This pitch actually hit Jeter
The question asked by many today was "Is Derek Jeter a cheater?" After last night's shenanigans in Tampa Bay, it was a topic I talked about it here in Portland on the Morning Jab with Shoe. I heard it on both Boston sports stations today. WFAN touched on it. ESPN talked about it. Here's the problem: this shouldn't be the story about Derek Jeter.
In the 9th inning, he looked absolutely awful against Rafael Soriano. Over-matched, flailing at a fastball he had no chance in hell of catching up to. They showed him in the dugout afterwards, and for the first time since he arrived in the Majors, I thought one simple thing.
"Wow, he looks old."
Maybe last night's play wasn't so much cheating, as it was a Major League veteran looking to take advantage of a situation in a tight game to steal first base. It's like an older pro wrestler who can't get up to the top rope anymore opting for the low-blow while the ref is turned, a grabbing the brass knucks, or putting his feet on the ropes during a pin. To me it was no different than Don Baylor leaning into pitches in 1986, Manu Ginobili trying to draw a charge, or Claude Lemieux trying to draw a penalty for fighting on another team's superstar.
Jeter is hitting .178 in his last 30 games, and .262 for the season. It's a contract year. He's not getting any younger. There is pressure on the captain, and not just the normal every day pressure that comes from being the face of the Yankees. It's the type of pressure that causes a guy to dig his fingernails into the floor before he's carried out of the room. Much like The Macho Man Randy Savage's world title win in Wrestlemania 8, sometimes you have to grab a handful of tights to hang on. Jeter is trying to hang onto his career, and there is no way anyone should fault him for that.