O'Connor, the writer whose upcoming book about Jeter has the full cooperation of the captain and the people around him, devotes a full column to letting Riley have his say, with very little in the way of tough questioning or skepticism.
Oh, and by the way, O'Connor is still not disclosing that Jeter book in his ESPN writings, a potential conflict of interest that raises a whole lot of questions. Like, is Riley a source for his book? Did Jeter direct his trainer to speak for him, and let it be known that he wants to play until he's 43? And does the 2017 number have anything to do with Alex Rodriguez being signed through that season?
We don't get answers to any of those questions -- heck, we don't even get any appropriate amount of skepticism about Jeter's undeserved 2010 Gold Glove -- in O'Connor's article. But we do get tidbits like these:
Speaking from inside a Jeter camp that rarely opens a public window on its soul, especially during contract negotiations, Riley mentioned George Blanda, George Foreman, Dara Torres and Brett Favre as athletes who thrived after turning 40. The trainer believes Jeter will join those golden oldies in Mariano Rivera's bullpen.
"The desire to be the greatest," Riley said, "can never be turned down by Father Time."...
"I don't think anything can hold Derek back other than himself. If he decides to hang it up before [he turns 43], then that will be his decision. If Derek decides at 41 he's already given his best years, then that's where it will end. But if he decides to go until he's 43, he'll do everything in his power to play the game at a high level and help the team through that time. I think there's so much determination inside of Derek that he can do it."
What nonsense. Brett Favre may still think he's like a kid out there, but age has caught up to him. As it does to everybody eventually. If all it took was determination to succeed, then why would any elite athlete ever need to retire? You don't think Michael Jordan -- one of the greatest competitors of all time -- wouldn't still be out there on the basketball court at age 47 if all it took was inner drive?
When Jeter's trainer is asked about the shortstop's disappointing 2010 season, Riley responds:
"I won't speak on whether it was worse, the same or better," Riley said, "but I've definitely had conversations with Derek about what our thoughts are on this past season. We're looking into it and we're really going to evaluate it. I've got a lot of people, my staff around me, who are evaluating this.Better? Come on now. Was Riley one of the Gold Glove voters or something?
"It's a long season, and your body gets beaten up, and we have to find a way to keep Derek fresh over 162 games. It's a work in progress."
As for finding "a way to keep Derek fresh over 162 games," how about the captain agreeing to a day off once in a while? Mind-blowing, I know!
More from the trainer:
"You can't put an age on the heart of an athlete, and Derek's got one of the purest hearts in sports," Riley said. "He's not going to allow himself to have another down year, if he even considers 2010 a down year. His internal drive separates him from others. I've worked with very few people who go after the game like he does."If Jeter doesn't consider 2010 a down year, he is delusional, not determined. Many players going for a new contract have a great year, like A-Rod and Jorge Posada's terrific 2007 seasons. Jeter has the worst season of his career in a walk year, but I guess there's nothing to worry about because of his pure heart and internal drive or something? C'mon now.
In an odd way, this piece kind of fits in with a Keith Olbermann blog entry this week about Jeter, about how he was apparently in such denial over his slump this year that he wouldn't begin to start to change his approach at the plate until September:
The question various Yankee non-players had been asking Jeter since the spring, as the ground balls multiplied and the extra-base hits vanished, was a simple one: Do you realize you are about to be 36 years old? Do you understand that what's happening to you isn't some failure of strength? Are you getting the hint that you have to change your approach at the plate? It was asked in any of a dozen different forms by possibly as many would-be helpers, and only when the well ran dry as the dog days approached did Jeter finally accept the possibility.At any rate, between this piece, and the Casey Close whinefest in today's Mike Lupica column, which seems to consist of "Waaaaah, waaaaah, the Yankees said Jeter was the modern-day Babe Ruth, but they won't give him a gazillion dollars," Jeter's strategy this year is terrible. Doesn't he realize that the longer this goes on, the worse he -- and not the Yankees -- look?
As Ken Davidoff writes today in Newsday:
If these last few weeks of the "Jeter vs. the Yankees" saga have taught us anything, it's that the Yankees' captain is human.
Which, you know, runs contrary to much of the mythologizing we've absorbed in the last 15 or so years....
If Jeter were to live up to his own myth, he'd shrug, say "I've been far more lucky than unlucky in my professional life" and sign what the Yankees offer him, which stands as much more than any other club appears prepared to give him.
But the pride and competitiveness that help make him such a great player? They don't take the winter off. After all, if Jeter really cared about absolutely nothing besides winning, he wouldn't have contributed to the tension with A-Rod that didn't dissipate until A-Rod's 2009 comeuppance.
And he wouldn't bristle about any questions concerning his future spot in the lineup or position. He may give you the "nothing matters besides winning" line, but good luck getting the "whatever is best for the team" line.
Jeter's not doing anything that any other star in his position wouldn't do. The difference is, we've been told for so many years that he is above such things.
What do you think? Tell us about it!