Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Report: Derek Jeter throws Kevin Long under the bus

I really wasn't going to write again today on the whole Derek Jeter situation, but Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman had some interesting tidbits in his article about the impasse. He thinks the Yanks were very irked by Casey Close's Babe Ruth comparison to his client. But the most fascinating source in the piece was who or what Jeter has effectively blamed for his season -- not his age, but hitting coach Kevin Long!

The Yankees have made clear they believe $45 million is an overpay for a 36-year-old infielder. Jeter, though, has told friends he doesn't believe it's an age issue and that he finally corrected a flaw in his swing with a month to go in the season, a flaw his friends believe might have been corrected sooner had his old friend Don Mattingly still been the hitting coach. 
Oh, please.  If he really corrected that "flaw in his swing" in September, then why did he, known for his great postseasons, hit only .250 in the playoffs -- even worse than his 2010 regular season numbers?

The person this story makes look bad is not Kevin Long, who is passive-aggressively blamed, but Jeter himself. Especially since, according to Keith Olbermann's inside sources with the team, the Yankees were trying for months to get him to change his approach.

Olbermann wrote:
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.
Anyhow, I don't think this "if only I had Donnie Baseball as my hitting coach" excuse is going to fly, not when the Yanks just gave Long a contract extension, and not when players like Curtis Granderson, who worked with Long this August on completely breaking down his swing, ended up hitting 14 homers in the last six weeks of the year, and .357 (best on the team) in the postseason.

Heyman's article had these other tidbits, including why one friend thinks the captain could leave the Yankees:

A friend of Jeter's posed this question: Why not? Why can't Jeter leave? The friend pointed out that most of Jeter's dearest friends and allies are gone from the Yankees. Torre is gone. Mattingly is gone. George Steinbrenner is gone. Bernie Williams is gone. Tino Martinez is gone. The Core Four may still be there, but best friend Jorge Posada has been told he's lost his catching job and the other three remain free agents at the moment (all three, including Jeter, were declined arbitration by the Yankees.)
Don't really understand why Jeter's friends told Heyman that; it's counterproductive for him. When part of Casey Close's sale job is pushing he captain as such an iconic figure and important leader, it's a little strange to hear that he doesn't have many friends and allies in the clubhouse anymore. Besides, is being a Yankee about the history, and the lure of the pinstripes, or hanging out with your buddies? It's a baseball team, not junior high.
I wonder if that's what the upcoming Ian O'Connor book's description of Jeter's "declining influence in the clubhouse" is all about. And if I were the Yankees, I would worry that the book is gonna be settling some scores. Is that going to be his form of payback -- being involved in "The Yankee Years II"? Writing such a book permanently tainted Joe Torre's image of classiness. Is Jeter going to go down the same road? I would think he'd be smarter than that, but I don't know what to think anymore.

What do you think? Tell us about it.


Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

Before reading the post I was thinking something along the "Joe Torre's Gentlemen school doctrine." So there you go, Jeter is as classy as Torre.

Uncle Mike said...

Here's an idea: Get rid of Long, make Jeter the hitting instructor on top of his playing duties, then pay Jeter what you were going to pay both men combined.

It'll be a lot less than Jeter wants, but it'll be fully justified, because Jeter's got almost 3,000 hits and a .314 lifetime batting average, while Long has been nearly useless -- which one has more to teach hitters?

Lisa Swan said...

Generally speaking, having prowess as a hitter or a pitcher has nothing to do with being a great hitting or pitching coach. In fact, it's rare when one of those coaches (or for that matter, a manager) was a great player.

Funny how nobody ever complained about the job Kevin Long was doing -- he just got a three-year contract extension, after all -- until Jeter did through his friends.

By the way, Long is making all of $1.8 million over the next three years -- that wouldn't even cover Jeter's dinner tabs at Tao.

Besides, your suggestion makes no sense -- if Jeter has what it takes to be a great hitting coach, then why couldn't he self-diagnose what he was doing wrong?

Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

Jeter's negotiation team must be the same guys that are negotiating for Europe and the US for Iran and North Korea to stop their nuclear capability.

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