Alex Rodriguez

A Red Sox fan’s farewell to Derek Jeter

By Jim Monaghan

If you’ve listened to me on the radio for any amount of time, you know I’m not a fan of the New York Yankees. Red Sox executive Larry Luchino dubbed them the “Evil Empire” some years back; I’ve been known to say things far less complimentary.

Photo courtesy Reuters

Photo courtesy Reuters

Derek Jeter‘s Hall-of-Fame career will come to an end Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park in what will otherwise be a completely meaningless baseball game for both the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Both teams are out of the playoffs, and the lineups for the two previous games of this series have looked like something you’d see in the late innings of a mid-March spring training game when the starters have long since left the field and showered.

Red Sox principal owner John Henry put Friday night’s lineup into perspective with an all-too-appropriate seven-word tweet.

So with all that said, allow me to get the snark out of the way first.

I agree with much of what Keith Olbermann said this past week about Derek Jeter. In case you somehow managed to miss what Olbermann said, go here and here.

Derek Jeter isn’t going to go down in baseball history as the “Greatest Yankee of All Time.” There are at least five ahead of him you may have actually heard of – Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra. I’d even go so far as to offer up Don Mattingly as a better-than-Jeter candidate. You may have some others as well to throw into the mix.

Derek Jeter isn’t the “Greatest Yankee Shortstop of All Time.” That Rizzuto character was pretty good, you know.

And for awhile, you could make the argument that Derek Jeter wasn’t even the best shortstop on his own team once that Alex Rodriguez fellow – remember him? – joined the Yankees.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

Team leader? It was blatantly obvious that Jeter didn’t make Rodriguez’s transition to New York any easier. Truth be told, given my own feelings about Rodriguez I probably would have done the same thing, but as I said right from the start, this is the snarky part.

Team player? One could argue that the Captain could have and should have gone to manager Joe Girardi any number of times this year and asked to be moved out of the two-hole in the lineup as it became painfully evident that he wasn’t producing well enough to be in the first third of the order.

Photo courtesy Associated Press

Photo courtesy Associated Press

And don’t even get me started on the whole “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour sponsored by Steiner Sports.” My first thought on Thursday night when Jeter’s teammates dumped a bucket of Gatorade (with the “2” in place of the usual logo) on him was, “Wonder how much Steiner will be charging for THAT jersey?”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of capitalism, and I’ve never once begrudged an athlete his mega-contract. But these last two weeks of the season have been more like a QVC Network production than a final well-deserved victory lap for a player of Jeter’s stature. Anyone want to buy a rake?

The “flip” play against Oakland in the playoffs? I don’t care how many times Joe Torre makes the claim, but I refuse to believe that the Yankees actually practiced that play. One could make the argument that the Captain was actually out of position. And if Jeremy Giambi had slid…. But I digress.

Photo courtesy Associated Press

Photo courtesy Associated Press

That playoff home run against the Orioles in 1996? It would clearly have been overturned under the current replay rules.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

The patented jump throw? I’m old enough to remember a guy named Bobby Wine making similar plays for the Phillies back in the mid-60’s. But again, I digress.

Mr. November? As a Red Sox fan, I’ll always have Jetes’ performance in Games 4 through 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series to look back on.

** SNARK OVER **

Derek Jeter will play the last game of his Hall-of-Fame career Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. It will cap off what has been a three-day love fest from Red Sox fans. And while details haven’t been announced, you just know that Red Sox Executive Vice President Dr. Charles Steinberg and his staff will be pulling out all the stops to honor Jeter. And deservedly so.

Photo courtesy MLB.com

Photo courtesy MLB.com

Plain and simple, Derek Jeter is everything I want a baseball player to be. And yes, he played hard…and he stayed cool.

He respected his teammates, his opponents, and more importantly, the Game of Baseball. In the PED era of players routinely putting up video game numbers, Jeter’s name was never on the list of the usual suspects, even as some of his own teammates treated the clubhouse like a chemistry lab.

He battled his way through each and every at bat of his career. He may never have put up enough league-leading numbers to satisfy the likes of the Keith Olbermanns of the world, but he certainly had his share of big base hits, and I lost count of how many of those came at the expense of the Red Sox over the years. Derek Jeter could beat you with his bat, his glove, and his legs. And as someone who probably watched or listened to 90% of Jeter’s career, I can say with confidence that he never stopped trying to beat the opponent no matter what the score was.

For years, I led the “if he played anywhere other than New York he’d be considered just another very good player” crowd when it came to assessing Captain Intangibles. But as the final weeks of Jeter’s career have unfolded, I’ve started to appreciate Jeter in a whole new way. I’ve also discovered a sense of melancholy that I wasn’t expecting.

Some of that came from knowing that Jeter is going through that phase of his life as described by Jackie Robinson when he said, “Athletes die twice.” Derek Jeter’s athletic mortality is playing out in front of our eyes. In many ways, I think it’s reminding me of my own mortality.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

The image of Jeter heading out to shortstop once last time following Thursday night’s game and crouching down with his hands covering his face, clearly filled with emotion, is one that will stay for me forever. Jeter said more in that moment about his love for the game he played so eloquently for nearly 20 years than he could have said in a month of post-game press conferences.

My 13-year old son wants to play baseball for a living. It’s all he talks about. Like any of the tens of thousands of kids who call themselves Red Sox fans, he wants to call Fenway Park “home” some day, and he absolutely despises the Yankees.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

But when Jeter dropped that single into right field in the final home game of his career to drive in the winning run against the Orioles, my son found himself filled with emotions he wasn’t expecting for the only Yankees shortstop he’s ever seen in his brief lifetime. “This is really the end of an era,” he said in one of those moments that may be the first time he’s felt a part of his own childhood dying.

Derek-Jeter-nephew-tips-capSo yes, Keith Olbermann and Derek Jeter’s naysayers may indeed have a lot of valid points. And I warn you now that we’re going to deal with the whole over-the-top Jeter Love Fest again in five years when Cooperstown surely comes calling.

But this Red Sox fan is also hopefully objective enough to acknowledge one of the all-time greats.

#RE2PECT, indeed.

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Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

Jeter’s Last All-Star Hurrah

Jeter14ASNow batting (for the last time) for the American League, number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.

by Drew Sarver

It seems like it was only yesterday that Derek Jeter was in his rookie season with the New York Yankees. I was younger then, than he is now. It’s odd enough to not see Mariano Rivera in a Yankees uniform this season, but to not see Jeter in the home pinstripes or the road greys next season is incomprehensible. Life moves fast and so has Jeter’s final season as a Major League baseball player. Tuesday night, he’ll be introduced as the starting shortstop for the American League in the 85th MLB All-Star game at Target Field in Minnesota.

The fans voted in Jeter as the starter this season, as a tribute rather than because of his play this season. They recognize the special player they have witnessed on a nightly basis for nearly 20 seasons. (The anti-Yankees/anti-Jeter sentiment among some fans, specifically those criticizing his place on the team, is more about those fans and their lack of perception of the baseball world outside of their own team.)

Jeter made his first All-Star appearance in 1998, his third full season in the Major Leagues. In an interview with former teammate, and current ESPN analyst Aaron Boone, Jeter admitted to being “scared to death” in his first mid-Summer classic. It’s hard to believe, coming from a player with the confidence that Jeter has, but newbies are newbies. Things have changed since then. (See the entire ESPN interview by clicking here.)

Jeter enjoys chatting with players he doesn’t get to talk with too often. Even those (Dee Gordon) that are the son of a former teammate (Tom “Flash” Gordon). The Yankees’ captain would certainly like to leave a lasting impression for the fans, in attendance and those at home, during Tuesday night’s game. Of course, he would never admit to that.

In that first All-Star game 16 years ago, Jeter subbed for the starter, Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez, and struck out in his lone at-bat. A year later, Nomar Garciaparra got the start and Jeter’s one at-bat again resulted in a strikeout. (A-Rod was left off the team by Yankees manager Joe Torre after a knee injury limited him to a .316 batting average, 1.045 OPS, 18 HR and 48 RBI.)

Jeter was voted in as the starter for the first time in the 2000 season. It was one of the top all-around seasons for the then 26-year old. He was the game’s MVP in the American League’s 6-3 victory, going 3-3 with two RBI,  and a run scored. He then went on to capture the World Series MVP when the Yankees topped the Mets in the Subway Series that Fall.

The next two seasons Jeter again found himself on the bench as Cal Ripken Jr. had his swan song at shortstop (Ripken was actually voted as the starter at third base, but Torre and A-Rod, the winner at shortstop, orchestrated a positional switch at the start of the game.) and a year later A-Rod once again topped the vote leaderboard among the league’s shortstops.

Jeter1998ASJeter’s 1998 All-Star debut in Colorado.

Number 2 in pinstripes missed the ’03 game after he missed a month and a half of the regular season with a shoulder injury. But with A-Rod’s move to the Yankees and third base, and Garciaparra’s declined play, beginnnig in 2004 Jeter was voted in as the starting shortstop for the next six seasons. He lost out to the Cleveland Indians’ Asdrubel Cabrera in 2010, but was back as a starter in 2012. Last season was just the second game he missed since 1998 when a broken ankle and other injuries limited him to just 17 regular season games.

Tonight, he will hit leadoff for the AL and receive a number of rousing ovations from the Minnesota crowd, his teammates and his opponents. At some point, AL manager John Farrell will send Erick Aybar or Alexei Ramirez out to replace Jeter in the middle of an inning so that the 20-year veteran can receive one more thunderous July ovation.

And then one more “the last one” will be in the books.

 

Derek Jeter’s All-Star statistics

H AB AVG OPS R RBI HR 2B
11 25 .440 1.061 5 3 1 1

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

MLB Preview: Yankees Aim To Give The Captain One More Ring

Could the Yankees get Jeter a ring for his other hand?

by Drew Sarver

Key Acquisitions: Masahiro Tanaka, Carlos Beltran, Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Brian McCann

Key Losses: Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Alex Rodriguez

The 2013 New York Yankees season was rife with poor performance, injuries, moves made in desperation, steroid allegations, and a roster of maybes, has-beens, and never-weres.  Owner Hal Steinbrenner wanted general manager Brian Cashman to get payroll under control so that the team would fit under the 2014 luxury tax threshold of $189MM.  With injuries and payroll cuts, sub-par players like catcher Chris Stewart and journeyman infielders like Reid Brignac and Luis Cruz littered the 25-man roster last season.

Manager Joe Girardi did his best to push all the right buttons, but many days he simply ran out of buttons to push. The team managed to rack up 85 wins and finished in third place the AL East, but their record fell well short of a playoff appearance. It was just the second time since 1995 that the Yankees missed the post-season.

With Derek Jeter’s announcement that this will be his final season, the moves made by the Yankees this off-season could give him one final chance to add to his championship ring collection (He has five).  More importantly, Jeter needs to remain healthy after ankle and quad injuries limited him to 17 games in 2013.

The Yankees upgraded at catcher when they signed veteran Brian McCann to a five-year deal worth $85MM. The former Atlanta Brave hit 20 or more home runs during the last six seasons and should enjoy swinging at the short porch in right field this year.

Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, a member of the Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series championship, was persuaded to put on the pinstripes with a seven- year deal in excess of $152MM. (The deal could earn Ellsbury close to $169 if the Yankees exercise an 8th-year option.) There’s no question that the Yankees overpaid for a player who has missed more games than he has played in two of the last four seasons and suffered a calf injury during the current Spring Training season. But, if healthy, he can steal 50 bases and hit 10-15 home runs.

Carlos Beltran, a member of the New York Mets for six-plus seasons, returned to the Big Apple with a three-year deal worth $15MM per season.   The new right fielder’s post-season reputation made him a priority target for the Yankees this off-season.

The Yankees’ entire season could very well hinge on the biggest deal they made this winter. With competition from several teams, including Boston, the Yankees landed Nippon Baseball League pitching star Masahiro Tanaka, with a seven-year deal worth $155MM. The contract includes a full no-trade clause and an option to get out of the contract after the fourth year.  The right-handed pitcher was 24-0 last season playing for the Rakuten Golden Eagles and has looked confident in Spring Training.

The Yankees have two huge holes to fill in the infield. The team’s best hitter, second baseman Robinson Cano, departed for Seattle and a 10-year free agency deal. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez received a 162-game suspension from MLB for steroid use.

Without tried and true in-house replacements, the Yankees signed oft-injured, long-time Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts and utility infielder Kelly Johnson, who played for three different teams in the last four seasons. Johnson will get the starting nod at the hot corner,  while the 36-year old Roberts hopes to play enough to contribute. The Yankees also signed one-time second base prospect Scott Sizemore to compete for an infield spot.

LINEUP

C: Brian McCann
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Brian Roberts
SS: Derek Jeter
3B: Kelly Johnson
LF: Brett Gardner
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: Carlos Beltran
DH: Alfonso Soriano

The starting rotation is set in the first four positions. Veteran lefty CC Sabathia will be followed by Hiroki Kuroda, Tanaka, and Ivan NovaThe final spot in the rotation was went to Michael Pineda after he out-performed David Phelps. Having Phelps in the pen will also be an asset to the Yankees. 

ROTATION

SP: CC Sabathia
SP: Hiroki Kuroda
SP: Masahiro Tanaka
SP: Ivan Nova
SP: Michael Pineda

BULLPEN

David Robertson takes over for his long-time mentor, Mariano Rivera, at the closer position. He’s not guaranteed to be a lock there for the full season. He’ll be helped out in the late innings by Shawn Kelley, free agent lefty Matt Thornton, and possibly Dellin Betances.

Vidal Nuno adds another lefty to the pen, while Warren and Phelps will work as  long men.

Bench

The Yankees will deal outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose bat has slowed considerably, to open a spot for a youngster like Zoilo Almonte.

The Yankees re-signed utility man Brendan Ryan to back up Jeter at shortstop, but a back injury will land him on the DL to start the season. Decent-hitting, poor-fielding Eduardo Nunez has been sent to the minors in favor of minor leaguers Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte, neither of which has a Major League at-bat.

Barring a trade, Francisco Cervelli, who is out of minor league options, will start the season as McCann’s backup. Soriano should be the primary DH and will get some outfield time. He’s also been taking grounders at first base as another way to keep his bat in the lineup.

The Yankees added some depth on Friday (3/28) when they brought back Al Aceves with a minor league contract, who was with the team from 2008-2010. Though he split time as a starter and reliever his first go-round, Aceves will be a starter for Triple-A Scranton.

Outlook

Health is the key to the Yankees season, especially that of Ellsbury, Sabathia and Teixeira. The Yankees will hit the 90+ win mark if the offense produces,  Sabathia can bounce back from last year’s ineffectiveness and lost MPH on his fastball, Tanaka is the real deal, and youngsters Nova and Pineda reach their potential.

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.