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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why criticizing Derek Jeter is like touching the third rail in Yankeeland

My column chastising Derek Jeter for missing Bob Sheppard's funeral brought out a lot of ticked-off Jeter defenders. Which is what I expected. Anytime I've ever written anything less than 100% laudatory about him, I hear it - bigtime - from readers.

It was no different this time. Even my Red Sox fan blogging friend Paul Francis Sullivan of Sully Baseball gave me grief over it, writing,"Yankee fans are throwing Jeter under the bus? This Red Sox fan WON'T HAVE IT!"

Here are some of the other responses. Reader Jeff Bunnell wrote in the comments section of the Jeter piece:
There has to be a reason that NO Yankee player went to the Sheppard funeral. That said, the Boss's funeral was this morning in Tampa and I didn't here of any Yankees there either (+ Reggie the the rest of the old-timers were all at Yankee Stadium for Old Timers' Day)
I can think of two reasons no Yankees went to Sheppard's funeral:


1. It was the Thursday after the All-Star Break and they were enjoying their time off.

2. They figured their being present for the tributes to Sheppard at the Stadium would be sufficient.

But I haven't really heard many people argue either point. Instead, we've heard about this mystery bus containing Yankee players that may still be stuck in bad traffic at the Meadowbrook Parkway. Or that there must have been some other reason the Yankees skipped it, like it was family only. Wrong.

Unlike George Steinbrenner's service, which really was restricted to family-only (Reggie Jackson tried, and failed, to get an invite), there were 900 people at Sheppard's funeral, and that press release I quoted said that members of the Yankees would be at the service.

Jeff continues:
If anything, put it on the ownership. It was, after all, the Boss who flew the entire Yankee team to Canton OH to attend Munson's funeral, whether they would forfeit that evening's game or not. That did not happen here, but to single out a PLAYER, even Jeter, is totally wrong. What was he supposed to do, go AWOL?
No, I won't put it on the ownership. The Yankee front office had already rented one bus to take staff to Long Island the funeral. There is no reason Jeter or any other Yankee who wanted to pay his respects couldn't have been on that bus. What else was the team supposed to do - charter a jet to fly those grueling 26 miles between from the Bronx to Baldwin, Long Island? Please.

And I don't understand the Jeter AWOL comment. It was a day off. There is no reason he couldn't have been there; his "I didn't know" excuse is just laughable.

Yes, 24 other Yankees weren't on that bus either. But I'm singling Jeter out because 1) he's the captain, and doing such things is part of his job (he went to Bobby Murcer's funeral, didn't he?), and 2) he is the one who has singled himself out by having Bob Sheppard as the only voice able to announce him at Yankee Stadium.


Reader BeReal slams me as well, saying in part:
I guess the Sheppard family was so offended they had to show their disgust by sending Bob's widow to Yankee Stadium just six days after his death. Let's all just realize that we don't know why there were no Yankees players there. Maybe the family didn't want players there, turning it into a media circus. Reggie Jackson was actually Sheppard's friend (Bob helped him with both his HOF speech and his number retirement speech), and he wasn't there either. Why isn't anyone on his case?
Maybe Mary Sheppard decided to show more class than was directed her way. I did notice about how the players made a point of all surrounding her in the introduction, which was nice.

As for the captain, so much of Jeter's image is based on being classy. Saying and doing the right things. And being the person who most befits what it means to be a "true Yankee." How many times have we heard criticism of another player prefaced by "Derek Jeter would never do that"?

So yeah, it is a big, honking deal when the captain of the team makes an error like this. It is a rare misstep, but it is a misstep, nonetheless.

BeReal also writes:
Jeter asked Bob Sheppard to record his announcement knowing that Bob wouldn't be there forever, but wanting his voice to be. Bob Sheppard called it one of the greatest compliments he had ever received. To stop using it now that Bob is gone would completely defeat the purpose of recording it in the first place, and dishonor Sheppard, who died knowing his voice would live on at Yankee Stadium through Derek Jeter. 
Again, if A-Rod had done the same thing, Yankee fans would not exactly be singing hosannas about him doing so. Because it puts the current announcer in an awkward position, and sets the player apart from everybody else as well.

Besides, Jeter isn't going to play forever. When he retires, will the Yankees not only have to keep Sheppard's voice alive, but keep announcing Jeter's name in the lineup each night, just to make sure Sheppard's voice will live on through the captain? Where does it end?

Matt on Earth writes:
Get over it, people. When will you all realize that athletes DO NOT owe us anything. Sure, it would have been nice if some of the players showed up for Mr. Sheppard's funeral. However, it's their call, and their right not to. Guess what! They don't even have to explain their reasons for choosing if they don't want too. To bad!

Jeter has been a great player for the organization and has never put himself in a compromising situation. The first second the media can find something even remotely controversial regarding him, all you yahoos come out of the closet throwing your two cents in on the matter. Come on!

You can whine all you like about what constitutes "classy," but the truth is those athletes don't give a damn about your opinion. Enjoy the athletes for what they are - entertainment. Stop putting stock into them as role models, and we'll all be a lot happier.

But Jeter didn't say "no comment" or "it's none of your business" why he didn't go. He said he "didn't know" about the funeral date, which is a joke. And he deserved to be called on it, especially given him insisting that only Sheppard can introduce him.

And, as I noted above, so much of Jeter's image is based on him being classy, and being a great role model - the guy who "has never put himself in a compromising situation." So, when he does something not so great, are we supposed to stick our fingers and say "la la la, I can't hear you" or something? C'mon now.


What do you think? Leave us a comment!

24 comments:

Matt on Earth said...

1. Bloggers need to stop using terms like "true Yankee." I'm really tired of this phrase. It is absolutely 100% pure subjectivity. He doesn't have to attend a funeral because he is a "True Yankee." He should attend because he feels like it's a decent thing to do.

2. Being a captain means playing hard on the field and leading the team by example. He doesn't cheat, or use PEDS, or beat his wife, or humiliate the organization. He's a good player who tries hard. He is NOT under obligation to attend a funeral nor is it his responsibility to "rally the troops into going." It's absolutely their call to go or not. Who are we to judge?

3. Jeter use of Bob Sheppard recording is extremely flattering. Once he retires it will not be used anymore. I don't think the current announcer should feel alienated by that either. Afterall, he cannot replace Sheppard nor should he try too. Recognizing and embracing a legacy shows class and grace.

4. I don't expect anyone to plug their ears and never criticize Jeter. Comment on his traditionally poor defensive (overrated) play. Comment on his impatience with the bat. Comment on his peripheral stats declining a perilous rate right before his upcoming contract extension. Pick something tanigble though. Don't just chastise him for a relatively subjective belief administered annonymously on an obscure blog.

Lisa Swan said...

Matt, I actually agree with you on the "true Yankee" thing - my point was that whenever fans hail such a thing, they always use Jeter as an example. Jeter usually does the right thing, but his excuse was very lame. He should have gone.

As for this being "a relatively subjective belief administered annonymously on an obscure blog," I post under my real name, have my real photo on my Blogger ID, and have my real Facebook account linked on the page. I've also met a number of readers in real life.
I'll grant you that Subway Squawkers may be "obscure" in some quarters, but I couldn't be any less anonymous!

Matt on Earth said...

This may seem like a dumb question, but why should he have gone? What is your reason, specifically, for him going?

Putting Jeter on a pedestal is foolish. However, criticizing him over something like this seems like a waste of effort.

As for you, yes you have a name and pic listed. You also have Facebook...for what that is worth. Be honest with yourself though. If you were face to face with Jeter, would you call him out on that? Or is it the type of thing you can merely type to your readers who have no actual stake in the matter?

See this is the part I'm having trouble with. If I were Derek I would have attended Mr. Sheppard's funeral IF I felt the connection was strong enough. I wouldn't be coaxed into it though by anyone else (nor would I be concerned with their opinion on the matter). Why do we think as outsiders, that Derek had an obligation to go?

Lisa Swan said...

"As for you, yes you have a name and pic listed. You also have Facebook...for what that is worth."

Dude, it's not "a name," it's my REAL NAME! It's also my real Facebook account, with my real-life friends on it. Besides, why is somebody posting as "Matt on Earth" making such a big deal on this, anyway? ;)

"Be honest with yourself though. If you were face to face with Jeter, would you call him out on that? Or is it the type of thing you can merely type to your readers who have no actual stake in the matter?"

Yes, I would. If Derek Jeter Googles himself, he'll see what I wrote. And you know what? Somehow I'll think he'll manage to survive my criticism.

john said...

Lisa I applaud you for calling out god, Jeter. No main stream media types kiss his behind!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

kcourtsclayton said...

The thing is that Derek Jeter has an obligation as the Yankee captain to do what is in the best interest of the team. He has a responsibility to represent the team--to be the spokesman. Bob Sheppard was an integral part of the organization for half of a decade. The players should have been represented and the captain should have been the one to do it. His excuse was LAME!! He didn't know when the funeral was??? I knew when the funeral was and I live in Memphis, Tennessee!!
This is not the first time that Jeter has been selective in his role as captain. In 2006 when Alex Rodriguez was getting destroyed by Yankee fans during every game, Jeter said not one word. All it would have taken was one show of support by Jeter but he left Alex out to dry. Many people think that Jeter's lack of action cost him the MVP that year. For me, I just lost a massive amount of respect for Jete that year. He showed in 2006 that he is NOT all about the team.
Lisa, I respect you for calling it as you see it. I know that speaking negatively about Jeter is heresy in some places but I absolutely agree.

john said...

Great write-up KCOURTSCLAYTON

Uncle Mike said...

Jeter was wrong not to go to Sheppard's funeral. I think he knows this now.

The fact that Mary Sheppard accepted the invitation to Old-Timers' Day should put an end to the story. Granted, such stories never go away -- right, Fritz Peterson? How's the Mrs.? -- but this one should, not for Jeter's sake alone, but for everyone's.

The problem here, Lisa, is that you're not the best messenger for criticizing Jeter. At times, in this blog, you give the impression that you're an A-Rod fan first and a Yankee Fan second. I know that sounds harsh, but I can think of no rational reason why you criticize Jeter in the way that you do, and still criticize Joe Torre even more harshly.

I did the opposite, treating A-Rod like he wasn't "a true Yankee" and comparing him unfavorably with Jeter. When the Yankees finally won last fall, with A-Rod a major reason why, I had to eat the humble pie and accept that he'd answered all the questions and done the right things and should be accepted by all and sundry as Yankee through and through.

It appears that, in your words, Jeter's big crime is not being A-Rod. But what player in the last 40 years has done more for the Yankees than he has? Maybe Mariano. Other than that, nobody. Missing a funeral, and making a mess out of explaining it, was wrong. But if he hasn't earned "third rail" status, who has?

Lisa Swan said...

Uncle Mike sez:

'The problem here, Lisa, is that you're not the best messenger for criticizing Jeter. At times, in this blog, you give the impression that you're an A-Rod fan first and a Yankee Fan second. I know that sounds harsh, but I can think of no rational reason why you criticize Jeter in the way that you do, and still criticize Joe Torre even more harshly."

That's harsh - and untrue.

Nobody should be untouchable, not Jeter, not Torre, not A-Rod, not anybody else. If there is anything we've learned from sports over the past few years, is that nobody's perfect. Imagine all the outrage heaped upon anybody who criticized Tiger Woods before November 2009. Or anybody who suggested that LeBron James maybe wasn't really the loyal, hometown guy he presented himself as before "The Decision." Etc., etc. But if reporters had done their jobs, and written about these people as regular human beings, instead of treating them like gods, maybe the falls wouldn't have been so steep.

Jeter's done so many things right. I've said that a million times. But nobody remembers that; they just flip out because I said that he should have told the Yankee fans to stop booing A-Rod, the way he did for Jason Giambi. Or that his "I didn't know" excuse was lame about Bob Sheppard's funeral.

What gets me about the Jeter fanatics is that they won't concede he's anything but perfect. Like you said, he is worthy of third rail status in their eyes. (And before you say I do the same with A-Rod, let me remind you that I have criticized him plenty; I didn't even want the Yankees to sign him after he opted out, I was so angry over it.)

But even noting facts, that Jeter is statistically having his worst season will bring the wrath of hatred upon you. Check out the comments directed at a writer who simply noted the obvious:

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Slumpbot-200-Derek-Jeter-could-be-having-a-bet?urn=mlb-257390

Now, I'm not ready to write Jeter's baseball obituary yet - it could just be a rough stretch he's having. But even acknowledging that his numbers aren't that good this year will get you hate mail. That's ridiculous.

Lisa Swan said...

At the risk of sounding like a Jeter hater, here's an example of the over-the-top coverage he regularly receives - a sportswriter makes the case that Jeter could end up being the greatest Yankee of all time!:

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20100718/SPORTS0101/7180343

Jeter will probably be a Top 5 or Top 6 Yankee when all is said and done, after Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, and Mariano Rivera. But to even talk about him being the greatest Yankee ever - above Babe Ruth! - is crazy. Let me go all Kanye West here and say that Babe Ruth is the greatest player of all time. And no, that doesn't make me a Jeter hater.

Matt on Earth said...

"Now, I'm not ready to write Jeter's baseball obituary yet - it could just be a rough stretch he's having. But even acknowledging that his numbers aren't that good this year will get you hate mail."

I think you should take the time to actually analyze his numbers a bit. They are down for him personaly this season, but his numbers are still pretty good overall. I think what bothers me about some of your points is you defend them as facts despite being totally anecdotal.

One only has look at Fangraphs or BB-Reference for about 2 seconds to realize he is ranked 7th in the SS category out of the entire league with a WAR of +2.0. He's 4th in value when considering just the AL. In terms of contributing to Win Probability (this year), he is far and away the best in the AL, and 4th out of the entire league. If that's a rough stretch, things could be a lot worse for him and the Yanks.

That's not to say he's perfect in every way by any means. He has his faults (plate discipline, over zealous with the strike zone, fielding range on the decline).

My loyalty is with the team, not the players individually. I have no problem casting players aside when they are no longer productive. With that being said, I wouldn't take another AL SS over Jeter this season. If I have the whole league to choose from, then he's out, Hanley's in.

Matt on Earth said...

One other point...Believe it or not, I actually agree with you for once. Derek SHOULD NOT be considered the greatest Yankee ever. That's rediculous. You might as well call him the best player ever if your putting him above Babe Ruth.

However, there is no way I value Mariano above him. I have loved Mariano's contributions for years. However, as a closer, his inherent value as a player just can't match Jeter's. Hell, it really can't match most 1st/2nd starting rotation pitchers.

Lisa Swan said...

Matt, you're kind of proving my point with this:

"I think you should take the time to actually analyze his numbers a bit. They are down for him personaly this season, but his numbers are still pretty good overall....One only has look at Fangraphs or BB-Reference for about 2 seconds to realize he is ranked 7th in the SS category out of the entire league with a WAR of +2.0. He's 4th in value when considering just the AL."

So you're saying that the AL All-Star starting shortstop, considered by many fans to be not just the best shortstop, but the best player in baseball today, is only the seventh-best shortstop in the majors this year? How does that disprove my point that he's having the worst season of his career? As the article I posted noted, "He has the exact same number of WAR as David Eckstein and Juan Uribe and he's making $21 million while doing it."

In addition, Fangraphs, one of the sites you cited, showed him with a WAR of 7.4 for 2009, and a 1.8 for 2010 so far.

john said...

Lisa, I enjoy very much your stories--you are a straight shooter, not like the local tabloid lap dogs!!

I think Jeter plays the Bob Shepherd tape of him coming to the plate, not to give honor to Bob (or he would have gotten to his funeral), BUT because Derek loves being #1.

Lisa Swan said...

Oh, and before anybody accuses me of bias, A-Rod's WAR value is 2.3, and Mark Teixeira's is 1.8. (Cano leads the team with a 5.0 number.) The most important stat is that the Yanks have the best record in baseball!

Matt on Earth said...

*Sigh*

1. The All-Star game is your case and point? Really? The AS Game is a farse. So are all the fans who mindlessly vote their favorite players into it. If it were up to me, it wouldn't be played at all, let alone determine WS homefield advantage. If I ran things, and was forced to have the AS game, it would be determined soley by stats. So no, Jeter would not start. Apparently, the millions of 12 year olds voting for their favorite player is an accurate represenation of the rest of who appreciate decent stats when we see them. Nice.

As it stands, the AS Game is a complete popularity contest. Of the AL SS selected this year for the AL (Jeter / Andrus), Jeter has slightly better offensive stats, last I checked making him the better choice...I guess. I suppose a manager would want Andrus in the game later on anyway for defensive reasons.

2. Second, Jeter plays SS. Last I checked Eckstein plays second base. Apples to oranges...

As for Uribe, he has a WAR of +1.5. That's .3 less than the +1.8 that is Jeter. Not sure where you're getting your data, but it's not FG. You'll have to explain...

Furthermore, you're comparing Jeter's full 2009 year WAR with this year's 2010 half season. That's pretty useless.

Oh yeah, going back to the AS game. He's not competing with the other 6 SS who are better with him for a starting spot. He's only competing with the ones in the AL. If Hanley were in the AL, I gaurantee you he'd be starting. If he didn't, well, that'd be pathetic.

The only logical statement you've made as far as I can tell is Jeter is an expensive option relative to his piers. In that sense, he is overrated.

Is Jeter as good as he was last year, no. Clearly. Is he still just as productive as most other league options right now? Yes. Is he still productive while having a down year? Yes.

That's all I said before. That's all I"m saying now. My point was a down year for Jeter IS still a good year compared to most everyone else. That's why it's silly to say, "I won't write his obituary yet."

3. If you're going to quote me, at least take the time to read/address my whole point.

"That's not to say he's perfect in every way by any means. He has his faults (plate discipline, over zealous with the strike zone, fielding range on the decline).

My loyalty is with the team, not the players individually. I have no problem casting players aside when they are no longer productive. With that being said, I wouldn't take another AL SS over Jeter this season. If I have the whole league to choose from, then he's out, Hanley's in."

Clearly I'm not a Jeter fanatic nor do I "prove your point." I simply said paint the whole picture. I think I need to lay down now. My head hurts...

Matt on Earth said...
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Matt on Earth said...
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Lisa Swan said...

The stats were from Big League Stew's article from a few days ago; thus the difference in numbers.

You wrote:

"My point was a down year for Jeter IS still a good year compared to most everyone else. That's why it's silly to say, "I won't write his obituary yet."

We're talking semantics here. My original point in even bringing up Jeter's number was that even though he's having the worst season of his career, I'm not worried just yet about his numbers. But that it's pretty much impossible to have a rational discussion about it, as the commenters on the link I posted showed. That's all.

Lisa Swan said...

BTW, I picked Jeter for my Baseball Bloggers Alliance All-Star ballot this season (and I did not pick A-Rod). He's still, as far as I'm concerned, the best shortstop in the league. But that doesn't mean he's having a Jeteresque year.

john said...

And let us not forget that Jeter had problems with the State of New York State Franchise Tax Board. The mainstream New York media did an excellent job of covering that up. Oh by the way I am a Jeter fan, but after his latest debacle over Bob Shepherd's funeral I have lost a bit of reverance, oooppps I mean respect for DJ!!

Matt on Earth said...

"And let us not forget that Jeter had problems with the State of New York State Franchise Tax Board."

Lol oh come on! That's not even relevant to the topic on hand.

I'm sure Jeter (like all the other Yankees) does as his accountant advises. Do you really think a guy who has accumulated so much wealth doesn't have someone managing his assets? Do you really believe he intentionally tried to scam the state of NY?

Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and a few others all had their assets frozen during the Madoff scandal. Do you really thing they were out there hustling people out of their pensions? Or maybe, just maybe, there's the slightest chance of a mix up in the numbers, because various accountants might have had done business with each other at some point in time?

Oh in other news, it turns out that Jeter also likes to abuse puppies...and catapult kittens.

john said...

To Matt on Earth. My post was accurate. We don't know if it was an accountant's mistake or not. You are assuming. You should be careful. Also you should be careful when you make statements about Jeter abusing kittens and cattapult kittens. Is your defense , oh I'm just kidding around?! You should proofread your posts before putting them for all, including Jeter and his accountant to see!! One other thing, my post is relevant. Whether Jeter's accountant is at fault or not it is still Jeter's responsibility. The point of the matter is another chink in Jeter's armor of Mr. Clean.

Uncle Mike said...

Well, Denny McLain DID go to prison for cheating people out of their pensions, but then, he was never a "Mr. Clean." On his team, that title was taken by Al Kaline, and the only bad thing I can say about him is that he hung on too long in an attempt to get to 3,000 hits.

But Lisa's point about perceptions is accurate. Before Thanksgiving 2009, criticizing Tiger Woods was a big no-can-do. Afterward, it's like he can't do anything right. We were shocked when we heard about what Kobe Bryant did, and might have done, but we wouldn't have been shocked if it was, say, Allen Iverson. And how many of us suspected in May 1994 that O.J. Simpson was anything but a good guy?

Or, to bring it back to baseball, aside from Met fans who hated him from picking a fight with the much smaller Bud Harrelson in the '73 NLCS, who hated Pete Rose, or thought he was no good? Turned out, the Met fans were right: He wasn't a good guy who was just a little too intense, he was really, really no good with anything other than a bat.

We've been trained to think of certain players as good guys: Jeter, Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire. And certain others as villains: A-Rod, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson. Sometimes, those reputations are exaggerated; rarely are they completely overturned -- just ask Reggie Jackson, with a new, not-so-friendly bio out about him. Rose was a rare exception.