Yardbarker Nav Bar

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is Ian O'Connor Derek Jeter's media mouthpiece?

According to ESPN New York columnist Ian O'Connor's most recent piece, not only will Derek Jeter play until 2017 (!), but he'll be doing it at the highest of levels, too, with most of those years at shortstop. At least, that's what Jason Riley, Jeter's paid personal trainer, says to the columnist.

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?

Riley continues:
"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!

13 comments:

Uncle Mike said...

As Denny McLain -- poignantly, in retrospect -- said after serving up Mickey Mantle's 535th career home run (the Tigers had already clinched the Pennant and were winning the game big, so it didn't matter), "If a guy has bought 534 drinks in the same bar, he's entitled to one on the house."

Using the point that "Jeter has been above it all" against him now that he might be, like a fastball thrown by a Met reliver, isn't going to fly very far. I'll say it again: Giving Jeter what he wants is fire insurance. Pay him now, or take the firestorm later.

On a totally different note: On Uncle Mike's Musings, check out my top 5 reasons you can't blame only Omar Minaya for the Mets' failures since 2006 -- and I don't blame any of the Mets' players, either. In fact, in one of the top 5, I blame Met fans' two favorite targets: The Yankees and their payroll.

Lisa Swan said...

"Using the point that "Jeter has been above it all" against him now that he might be, like a fastball thrown by a Met reliver, isn't going to fly very far. I'll say it again: Giving Jeter what he wants is fire insurance. Pay him now, or take the firestorm later."

Is this a contract negotiation, or a hostage situation? What, are you suggestion the fans will set the Stadium on fire or something if Jeter isn't there?

And I have to laugh about all the hype over the years about St. Derek, how he would play for free, has such love of the game, is a true Yankee, blah blah blah. Yet it appears that he wants even more money/years than what A-Rod is getting now. If that is the case, I think the Yankees can walk away from that with a clear conscience. Like I said, the longer Jeter drags this out, the less aura he has, and the more fans will think he's being greedy.

Uncle Mike said...

Lisa, you're not getting what I meant by "firestorm." I'm talking about a firestorm of criticism. You know, like Willie Randolph got for not being, as they would say in English soccer, "Mets through and through." (Never mind he grew up rooting for them.)

The time when owners could use a player's salary demand against him and get away with it, as the Yankees did with Joe DiMaggio in 1938 (and it really worked at the time, he wasn't St. Joseph of Streak yet), is long gone. As Ken Singleton put it a few years ago, "The owners screwed us for 100 years. We've got 75 years to go."

And since Yankee Haters will always hate Yankee management more than any single player (even A-Rod, even ol' what's his name, that controversial guy we had who previously pitched for Boston, and I don't mean Babe Ruth), even they won't blame Derek if this thing drags on.

The only people who will blame him are the sportswriters (and they'll do so merely to sell papers, not because they believe he's more at fault, and not because of any animus toward him or any love of Yankee management), and... you.

Lisa Swan said...

"The only people who will blame him are the sportswriters (and they'll do so merely to sell papers, not because they believe he's more at fault, and not because of any animus toward him or any love of Yankee management), and... you."

Um, no. Check out any comments thread on Jeter with any news story about his contract status. You have the core "give him whatever he wants" crowd, but there are a lot of Yankee fans who agree with me. Some want the team to give him even less money than I think is appropriate.

We don't know what the Yankees' final offer will be for Jeter, but we do know this -- it will be much, much more than he would get from any other team. And if he turns it down to take less money elsewhere, it will be him, not the Yankees, that looks ridiculous.

Last guy who turned up his nose at not getting a pay raise after a bad stretch was Joe Torre. How'd that work out for him, by the way?

Funny thing is, that the very same fans who screeched about how the Yankees did Torre wrong were cheering pretty wildly two years later when the Yankees won the World Series.

Uncle Mike said...

"Last guy who turned up his nose at not getting a pay raise after a bad stretch was Joe Torre. How'd that work out for him, by the way?"

Pretty well: He got big money, respect, and 2 NLCS berths out of a weak Dodger team battered by an unsettled ownership situation; while Yankee management got a lot of bad press, and absolutely no credit for hiring the right replacement in Joe Girardi.

Girardi and the players got the credit for the 2009 title, not Hank or Hal Steinbrenner or Brian Cashman. At the closing of the old Yankee Stadium, before Girardi had led them to a title as manager, lots of people were saying Torre should at least have been mentioned in the cermonies; nobody was caring whether Hank, Hal, Cash or even George was on hand.

The vast majority of the public will always side with the players, not management, because, unlike the reserve clause days that ended in 1975, the players no longer face professional suicide by telling their side of the story, and no matter how well the players are paid, just about everybody remembers getting lowballed by a boss.

Lisa Swan said...

"Pretty well: He got big money, respect, and 2 NLCS berths out of a weak Dodger team battered by an unsettled ownership situation; while Yankee management got a lot of bad press, and absolutely no credit for hiring the right replacement in Joe Girardi."

Take off the Joe Torre-loving glasses, dude. He had a .500 record until the Dodgers traded for Manny Ramirez. They had such a big collapse in 2009 that they nearly didn't make the playoffs. And they completely underachieved in 2010, with Torre ending his career making an unseemly play for the Mets job. As for the whining about ownership uncertainty, tell that to Ron Washington and Nolan Ryan.

As for your notion that "just about everybody remembers getting lowballed by a boss," how are the Yankees lowballing Jeter by offering him at least 2-3 times what any other team would pay him? It will go over with fans as well as Torre's notion that making five million for one season (8 million if he had gotten to the World Series) was an "insult."

Uncle Mike said...

I'll have to break this up into 2 comments:

“Take off the Joe Torre-loving glasses, dude. He had a .500 record until the Dodgers traded for Manny Ramirez.” This is true: On July 31, 2008, the day of the trade, the Dodgers were 54-54. They were also just 2 games out of first place, and actually got to 4½ back with an 8-game losing streak on August 29 – 9-16 since Manny arrived. So Manny wasn’t helping much. After that, the Dodgers went on a 12-1 run, closing with 19-8, and won the NL West by 2 games, clinching in San Francisco against their most hated rivals. Was that all Manny? If so, then the slump before has to be a big part Manny, too. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the best manager of the last half-century, Joe Torre.

“They had such a big collapse in 2009 that they nearly didn't make the playoffs.” Funny thing, nobody called Casey Stengel a lousy manager because the Yankees blew a 12-game lead over the Red Sox in 1949 and “nearly didn’t make the Playoffs.” Or, as the case then was, nearly didn’t win the Pennant. That’s because they DID win the Pennant. And in 2009, the Dodgers DID win the NL West, and the NLDS. In fact, since winning the World Series in 1988, the Dodgers’ record in postseason series is 2-6. Take Torre out of the equation, and they’re 0-4 in series and 1-12 in games. Had they not twice smacked into the best NL team of the last 35 years, the 2007-present Phillies, maybe it would have been Torre’s Dodgers facing the Strays and Joe Girardi’s Yankees in the World Series.

“As for the whining about ownership uncertainty, tell that to Ron Washington and Nolan Ryan.” How about telling it to Tom Hicks? Because Hicks was the owner with the unsettled situation. Had Ryan’s group not stepped in when it did, Hicks might have had to sell off several Ranger players just to meet payroll, and who’s to say that 8½-game lead they had at the trading deadline would have held? Certainly, they wouldn’t have had Cliff Lee.

Also, the Rangers benefited from the rest of the AL West being weak: The A’s were .500, the Angels 2 games under, and the Mariners lost 101 games (Felix for Cy Young, what a joke). The 2nd-place A’s would’ve been 5th in the AL West, 4th in the NL West, 3rd in the NL East and Central, and tied for 3rd in the AL Central. And even with that, the Rangers still won 90 games. That would have made them 3rd in the AL East (and just 1 game ahead of the Red Sox) and NL East, 2nd in the AL Central and NL Central, and tied for 2nd in the NL West.

Uncle Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uncle Mike said...

Okay, 3 posts. A glitch forced a double-post on me. Sorry about that. Now then:

”As for your notion that ‘just about everybody remembers getting lowballed by a boss,’ how are the Yankees lowballing Jeter by offering him at least 2-3 times what any other team would pay him?” Because they’re offering him less than he’s worth. They’re lucky they’re not negotiating with DiMaggio, who once said he’d go up to Steinbrenner and say, “George, you and I are going to be partners.” Jeter gave the Yankees 5 titles, just like Magic Johnson gave the Lakers, and Jerry Buss made Magic a part-owner upon his retirement. If the Steinbrenners made Jeter the same offer (“We’ll make it up to you in team stock after you retire”), I’d suggest he take it. That’s not what’s happening here.

And if Joel Sherman, a writer for the New York Post, a paper with a reputation for lies and irresponsible journalism, is the best you can do for someone in the media taking management’s side, well, Lisa, you better hope the Longhorns do better than that against the Aggies, or it could be a long Thanksgiving weekend for you.

Lisa Swan said...

"Because they’re offering him less than he’s worth."

He's worth as much as somebody is willing to pay him, and not a penny less. And if Jeter is the magic talisman that single-handedly brought the Yankees five rings, then there should be a ton of teams lined up to woo him, right?

"Jeter gave the Yankees 5 titles, just like Magic Johnson gave the Lakers, and Jerry Buss made Magic a part-owner upon his retirement. If the Steinbrenners made Jeter the same offer (“We’ll make it up to you in team stock after you retire”), I’d suggest he take it. That’s not what’s happening here."

Oh, please. Riddle me this. If Jeter single-handedly "gave" the Yankees five titles, then why the heck wasn't he able to get them a ring from 2001-2008? Was Jesus -- oh, I mean Jeter -- resting for eight years?

Lisa Swan said...

Oh, and the Rangers picked up Cliff Lee *before* Nolan Ryan's group bought the team.

Incidentally, since Joe Torre, the greatest manager of the last-half century, as you call him, is on the market, why aren't any teams beating down his door to have him snooze in their dugouts?

Uncle Mike said...

Not true, Lisa. Ryan's group took over in May, while Lee was obtained on July 9. Also, Torre is not "on the market." He's retired, and every MLB owner (even the dumb ones, not that I'm going to mention names) knows that.

Why didn't Jeter win rings from 2001 to 2008? 2001, Arizona steroids; 2002, bad pitching; 2003, Marlin steroids; 2004-08, it was because something was asleep. Not Joe Torre: A-Rod's bat.

Lisa Swan said...

Um, no. Chuck Greenberg purchased the team in August, not May:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704741904575409782340799128.html

Oh, and if Torre was really, um, "retired," then why did he talk to Mike Francesa about taking over for the Mets job? When Jerry Manuel still held that job? Must be more of that Torre class! ;)