Monday, April 25, 2011

In Defense of Ian O'Connor's Derek Jeter Book

Yes, I'm going there. After many months of criticizing ESPN New York columnist Ian O'Connor for his writing a half-dozen fawning articles about Derek Jeter this winter without disclosing that he was writing a book that promised "unique access" to the Yankee captain, I actually feel compelled to defend O'Connor on a couple of things that I think he's being unfairly criticized for.

First off, there's the curious case of Jeter going up to New York Post writer George King the morning after the Post published a front-page story about the book. That article discussed how The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter revealed how Jeter's dislike of teammate Alex Rodriguez put A-Rod in the Yankee "snubhouse" (The Post's term, not O'Connor's!)

In a followup piece by King entitled "Jeter: It's not my book," Jeter didn't confirm or deny any of the tidbits. But he told King:
"Make sure everyone knows it's not mine," Jeter said. "I had nothing to do with that book."
Well, nobody had suggested that Jeter had actually authored the tome himself. But if he really had "nothing to do with that book," a book that has been promoted of giving "unique access" to Jeter, then why is he quoted talking to O'Connor in the book, according to an ESPN New York article about the tome? And why would Newsday columnist Ken Davidoff, who witnessed the King-Jeter conversation, write that "Jeter was aware [the book] was being written and agreed to be interviewed for it"?

Not to mention the fact that O'Connor did over 200 interviews for the book, many of whom were people in the Jeter camp. Did Jeter have control over everything written in O'Connor's book? Doubtful. But he did agree to be interviewed for it, and many of the people close to him were also interviewed for it. To say that he had "nothing to do with" the book is pretty disingenuous.

The second thing I will defend O'Connor on, albeit in a backhanded way, is the notion that he was somehow out to get Jeter. I've even heard him compared to Selena Roberts. Really? Roberts wrote nasty column after nasty column about A-Rod before writing an entire bile-filled book on him. O'Connor is just the opposite. In a town where burnishing the Jeter legend is par for the course with New York columnists, O'Connor is in a class by himself. Remember these moments, all written without any mention of the upcoming book?

* October 24, 2010:  In an article entitled, "Expect Yankees to splash cash on Jeter," O' Connor said, "I believe a fair deal would be for four years at $23 million per."

* October 28, 2010:  O'Connor writes a bizarre column tying in Joe Girardi's job fortune to Jeter's, saying that Girardi should get a warning with his next contract saying, "Change, or we'll hire someone else to bench The Captain."

*November 21, 2010: O'Connor interviews Jeter's personal trainer Jason Riley for a column. Ian managed to keep a straight face when Riley said "I think it's very realistic" for Jeter to play through 2017, and when Riley said, "The desire to be the greatest can never be turned down by Father Time."

O'Connor also uncritically ran this other Riley comment (basically, most of the article is an infomercial for Jeter and his 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." The piece ends with O'Connor saying, "If the trainer is right, this next contract Jeter signs won't be his last." Oy.

* December 5, 2010: Regarding the Yankees coming to terms with Jeter on a new contract, O'Connor wrote, "The Yankees could have offered Jeter minimum wage, free parking and cab fare to and from the ballpark, and he would have found a way to accept it."

* March 26, 2011:  "For now, Jeter is still Jeter, a future Hall of Famer who just needed some extra face time with the hitting coach, Kevin Long. With the contract done and the footwork adjusted, the smart money says the captain will make something of a comeback this year."

There's also O'Connor writing for the Bergen Record in spring 2009 that the Yankees would be a better team without A-Rod, and that the team should just release him. So it's not like O'Connor is a Team A-Rod writer.

I haven't gotten to read O'Connor's book yet, but I just find it hard to believe that O'Connor did a hatchet job on the captain. Go to Houghton Mifflin's web site and read the book description, and an excerpt from Chapter One, and see what I mean. Heck, the book starts with this line, "Like all good stories about a prince, this one starts in a castle." Does that sound like an author with an agenda to get Jeter? I don't think so. Just because O'Connor has written that Jeter isn't always perfect doesn't make this a smear.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

No comments:

Search This Blog