World Series, but other than that, no. I mean, he's a normal guy, and the girls he dates usually are pretty normal. And when they're not, or when they want the big party scene, then they're gone."

from The Captain