By Tony Mangia
YANKEES "ACT" LIKE WINNERS
Much is being made of a Yankee not being "hit-by-a-pitch" last night against the Tampa Bay Rays. All the fuss about the phantom plunk would be a moot point if it wasn't for the fact that it was between two teams battling for supremacy in the AL East and more importantly that the incident involved Mr. Plays the Game the Right Way and The Captain, Derek Jeter.
Jeter's acting job highlighted the play-off atmosphere down in St. Petersburg and almost won the game for the reeling Yankees and did cause Rays' manager Joel Maddon to get tossed from the game for rightfully arguing the call! It would've been a real point of contention if a two-run homer later in the seventh hadn't won the game for Tampa Bay. Let the instant replay debate begin...again.
Jeter admitted after the game that ball didn't hit him and all the histrionics were caused by "vibration and acting." The ball actually hit the knob of the bat as Jeter spun away from the pitch. "He (the umpire) told me to go to first; I'm not telling him I'm not going to first," said Jeter. "It's part of the game. I've been hit before and they said you weren't hit. It goes both ways."
What Jeter did get hit with is criticism. The player that kids look up to had finally shown a chink in his armor. The high-profile Yankee dates celebrities, plays in the world's biggest media center and had not, up to now, shown any blemishes. This incident showed a blackhead on his character and Jeter Haters have jumped all over it. It's like the day Joe DiMaggio showed fans he had emotions and, after popping up with the winning run on base, kicked up dirt while approaching second base in the 1947 World Series. Everyone found out later that "Mr. Coffee" was just a grouchy old man inside the frame of a young, talented ballplayer.
Jeter might have gone all DeNiro last night after flexing his acting chops in last summer's movie "The Other Guys". Oh...you didn't see the latest Will Ferrell romp? If you've seen "Old School" you've seen them all. Others say the shortstop's batting slump has Jeter so desperate to get on base he would shame himself and his reputation just to see what standing on first base is like again.
I say Jeter took one for the team. The ball brushed his uniform, the umpire saw that and Jeter took his base as instructed. Outfielders get away with scooped-up balls all the time. Nobody turns it into sports talk fodder. Let's all learn from the lesson here. The next time a snotty cashier at the Duane Reade register forgets to swipe your Axe body scrub...don't tell them!