Friday, September 17, 2010

The Jeter Incident - Revisited

[[switching to first person]] I have spent most of the day reading all the reactions to the play-acting Derek Jeter did on Wednesday night to get the umpire to state that Jeter was hit by the pitch. Jeter admitted after the game that he was acting. His excuse was that he had a job to do and that was to get on base. I've read Crasnick and Neyer and scores of others. Mr. Neyer represented the moralist take. Crasnick the "that-smart-son-of-a-gun" stance. I have to admit that this is a tough one.

Long after Gaylord Perry's career ended, many people smile and chuckle and what Perry did to the baseball. Most do the same when watching that old film of Joe Niekro getting caught with a file in his pocket (he tried to throw it away like a kid chucking a joint out the window when the cops roll up). Cheating has been a part of the game for as long as it has been a game. Harold Reynolds talked on the MLB Network about stealing signs. It's understood that it happens. Sometimes those who cheat get caught. Everyone saw Bobby Valentine with his Halloween mask in the dugout after he was thrown out of the game by the umpire.

It's especially tough for me because Jeter is probably my favorite player ever. And I've had a lot of favorite players over the years. One of the things that makes him my favorite is what he has stood for. He stands for playing the game right and being a pro and playing hard and playing to win. All of those intangibles that people talk about. Sure, any Fan has to be careful because as we learned with Tiger Woods and others, we can't put the person on the pedestal, just the performance. But heck, we still do it despite all the life lessens we've learned. But Jeter means respect. Now let me ask you something. Would the umpires have believed Jeter and disregarded their own ears if it was not for the reputation that Jeter has built over the years? Hardly. Therefore, Jeter used that reputation to put a need for a base runner for his team over that reputation.

Baseball has always had its shortcuts. There are "around the bag" plays at second and first basemen taking their foot of the bag before actually catching the ball  There are catchers trying to "frame" an obvious ball to make it look like a strike. Outfielders pretend that they caught a ball they really trapped. I get it. I really do. It's all part of the culture of having to win at all costs. But Mr. Neyer is right in that cheating is cheating. Lying is lying. Faking is faking. I don't care what Charles Barkley said, kids ARE watching and players ARE their role models.

Life is seldom as easy as black and white despite what extreme liberals or extreme conservatives try to tell you. No player will ever tell the umpire or referee, "Excuse me, but he did tag me before I got to the base." It will never happen. Because sometimes umpires blow it and when they do, it gives a team an advantage they can exploit. But there are gray areas. Not telling the umpire he was wrong falls in there somewhere. But not telling the umpire he was wrong and then ACTING the part to keep it wrong pushes the gray area way too far out there.

Look, I love Derek Jeter. I can't help myself. But this was not cool. It was brilliant and it falls in line with a long history in baseball. But it wasn't cool and that stings a bit. The umpires should be angry. The Bay Rays should be angry. They will be amused some day like we are at ole' Gaylord. But they have a right to feel that a line was crossed. But, you know what? This is another story that wouldn't be a story if we had replay. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Replay ends a lot of these kinds of shenanigans. And while we're at it, I am so fed up with the calling of balls and strikes, that I'd just as soon have PitchF/X call the balls and strikes.

Sorry, Mr. Jeter. The Fan...I...have to tell you that I didn't like this one


bobook said...

And I feel this is much ado about nothing. No rule was broken. This is just an extenuation of the selling players do towards umpires. Scuffing a baseball, using ped's, breaking rules-- that's cheating. This is just another example of his alertness and quick-thinking. Kudos to DJ.

Miles said...

I agree, this is a non-story. Jeter did nothing wrong. Don't blame Jeter, blame the umpire, blame the archaic system of MLB that refuses to implement replay. What about the instances where a player does get hit but they call it a foul tip instead? (That happened to Giambi a couple years ago.) This isn't golf; there are paid umpires right there. This kind of thing happens in the NBA all the time (flopping), Manu Ginobli and Pau Gasol do it all the time. Do you call them dirty cheaters?