Monday, October 12, 2009

The Genius Of Jeter

  • Certain things can't be taught:

It takes a natural intuitive skill to be a true genius and it's something can't be taught. There are those that believe that anyone can be trained to do anything under the proper instruction, but it's grace under fire when champions and legends are born. Being the strongest, fastest or most physically gifted has little to do with knowing what one's doing and not even having to stop and think about it.

Did Joe Montana have the best arm in the history of the NFL? It's not even close. Of course not.

Was Wayne Gretzky an intimidating force of nature on the ice who could bull his way through anyone and everything? No way.

Did John McEnroe have the work ethic, power and foot speed to bludgeon his opponents into submission? Please.

What these three athletes had in common was a depth of perception that let them see things happening before they happened; to anticipate every conceivable possibility like a calculator, know the oncoming sequence of events and react while others would've been standing around agape. Montana had the calm under fire; Gretzky had the presence of mind to be where he was supposed to be at the right moment; McEnroe's magical hands overcame any flaws----personality or otherwise.

Last night, as if he needed anything else to add to his well-earned reputation as the smartest player in baseball, Derek Jeter placed his name in that pantheon if it wasn't there already.

Already acknowledged as the most respected and well-regarded player in the game, Jeter's presence of mind to know the situation and what he needed to do was again hammered home in a similar fashion as with "the flip" in the 2001 ALDS vs the Athletics that saved the Yankees season. Last night, in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Yankees holding a 2-1 lead, Jeter made a play that not three players in baseball would've had the presence of mind, nor the skills, to pull off.

Nick Punto led off the inning with a double off of Phil Hughes; Denard Span grounded a ball up the middle upon which Jeter knew he'd have no play on the speedy Span; rather than make an ill-advised throw to first (as many shortstops would've done); or "eat it" without a play (as the rest of the game's shortstops would've done), Jeter had the wherewithal to spin and throw home; Punto had rounded third too far and catcher Jorge Posada fired to Alex Rodriguez to nail Punto and end the threat. It was the last and probably worst in the multitude of baserunning gaffes that doomed the Twins and it all stemmed from one player----Jeter----who automatically knew what to do.

Off the top of my head, there aren't many players----past and present----that would have the intelligence to make that play. Albert Pujols maybe? Cal Ripken? Keith Hernandez? Aside from that, almost every other player would've been, at best, conservative and held the ball. It's a quiet cool that exemplifies everything Jeter is. He's not the fastest player; he's not the most talented; but he is the smartest and he's the Yankees captain for a reason. This goes back further than his heroics during his rookie year of 1996; back past his upbringing----he just knows----and that's why he's a winner and a legend. It's our pleasure to be able to watch his mind work.

  • The Twins mistakes only delayed the inevitable:

When a club is as overmatched on paper as the Twins were in this series, they had to be perfect; and if they were perfect, they would've lost anyway. The repeated baserunning mistakes and failure to execute plays that they could do in their sleep sent the Twins home and closed the Metrodome far earlier than they'd hoped, but the fact is that even with the leads they held and blew, no one could've felt safe against that Yankees lineup with a one and two run lead.

The Twins showed their usual heart, but not their adherence to the basic principle of not beating themselves. They would've lost anyway, but they could've shaken the Yankees more than they did if they'd played the Twins way, and they didn't.

  • Angels 7-Red Sox 6:

I understand what Terry Francona was doing as he walked Torii Hunter to pitch to Vladmir Guerrero with two out in the ninth inning, a one-run lead and runners on second and third----Hunter has hammered Jonathan Papelbon in his career (3 for 5 with a homer); and Guerrero was 1 for 10 in his career vs the Red Sox closer----but Guerrero, for all of his free swinging, is more of a concern to me to come through in the clutch. Because he rarely strikes out, Guerrero was more likely to put the ball in play or hit one off the Green Monster; Hunter strikes out a lot and is very vulnerable to a power fastball.

I would've gone after Hunter; tried to get him to chase out of the strike zone and when I got two strikes, go high and hard with a fastball. That was a better option than what Francona did. It was a mistake.

Francona is a nice guy and has been a good manager for the Red Sox, but you have to wonder whether the front office might be getting an itchy trigger finger after two straight fruitless Octobers and this botched strategy. They'd flirted heavily with Bobby Valentine before hiring Francona. People don't want to hear this, but Francona does what he's told to do by upper management and was hired: A) to appease Curt Schilling; and B) because Francona wasn't the insolent loose cannon that Grady Little was. He would and has followed orders.

It wouldn't be fair, but it's not out of the realm of possibility to see the club make a change.

You heard it here first.

  • Phillies 6-Rockies 5:

I admire guys with balls and it took a pair of balls for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to leave the game in the hands of Brad Lidge in the ninth inning with a one-run lead. In truth, he didn't have much choice, but it still took a stomach much stronger than mine to place the pot of gold on the Phillies staggered closer.

I still think the Rockies are going to come back and win the series.

  • Viewer Mail 10.12.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes:

My threat of a spanking was not carried out because it seemed easier just to ignore your Posada rants. Well, that and the fact that - like your "not one word" thing - it doesn't work over the interwebs.

Ignoring me does not----nor will it ever----work any better than the "not. one. word." thing over the interwebs. Much like most of the women I encounter, is it possible that Jane "She-Fan" Heller is all talk? I didn't think so, but the lack of execution in carrying out the threat of a spanking is reminiscent of that which bounced the Twins in three straight games. Questions now float in my mind on this matter, and they need to be assuaged.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes:

The Prince of New York has opened himself up to public spankings from She-Fans? This could be an interesting off season.

As for Holliday... I can tell ya, Cardinal fans want him back. They do. You saw the ovation in Game 3 when he came back home... and unless your name is Gary Templeton, Cardinal fans are very quick to forgive and forget. Believe that. TLR will be back too. If not, expect a full scale riot under the arch.

Oh captain, my captain, you quite literally have no idea of what's going on in and around this Family; and you, nor anyone else would believe it if I told you. Some things must remain hidden with the Boss. Such is my privilege. Or my burden.

On another matter, I get a sense of "methinks he doth protest too much" in the belief of a La Russa return to the Cardinals. I'm looking at it with the detachment of pure indifference and I think it's 50-50 that he comes back without concessions written into his contract of how the club will be run; concessions that they won't want to give. Get ready for a skittish couple of months because it they let La Russa nd Duncan go, the Cardinals are going to topple into mediocrity and worse----Albert Pujols or no Albert Pujols.

John Seal writes:

Regardless of his post-trade performance, us A's fans would attest that Matt Holliday is a less than elite player. Besides the unimpressive numbers he posted in Oakland, Holliday frequently seemed lackadaisical and uninterested in what was happening on the field. I don't know any A's fan who wasn't happy to see the back of him, and his post-season performance with the Cards definitely isn't going to help him earn a big payday. I'll predict this much: he'll sign with a second tier team, because the big boys (Yankees, etc) won't be interested in his bloodless playing style.

The worst thing that happened to Holliday financially was the Rockies deciding to deal him and maximize his remaining value (they made a great deal, props to Dan O'Dowd for that one) and get something for him. Had he stayed in Colorado, there still would've been the question of what he'd be once out of Colorado for 81 games, but less of an ironclad judgment to be made----bothnumerically and observationally. That he bottomed out in the playoffs will raise more questions as to what he's worth. He might be sitting out until January before the free agency situation shakes itself out.

As for which team might get Holliday, the Yankees and Red Sox are going to monitor the situation knowing that he'd fit in well as a background guy rather than "the man"; they're not going to give him the money he thought he was worth. He might even have to pull a Bobby Abreu and settle for a very short-term deal to increase his value, which could be a door back to the Cardinals for a year at least.

One thing is certain: he cost himself a lot of money in 2009.


She-Fan said...

Yup. Jeter is a genius. I guess he's what people always mean by "intangibles," except that his talent is tangible. He's always at the right place at the right time and executes.

You really do want Valentine managing somewhere, don't you.

Jeff said...

As a Captain myself, I second your assessment of Derek Jeter. One of my favorite things about Jeter (and as an anti-Yankees fan this sorta hurts to say) is watching him play the infield. He almost always uses two hands; and say what you want about his speed, he finds a way to get to the ball and field it the way one is supposed to. It's a thing of beauty as his grace makes difficult plays seem effortless.

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