THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT WORKS
Can’t complain about the Yankees’ exhibition showing against the Rays on Thursday, and can’t get overexcited about it given that the Rays brought not their B or C squad but maybe Squad Q, the squad you turn to when all else has failed and the monsters are at the door, but not any time before that.
I was excited to see Phil Hughes’ cutter again, but the Yankees denied me, having the lad work on his other pitches, and two barely hit batsmen aside the results were just fine. Ditto bullpen-bound Phil Coke, who with Damaso Marte should give the Yankees a rare set of matched lefty long men, rather than the more ubiquitous pair o’ LOOGYs. Joe Girardi should keep in mind that “long man” is not equivalent to “infinite man” — he forgot with Marte a couple of times last season.
On the offensive side, it was a very good day for Jorge Posada, with a double and a home run, and that means it was a good day for the Yankees, as a resurgent Posada could be decisive in this year’s race. Again, let’s not get too worked up about the results of one game of DH-work and a home run against Chad Orvella, who looked so good a few years ago and looks so lost now. On the bad news side, Brett Gardner went 0-for-2, but then so did Melky Cabrera so we’ll say that Gardner is still ahead based on Wednesday’s home run.
On the Rays side, Squad Q did supply one clue as to why the former underdogs have a chance to repeat in the form of starting pitcher Wade Davis, a 23-year-old who reached Triple-A last year, putting up a 2.72 ERA in 53 innings. He throws in the 90s, he has a full complement of pitches, and there is currently nowhere to put him. The Rays have so many pitching options that unless they suffer an ’87 Mets-like staff-wide breakdown, they should be able to patch pretty easily should anything go wrong. You saw Davis whiff Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano on Thursday, and he’s surplus.
A NOTE OF DEREK JETER APPRECIATION
Jeter didn’t do anything special, but seeing him out there, realizing that he’s in the declining days of his career, made me feel a bit like I’ve taken him for granted at times. The cult surrounding Captain Intangibles is so fervid in its hero worship that it provokes the opposite feeling in the realist sector. It has become fashionable to criticize Jeter’s defense, and such criticisms are accurate and entirely fair. Still, the excellence of Jeter’s career should not be missed in the rush to paint a more accurate picture of him, and we should also not fail to acknowledge the sheer miracle of his existence given what the Yankees had at shortstop between 1950, Phil Rizzuto’s MVP season, and 1996, Jeter’s arrival.
With apologies to Tony Kubek, Bucky Dent and even the Scooter himself, the years where shortstop was something the Yankees dragged limply behind them, even when winning, far outnumbered those when they received the kind of all-around contribution that Jeter is capable of providing at his best. I grew up watching the Yankees try Paul Zuvella, Jeff Moronko, Bobby Meacham, and the occasional hotel clerk at short, while at the same time seeing all-time greats like Alan Trammell and Cal Ripken come through and batter the heck out of them whether at the plate or in the field. It seemed like it would never end. If Tony Fernandez hadn’t become injured in 1996, it never would have ended.
As we again debate Jeter’s defensive abilities and remaining offensive capabilities this year, let us remember the good years. And no, this doesn’t mean that the Yankees should sign Jeter to an extension after his current contract is completed. They shouldn’t.
THE AROUND (AND ABOUT)
? Manny Ramirez rejected what seemed like a fair offer from the Dodgers on Thursday. Yesterday I wrote a story about Joe DiMaggio’s 1938 holdout. One thing I came across, but didn’t use in the story, was one of the top Yankees, either owner Jacob Ruppert or general manager Ed Barrow, saying of DiMaggio (I paraphrase), “His demands are just so ridiculous that we don’t really believe he’s holding out, we think he’s just trying to get out of spring training.” That seemed silly when I read it, especially because the Yankees and the Clipper were only $5,000 apart — for whatever reason, the team had decided it wasn’t going to compromise with DiMaggio no matter what, so they were trying to cast the blame on him. With Ramirez, though, I can almost believe it.
? Remember how I complained about Frankie Cervelli leaving Yankees camp to play in the WBC when he really needs the time with the team? The Royals are going to go through the same thing with Mark Teahen, who is heading out even though he’s trying to revive his career by making the transition to second base. That’s just wrong.
? It’s wonderful that the Tigers have a pitcher in camp named Fu-Te Ni. Globalism has its defects, but it’s wonderful to follow the game in the age of universal baseball.
? One more reminder that on Sunday at 2 p.m. I’ll be appearing with Kevin Goldstein, Christina Kahrl, and Cliff Corcoran for a Q&A/signing at the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, New Jersey. Come for the baseball talk, stay in Montclair for the Yogi-ness and the great restaurant scene. That’s my plan.