By now, everyone has seen the play from last night: Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter squared to bunt, the pitch was inside, he turned away, the ball hit the end of the bat, the umpire ruled it hit Jeter, he was awarded first base and was then driven in on a home run by Curtis Granderson to give the Yankees the lead (at the time).
And by now, everyone has rendered an opinion, most of which fall generally within three categories:
- That's cheating.
- That's competing.
- That's a little bit of both but ultimately disappointing behavior from a player like Jeter.
As far as I see it, since Jeter didn't break a rule, the argument between points 1 and 2 comes down to how much weight you put behind all those "unwritten codes" that people like to invoke when something like this happens. One fan's Pete Rose is another's A.J. Pierzynski, often depending whose team did what. Meanwhile, smart, aggressive baserunners try to steal signs, basketball players are taught how to fall when they "take a charge", punters fall to the ground like they've been shot when rushed and there are so many soccer players writhing on the ground in "agony" at any given moment in any gamethat you'd think Ray Lewis is running around out there. There's an old adage that says "if you're not cheating, you're not trying"
Point 3 is based on Derek Jeter's hard-earned reputation for being a player with "class". Most Rays fans who loathe the Yankees will publicly admit to at least a begrudged modicum of respect for Jeter (I'm in that camp myself). However, Jeter's average is the lowest it's been since he was a rookie and he's probably going to finish under .300 for the first time since 2004. When you start showing signs of getting older and you're in the heat of a pennant race, maybe you start considering angles you didn't need to consider before. Not saying it's right (or wrong) but sometime you do what you have to do.
My problem with the incident would be a 4th point: It's the umpire's fault. Jeter can't take first base if the umpire sees what happens and makes the right call, which should have been fair ball (which was then fielded as a ground out).Cripes, even if he didn't see what happened, he had to have heard it! You could hear it on television, for cryin' out loud! Ball-hitting-bat, even knob-of-bat, makes a distinctly different noise than ball-hitting-body or body-armor for that matter. That, and the ball rolling halfway to second base. I don't have a degree in physics, but I have to believe if it was possible for somebody to throw a baseball hard enough for it to ricochet off a human being's elbow like that, Jeter would be carrying little tiny pieces of his arm to the doctor in a baggie.
No, forget Jeter's acting, which got the seal of approval from Rays manager Joe Maddon, who was ejected arguing the incident, and whether or not it's "cheating" or "gamesmanship". This whole thing lays solely at the feet of home plate umpire Lance Barksdale. And thank goodness for the Rays' Dan Johnson for rendering all points moot anyway.