As a lifetime Yankees fan, I have to get something off my chest. I spent a good deal of energy last Thursday defending Derek Jeter despite an outpouring of criticism from most of my friends. For those of you who missed it, the Yankees played a pivotal, three-game series last week against the Rays. The two teams were virtually tied for the best record in baseball. The Rays won the first game and the Yankees won the second. Both games went into extra innings and provided great drama for baseball fans.
During the rubber match on Wednesday, the Rays were leading the Yankees 2-1 going into the 7th inning when Jeter came to the plate. During his at bat, a ball was thrown inside and appeared to either hit him on the arm or the end of the bat. Jeter immediately doubled over, grabbed his wrist and showed all the signs of being hit with a 90-mile-an-hour pitch. He was awarded first base, and Rays’ manager Joe Maddon got tossed from the game for arguing the legitimacy of the call. The next batter, Curtis Granderson, homered to put the Yankees up 3-2.
I was watching the game with my daughter and we were pretty excited, but the Rays TV announcers were very critical of the umpire and wouldn’t let it go. Friends started texting me that Jeter was a cheater, but I didn’t even doubt him. He has been the model of integrity and sportsmanship for baseball – actually, for all sports. I believed him. Both my daughter and I were getting frustrated at how much attention this was getting from the announcers. The bottom of the 7th inning the Rays hit their own two-run homer and eventually won the game.
I continued to defend him the next day, until he admitted in an interview to not being hit. He said his job was to get to first base and that’s what he did. Joe Maddon even applauded the act. I am very surprised and disappointed that Jeter did it. I understand he is a very competitive athlete, but you have to earn a base the right way.
The Yankees and Jeter have preached the Yankee way for years, and winning at all costs is not the right way. If that were the case we wouldn’t all be pointing fingers at Bonds, Clemens and Sosa. I know that what Jeter did is not the same, but the spirit of it is to me.