Friday, September 17, 2010

Jeterian Strikes Again

Written for Baseball Digest(Umps Failed, Not Jeter)

Once Derek Jeter got away with a faux hit by pitch Wednesday night, you knew that the radio talk shows, online and paper media would be having a field day with it. If you didn’t see it, Jeter took an inside pitch from Tampa Bay Rays reliever Chad Qualls squarely on the…handle of his bat. The sound and ensuing distance of the ricochet was obvious. Jeter flailed away from home and grabbed at his left elbow while keeping one eye on home plate umpire Lance Barksdale. Jeter only relaxed when Barksdale signaled to take first base.

Here’s a little bit of what I heard and read today: Wally Matthews who covers the Yankees beat for ESPN New York was on 1050 ESPNradio with Michael Kay. The first thing Matthews did was to remind/point out that he does not create the headlines. In this case it was “Derek Jeter a Cheater?” (the headline was later changed to “Derek Jeter is flawed after all”.

Matthews felt Jeter was completely in the wrong; that maybe he (Matthews) was “old school”, but the move was a blemish on Jeter’s resume. He pointed out, as just about every fan has, that A-Rod would have been vilified for the move. Of course he would have been, but that’s irrelevant.

WFAN’s Mike Francesa took the tack that Jeter did absolutely nothing wrong and the play was part of gamesmanship. That it was no different than a wide receiver working the referee for a pass interference call or an NBA player flopping to draw a charge. Not all of his callers agreed. One, whom I would have to believe was a Mets fan, ripped into the Yankees shortstop. And of course, Alex Rodriguez’s name was invoked in the discussion.

Someone else brought up the old argument of “What should you tell your little leaguers?” Francesa was spot on (You will rarely ever read or hear me say that) in saying you cannot compare little league baseball with professional sports. They’re both baseball and that’s where the comparison ends.

Other than the usual sensational cover photos on the NY Post and NY Daily News, there wasn’t much discussion of Jeter’s Academy Award performance.

Instant replay was discussed as well. You expect it to be brought up any time a play like this one occurs. I’m still against it for these situations and most of the pundits and callers/readers seemed to express the same view.

The bottom line is that Derek Jeter did indeed do nothing wrong. He did what any athlete would do in that situation. You’re trying to get on any base any way you can. The mistake/bad play was made by Barksdale and his fellow men in blue – Ed Rapuano, Tom Hallion, and Ron Kulpa. Just as they have on a number of other occasions, the umpires should have gotten together and discussed whether or not anyone had a clear view of whether the ball hit Jeter or not. Barksdale never considered it despite the rightful protestations of Rays manager Joe Maddon.

Had a ball hitting body made the sound that was heard, bones would have broken. And no ball hitting an elbow pad would have made that sound. Just as with a check swing, there is no way a home plate umpire can keep his eyes on both the ball/strike call and the swing of the bat. Barksdale knows it and his fellow umpires do as well.

Just another bad night for the Major League’s bad umpiring.

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