While composing the ALDS preview, two things stood out. FIrst, that Joe Mauer got to 600 plate appearances despite missing almost a month. Second, that Derek Jeter had a positive UZR. He was at 5.3, fifth best among AL shortstops with at least 800 innings. Never before in his career had Jeter been in the black, though he came close in 2008. There are no complaints from the peanut gallery on this issue. We all saw Jeter play markedly improved defense this season.
I do not like Ian O’Connor. No one who disseminates his views about baseball to the masses should ever come close to thinking that the Yankees would better with Cody Ransom over A-Rod. It is, without a doubt, the dumbest thing written about baseball all year, possibly all decade. Worse, his newspaper removed the article from the Internet (but blogs lack accountability). So when I cite his recent column, you know there’s something good within. (With a hat tip to Neyer — I couldn’t find this on my own.)
We know Jeter’s defense has improved, and we know he has worked with a conditioning coach for the past two years so that he can stay at his first and only position for a few more years. O’Connor’s column goes a bit deeper into the role Jason Riley, the trainer. He noticed right away that Jeter was stronger and more flexible in his right hip than his left, “not uncommon for a ballplayer hitting and throwing from the right side.” This caught my eye because it seems so basic. It’s like doing curls with just one arm. It makes me wonder how many ballplayers neglect balance in their training.
A quote from Riley also caught my eye:
“We were re-coaching his first step, over and over. … I think he hated doing these drills at first, because it’s almost like reeducating a little kid. An accomplished athlete is like, ‘I don’t want to do this because it makes me look stupid.’ And then suddenly, Derek was killing those drills.”
That story reminds me of Shaq’s refusal to shoot free throws underhanded. Rick Barry, who made 90 percent of his career free throws, offered to teach Shaq, but the big man declined, saying it would hurt his image. Sometimes doing things better isn’t pretty. It probably wasn’t easy for Derek to stick with these basic drills. Then again, an audience of thousands wasn’t watching him at Athletes Compound.
Like most features on Derek Jeter, O’Connor’s is filled with praise — not only from the writer, but from Riley as well. It seems that anyone who meets Jeter can’t help but like him. It’s about the only depiction of him I’ve ever read.
One more training story, for the road:
“His work ethic is unbelievable. One day we’re doing crossover movements for base-stealing mechanics, and at the end of the workout he was close to getting it right, but not quite.
“I told him to shut it down for the day, but he said, ‘No, I can tell you’re not happy about it.’ We ended up doing another 10 or 15 sprints before I had to stop him for fear he’d injure himself.”
Derek Jeter is the kind of boy every girl dreams of. Good looking, smart, and funny. Yes, that’s
Zack Morris Derek Jeter.