My cousin Jonah didn't play or watch baseball as a kid, but he's become a devoted fan over the past seven or eight years, and I like talking baseball with him a lot. As a Mets fan he doesn't pay much attention to the Yankees, but I liked what he had to say about Derek Jeter in an e-mail yesterday:
Recently I've been feeling bad for Jeter. He's gone from being overrated to being dissed by everybody. Maybe he should let Rodriguez play ss but I get the feeling that the first time he makes an error this season everyone's going to say "see? he's no good." Maybe Rodriguez is better equipped to learn and excel at a new position than Jeter is. There is definitely something smirky about Jeter that I dislike but all of a sudden he's an underdog. Probably he'll be his regular self and I can go back to not liking him but this off-season I get the feeling that he's being under-appreciated.
On that note, let me turn to Joel Sherman's column about Jeter in today's Post. Sherman reports that Jeter isn't at all pleased about being slighted since the arrival of Alex Rodriguez:
"Derek has had to defend himself on things other than winning and baseball," [bench coach] Willie Randolph said. "And he doesn't like that."
..."Of all the guys in our clubhouse, I feel best about having him on the team," Randolph said. "He's the biggest winner on the team. Other guys still have to show what they can do. Derek has done it."
This is the clubhouse feel about Jeter. It also makes him symbolic of the intensifying war within the game between quantative [sic] analysts and scouts. Statistically Jeter pales to A-Rod and, using newly devised defensive metrics, he pales to just about every shortstop. But among teammates, Jeter always has been the guy other Yanks want batting with a game on the line, the guy other Yanks want the ball hit to in October. Either you believe that stuff is worth wins or you don't. It is part of the ongoing debate.
Considering that Sherman writes for the Post, he has been remarkably aware of sabermetric analysis. He concludes that an angry Jeter could be a very dangerous Jeter for the rest of the league. As local talk show host Chris "Mad Dog" Russo would say, "Excellent point Shermie, that's an excellent point."