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