The Yankee captain and New York’s favorite baseball player since Don Mattingly has been having a rough go of it this year. It’s not so much his hitting, although his average is sinking fast after a torrid start and he’s got just three RBI in 12 games, but his fielding that’s been a problem.
Jeter has made a lot of errors so far. But so has Mike Lowell. And unlike Jeter, Lowell is actually a good fielder. Freaky things happen in small sample sizes. That's why after a week Ian Kinsler is 2nd in HR. That's why people say things like "At this pace, Garth Iorg will have 300 RBIs!" and then he ends up with like 34. You really can't tell anything about a player's year after 40 AB or 10 games in the field.
For the record, the reasons Jeter has made a lot of errors are probably: (a) it's been really crappy playing conditions, or (b) he's never been that good a defensive SS, or (c) it's a complete fluke.
Jeter has won three Gold Gloves, but he’s not on his way to winning a fourth. Through 12 games, he has six errors, the most in the major leagues.
For the millionth and final [sic] time, Gold Gloves are 99% meaningless.
Everybody’s writing about his problems catching and throwing, but no one’s trying to run him out of town. Yankee Stadium with him would be like the Sistine Chapel without Michelangelo’s ceiling work.
I’d ask you to imagine A-Rod in the same situation, but you don’t have to, because we’ve seen what would happen...He was booed at every opportunity and flayed daily by the talk-show guys and the columnists, many of whom suggested the only way for him to fix things was to take the first plane out of town. I was one of them, and I don’t apologize for it.
You should. It was insane. In 2005-06 he hit 83 HR, drove in 251. He walked 181 times. His OBPs were .421/.392.
His WARP3s were 13.0 and 7.5 (same as Troy Glaus in 2006, BTW), and if he had been able to play his natural position on the field, they would probably have been much higher, all things being equal.
Even when he had his legendarily "terrible" year, when everything "fell apart," when he hated New York and was a "head case" and everyone in the world wrote about how he didn't fit in with the Hallowed Pinstripery of New York, he was an awesome, awesome baseball player. Who in his right mind can think differently?
He had come to the Yankees as the best player in baseball.
By last season, he wasn’t even the third best third-baseman.
J'accuse, Monsieur de Chapeau!!!
And the worse it got for A-Rod, the better it got for Jeter. Every bad throw, every late-inning out, every clumsy attempt to explain himself made A-Rod look more misplaced and Jeter more the true Yankee hero.
Jeter had a great year last year. ARod had a very very good year that looked bad only in comparison to his outstanding previous years. It happens.
So this year, A-Rod showed up wearing high stirrups and after a couple of games to warm up started hitting — for average and power, in early innings and late, by day and by night.
I don't think this makes cognitive sense. "...after a couple of games to warm up started hitting." Does that mean, "after taking a couple of games to warm up?" Also, the part that comes after the dash reads like a weird parody of "Paul Revere's Ride."
After three years of waiting for him to do his part, he was suddenly doing everybody’s part.
He has been doing pretty much what he did in his 2005 AL MVP Season, when he went .321/.41/.610 with 48 HR, a .354 EqA and a 13.0 WARP3. This didn't come out of nowhere, people. He has always been this good. He was this good even while you were all talking about how bad he was.
But there’s something wrong with this picture — the Captain’s early-season slump, especially in the field. The SABRE folks will tell you that Jeter has never been a particularly good shortstop despite the Gold Gloves, but his teammates, his manager and anybody who watched him every day will differ.
"The facts will tell you some information. Some casual anecdotes will contradict this. Your choice."
There are some things the stats don’t tell you, and unless you watch the guy every day, there’s no way to tell you about them.
I've seen somewhere in the vicinity of 500 Yankee games, I'd say. And I think Jeter is vastly overrated as a fielder by every anecdote-toting sportswriter and fan out there. Twice a year he goes deep into the hole to his right, stabs a backhand, jumps in the air and gets the guy at first by a step. It's very impressive and flashy, but it doesn't nearly make up for the fact that he gets nothing to his left. He has what people often call a "high baseball IQ" in that he is very alert and smart when the ball is in play -- I will give him that. He takes relays well and is very athletic. But he is nowhere near the league of the Vizquels, Everetts, or even Cabreras of the world.
But there’s no denying he’s killing his team in the field right now, and his hitting isn’t that great either. Come to think about it, he’s not even stealing bases with his normal ease — just one-for-three on the season.
He's not off to a great start, but his OBP is .390, which tells you his patience is still there. And it's been like 50 AB. In 2004 Jeter had an 0-32 in April, and ended up having a fine offensive year.
It’s as if he and A-Rod are two yo-yos that are out of synch. When A-Rod was down, Jeter was up. And now that A-Rod is tearing the cover off the ball, Jeter is down. It’s a little spooky. It’s as if he thrives on A-Rod’s negative energy and is being sapped by A-Rod’s success.
Or, alternately -- and I don't mean to disparage the Yo-Yo/Vampire-Energy-Suck Theory, which seems air-tight -- ARod has always been awesome, Jeter had a mediocre first 50 AB, and this is all pointless and stupid.
I’m sure — well, pretty sure, anyway — it’s just an aberration, that Jeter’s problems are just a slump that will pass and not the result of him trying for the first time since A-Rod arrived, to keep up with and outdo his teammate.
Yeah, probably. Or -- and bear with me here -- what if ARod, brimming with jealousy and malice, is secretly poisoning Jeter with a magic serum that causes him, Jeter, to have a slightly mediocre first 50 AB of the season and be slightly worse in the field than normal? Could such a serum exist? Get on this. Pronto.
You never thought of Jeter as needing to outshine anyone. He’s shared the stage with plenty of great players, and it’s never stopped him. On the other hand, in the three years that A-Rod’s been playing next to him, he’s always been the leader and A-Rod the guy trying to keep up.
The roles are reversed right now. Jeter says it’s just a slump. So do Joe Torre, his manager, and Brian Cashman, the team’s G.M. They’re probably right.
But what if they’re not?I said get on this! Visit every witch doctor in the city! Search ARod's home for boiling cauldrons! We will get to the bottom of this, fair readers. That I promise.
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