Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Media, ESPN start to go after Derek Jeter this year

A few weeks ago, my high school classmate Steve asked me what I thought of Derek Jeter's season, and wondered if it meant anything that he was selling his NYC apartment. I don't think Jeter is retiring, or planning on leaving town, or anything like that. But I have noticed something different this year. For maybe the first time ever, he is getting a little criticism from the media. It started with the Bob Sheppard funeral debacle, continued when Jeter slumped for the second half of the season, and built up steam when he pretended to get hit by a pitch versus Tampa Bay.

Granted, there is still stuff like when Michael Kay practically had a coronary when Derek Jeter got a hit in the ninth inning of the season finale. Kay pointed out that the hit would put him at a season average of .270, as opposed to .269.Whoopee. Do you think Jeter's wiping his brow with relief over that? Come on now.

Anyhow, I noticed that in preparation for the playoffs, ESPN New York had a whole slew of articles this week about the captain, with varying degrees of criticism. ESPN is known for its Yankee-bashing, but they generally treat Derek with kid gloves. Not this time.

ESPN Insider columnist Matt Meyers posited the provocative theory that A-Rod is a better clutch player than Jeter. Wally Matthews slammed Jeter for not working with hitting coach Kevin Long until September 11, months into his slump. Andrew Marchand found a former GM who said Jeter was only really worth "twelve million dollars over two years."

But "Derek Jeter needs to put his ego aside," Johnette Howard's article on him, was the most harsh, even from the perspective of a Squawker who frequently notes that the shortstop's name is Jeter, not Jesus. She writes:
Jeter has done a terrific job of hiding his ego throughout his career with his aw-shucks, team-first mantra. But the disassembling of the 36-year-old Jeter's ability and sacred-cow status already has started. And we're about to get a peek behind the curtain and see just how big his ego really is.
Wait a minute here. For fifteen years, the media has lionized Jeter as nothing short of a baseball saint. Now, they tell us that he's an image-conscious phony with a big ego? Which one is it?

I'm not exactly shocked to hear of an athlete having a big ego. That pretty much comes with the territory, and it really doesn't bother me. You have to have an ego to complete at that level. But it was the media who told us for all these years that Jeter was somehow above such things.They built up the very pedestal that they're now starting to chip away at.

Howard continues:
As Jeter reminded people during one of his longer hitting slumps this season, "I've never really had a problem with confidence." But Jeter has shown a growing sensitivity to criticism in the past year.

If you ask Jeter a question about moving to a position other than shortstop someday -- something even iron man Cal Ripken Jr. had to do -- you're likely to get a long pause and perhaps a slightly annoyed look.

People who are around the Yankees every day say Jeter was even unhappy about the outside rebukes he caught for failing to represent the players at the recent funeral of the team's iconic public address announcer, Bob Sheppard.
Uh-oh. Wonder if he got ticked off over my Squawker column about the issue!

Howard then unfavorably compares Jeter to Julius Erving and Tom Brady. But after that, she appears to lose her nerve, and goes on a mini-rant suggesting that Jeter should stay at shortstop forever, even though she argued just a few paragraphs earlier that even Cal Ripken Jr. had to switch positions:
Compared to agreeing on the money or length of his next contract, Jeter's stated desire to keep playing shortstop until 40 and beyond is the easiest problem to solve. He's not moving anywhere. Why should he?

Jeter's subpar defensive range drives the stats junkies nuts. But really, how is Jeter's presence at shortstop hurting the Yankees?....

Jeter doesn't have terrific defensive range, but he still caught 98.9 percent of 100 balls he got to his season and had only six errors -- both career bests...
There's even a Jeter-friendly sabermetric argument to be made for why moving Jeter to the outfield would be worse.
You can't start your column criticizing Jeter for him acting peeved when anybody suggests he move from shortstop, and end it saying that he should stay in that spot for the rest of his career. That doesn't even make any sense. What a mess.

What do you think? Tell us about it!


JE said...

I am confused: what is so unfair about the quote from Marchand's source? Or any other portion of the article?

Lisa Swan said...

I didn't say the Marchand piece was unfair. I just noted that there were four articles on ESPN New York with varying degrees of criticism on Jeter. And given how much positive press he has gotten over the years, that's kind of surprising.

Search This Blog