As Cal Ripken neared the twilight years of his Big League career, he grew to recognize his defensive limitations. A career short stop, in 1996, during his age 35 season, he played a handful of games at third base before moving there permanently the next season. He moved over with the recognition that 23-year-olds are better equipped to handle the demands of short stop than 36-year-olds.

In the Bronx, the Yanks’ short stop will soon undergo similar growing pains. Derek Jeter has played 13 years at short, and during an injury-plagued 2007, it seemed that he had lost a bit from his already slow first step. The rumblings, as we’ve discussed over the last few days, for Jeter to move from short have grown louder over the last few seasons.

Derek, however, will have none of that talk quite yet. As Mark Feinsand from the Daily News reports, Derek wants to stick it out at short:

he plans on playing shortstop through the final three years of his current contract, and on remaining there for however many years he plays beyond 2010.

“That’s the plan,” Jeter said. “I haven’t really thought about how long I’m playing. I take it one year at a time; I don’t sit down and say, ‘Well, I hope I’m playing in two-thousand whatever.’ It’s a tough question, because I haven’t really thought about it much.”

Could Jeter, who has been named to eight American League All-Star teams in his 12 big-league seasons – four as the league’s starting shortstop – ever see himself playing another position?

“Right now?” Jeter said, “No.”

Now, Yankee fans will be up in arms over Jeter’s quotes. “He’s being selfish,” they’ll say. It’s not for the good of the team for him to stick it out at short.

But that’s just silly. No baseball player will ever admit to the media that they’re losing a step or two at their natural position. No one will say that age is catching up to them, that they’re slowing down and that, yeah, they probably shouldn’t be playing short stop. It just doesn’t happen.

Right now, the Yanks need Derek Jeter as short stop. While people can fantasize about A-Rod‘s moving back to short, in reality, he hasn’t played there in 2003, and there’s no guarantee that he would still be a solid short stop.

When the time comes, I believe Derek will take a page from the Cal Ripken book and recognize when it’s time to move from the demands of short. It’s not going to happen yet, but it will.

Categories : Spring Training
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Earlier this week, RAB reader Justin sent me the following e-mail:

My question is …why not add Bonds? Nobody wants him. We could have him for cheap and he would GREATLY improve our offense…I think it would make ours the best in the baseball (I think we’re probably a step behind Detroit). Bonds as a full time DH (so able to handle 600 AB’s without breaking down) and batting in front of Arod in Yankee Stadium is likely to put up a 300 avg 40HR and 500OBP season. He’s still one of the best hitters in baseball and he’s an OBP machine. Yes I know we have Giambi and Matsui but both those guys are inferior to Bonds (especially Giambi). This would also allow us to trade Matsui for prospects…I know Bonds is supposed to be a horrible guy and all but there were many teammates of his who enjoyed playing with him. Plus, bringing him to the Yanks takes the spotlight off Pettitte and Arod (who we really need to just focus on hitting) and all the other nonsense. I would also LOVE for Bonds to take Cano aside and teach him pitch selection. What do you think? I understand its a dangerous PR move but Yankee fans love winners and after about 3 home runs the fans in the bronx will embrace him…

Oh, Barry Bonds. Ever the tempting target. Imagining a player of Bonds’ caliber filling the DH role in the Bronx is enough to make any Yankee fan salivate. The only problem is that Barry Bonds comes with, well, Barry Bonds. He comes with a surly personality. He comes with baggage. And, oh, yeah, he comes with a federal investigation. The Yanks have enough of those right now, thank you very much.

It’s not so hard to believe that Bonds remains unemployed. Jeff Borris, Bonds’ agent, claims that the slugger is in great shape and is just waiting for a team to call. “He was an All-Star last year. His numbers were still off the charts, and for any team committed to winning, there’s no reason they wouldn’t want him on their roster,” Borris said.

Yet, the response to Bonds has been nothing but deafening silence. No one is talking about collusion because no team is going to offer Bonds a deal. Notably, this spring, his former Giants teammates have been rather outspoken about how much of a negative presence Bonds was in the San Francisco clubhouse. And there’s no love lost between Bonds and Giants owner Peter Magowan. “He has the statistics that would indicate he can still play,” Magowan said. “[But] it’s not up to me to get him hired someplace. It’s not my job.”

And then there is, of course, this matter of an ongoing legal battle. With the echo of the explosion from the Mitchell Report still ringing in baseball’s ears, it’s hard to envision a team willfully taking on Barry Bonds.

Finally, Bonds’ health is a question mark. He’ll be 44 in July, and he’s reached the 600-plate appearance plateau just once in the last five seasons and not at all over the last three. To expect him to reach that level, even as a full-time DH, is a gamble.

It sure is hard to ignore an OPS of 1.045 even in 500 at bats. The Yanks don’t really have spare parts that can put up those numbers sitting around. But I think the negatives of a Bonds signing far outweigh the positives, and at this point, Bonds is a gamble that the Yanks — and 29 other teams — are not willing to take.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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  • The Sean Henn hype maching begins
    By

    What is with Yankee managers and Sean Henn? Once again, as PeteAbe tells us, Sean Henn is drawing praise from a Yankee manager. Joe Girardi liked what he saw. Now, Henn in his 57.1 MLB innings has turned in a 7.53 ERA and has given up 73 hits and 11 HR while walking 43 and striking out just 38. At one point last season, Henn gave up 17 earned runs over the span of 6.1 innings. I know he’s out of options, but do we really need to live through another season of the Sean Henn experience? · (15) ·

I know this story is a couple of days old. I was actually sitting around with a couple of my buddies, debating philosophy and politics, when I came across it on Pete’s blog. Yes, I’m referring to Alex Rodriguez‘s clearly exaggerated statement that he was tested nine or 10 times last year for PEDs. Why did we wait? Because if I posted something Wednesday night or Thursday morning, it would have been a cuss-laden diatribe that wouldn’t have resonated well with readers. But now that I’ve had a few days to reflect, I think I can discuss this in a more sober manner.

(Proof of my inability to articulate my position on Thursday morning was a conversation with my father, wherein he dissected everything I said, and was right. But now I think I can put together what I really want to say).

It all started on Wednesday. Alex came into camp and categorically denied ever having used PEDs. That’s all fine and good. It’s something he had to do, given the current environment in Major League Baseball, and especially the one surrounding the Yankees. In his statement, he exaggerated a bit, saying he was tested nine or 10 times last year.

Of course, only players who have failed a test for amphetamines are tested that many times. This roused the parasitic media. But instead of asking Alex, or one of his representatives, if he was exaggerating, they started to call — according to Abraham — “Brian Cashman, MLB, the MLBPA, Scott Boras.”

Why?

Because if they asked Alex, they would have been told what they undoubtedly knew: He was exaggerating. It takes nothing more than common sense to realize this. Even if A-Rod did fail a test for amphetamines, that’s not something he’d offer to the press in any way, expressly or implicitly.

None of this matters to the press, though. They need stories to get readers. And the more sensational the story, the more readers they draw in. It’s a sad but true fact of journalism. However, sensational stories are like Digg. They may bring in a lot of traffic, but it’s not quality traffic. You don’t get many repeat readers out of these sensational stories. You get one-off readers who are inherently drawn to scandal.

So the strategy changes. Because tabloids like the New York Post don’t gain eternal readers for their sensationalist stories, they have to keep a steady stream of them. This way, they’re getting a variety of one-off readers all the time. If they ever stopped with these frivolous stories, the readers who picked up the tabloid for sensational reasons simply wouldn’t pick it up any more.

At least that’s how the theory goes.

This non-story could have been nipped in the bud. It didn’t have to see an inch of column space or a kilobyte of bandwidth. But it did, because the media needs this. They need scandal and controversy. Otherwise, they’ll be exposed as bland, boring figures who rarely have anything interesting to say.

Clearly, this criticism is aimed more at some than others. While I don’t much care for Pete Abraham’s defense of his fellow journalists in this scenario, I generally think he does a great job with the blog. He understands what readers and fans want to see: more information. We tend not to care about the spin that various papers put on stories. We care about getting first-hand information about our favorite team.

Because Abraham understands this, he’s risen to one of the premier baseball bloggers. It’s not just that he has the backing of a fairly large media outlet. Hell, Pete Caldera has the backing of a big media company, too, but I don’t know anyone who reads his blog. This is because Abraham understands the people and serves their will. And he’s rewarded by having the greatest level of readership in the Yankees blogosphere.

You know who doesn’t get it? George King. Other than Mike Lupica, there might be no greater A-Rod hater in the New York media. The subhead of this post explains exactly why he doesn’t get it: “Get ready for 10 more years of Alex Rodriguez finding ways to stir it up.”

Sorry, George, but it is you stirring it up, not A-Rod. You see, humans often exaggerate to make points. Alex was attempting to 1) categorically deny PED use and 2) praise MLB’s testing program. Yes, he might have done better to further exaggerate the number, as Abraham suggests. But it was an exaggeration any way you slice it. Be honest. When you heard that he said he’d been tested nine or 10 times, you thought he was exaggerating, right? Come on. Only people who are out to get the guy thought otherwise.

I’ll say it again. They could have simply asked him or one of his representatives. But they decided to stray from the horse’s mouth. Why? Because the mere act of calling around could become the story. There was clearly nothing to this. You can’t tell me that any journalist actually thought that this was anything but an exaggeration. And if they did, I’d like to sign them up for my new course, How Not To Think Like a Dumbass.

This is par for the course for King, though. When I talk about sensational news piece after sensational news piece, he’s target No. 1 of that criticism. I’ll take a page from Stephen Colbert’s book and invite Mr. King to debate me here on this site. It can be on this issue, or any other one related to the manner in which sports are covered. Of course, it will end up being me arguing common-sense points, and King offering up smoke-and-mirrors defenses.

I think I’ve said my bit on this issue. It shouldn’t have made any sort of headlines. But because the media needs a sensational story, it did. And that’s a damn shame. The players are out on the field doing things, working towards a championship season, and all we can talk about is how Alex Rodriguez exaggerated how many times he was tested for PEDs last season.

Categories : NYC Sports Media
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  • Olney: Jeter a better fit for first than LF
    By

    In his latest blog post, Olney offers up a tidbit on our topic du jour, Derek Jeter:

    Heard this: Derek Jeter spent the offseason working on improving his first step, making it more explosive. He looks strong and maybe this will help his offense, but the greatest practical impact may be on his defense. Jeter, who turns 34 this summer, has reached the stage of his career where he will be evaluated year to year at shortstop, and if he regresses from how he played the position last year, he may well be asked to move, to first base or the outfield. Personally, I think he would be better suited at first base than in the outfield, whenever he makes a move off shortstop, and could become an excellent first baseman.

    Interesting assessment from someone who’s seen Jeter play over the years. · (36) ·

I sense a turning tide of public opinion in Yankee-land. Derek Jeter, the All Star short stop, the long-time heart and soul of the Yankees, seems to be losing the fans. Sure, the ladies still love him, but that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?

It started a few weeks ago with a post on PeteAbe’s blog. In a Spring Training rundown, Abraham presented twenty pressing topics for the Yankees. Ending the list was a question: Is Derek Jeter still Derek Jeter?

With those six simple words, Abraham broke the Derek Jeter barrier. Are Yankee fans, many wondered, now allowed to criticize New York’s golden boy? Can we dump on the Captain? Apparently, the answers to those questions came out as yes.

Over the last few weeks, Yankee fans commenting on various blogs have been more vocal than usual about their skepticism toward Derek Jeter. With Number 2 set to rake in $20 million this year, fans are wondering if, after a supposed down year, Jeter is really worth it anymore. And now, with the whole brouhaha over his fielding — something I’m not touching with a ten-foot pole right now — and his penchant for landing more headlines on Page Six than on the back pages of the sports, Yankee fans are voicing concerns.

Let’s step back from the ledge, though, and look at Derek Jeter. First, the numbers: In 2007, Derek hit .322 with a .388 OPB and a .452 SLG. And those are supposed to be his down-year numbers. What fans are forgetting is that in 2006, Jeter turned in an MVP-caliber season when he hit .343/.417/.483 with 34 stolen bases and 118 runs scored. While his slugging dipped below his career average in 2007, by all accounts, Jeter had another fantastic season.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Ken Rosenthal speculated that Jeter has something of a shot at Pete Rose’s hit record. While that shot is rather miniscule, Jeter, who turns 34 this season, is sitting on 2356 hits. I’d say that he has a very good shot to end his career in the top ten all time hits leaders and possibly even in the top five. That’s not too shabby.

Some people critical of Jeter point to his numbers last year in clutch situations. He was just three for 17 in the ALCS, and those numbers tend to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths over the off-season. With runners in scoring position in 2007, he hit .354/.426/.456. With the bases loaded he hit .500/.538/.583 and drove in 12 runs in 13 plate appearances. Who’s complaining now?

On the other side of the ball are those critical of his Page Six activities. They’d rather see Derek focusing on baseball instead of women. To them, I simply offer up the defense that Derek is human, and he’s only young once. Cut him some slack.

Where I think the criticisms have long been valid however are in talking about his role as the Yankee captain. Derek Jeter is one of the more bland figures to serve as captain, and I don’t think he’s done much of anything to warrant the role. As the anointed leader of the team, he offers up fairly routine material to the media and doesn’t seem too willing to put his neck on the line. On the field, he is a stellar player and the perfect example of hustle, a key trait in teaching young kids to play.

But it seems more and more that this team on the field belongs to the guy who brings more fire to his play: Jorge Posada. It may just be a matter of observation, and it may not matter because Jeter and Posada are close friends both on and off the team. But to me, it seems like the rest of the team takes its cue more from Jorge than from Derek.

In the end, those are simply small beans. Derek Jeter is still without a doubt a prolific offensive short stop and a great Yankee. If fans can’t see that forest for the trees, then maybe they’re simply being too pessimistic about the whole thing.

Categories : Rants
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