Derek Jeter returns to the Yanks tonight, when they host the World Champs at the Stadium, and though they've played well without him, they haven't been nearly as much fun to watch. Mike Lupica opines:
Jeter is like the owner of the Yankees in this one big way: If he doesn't win it all, he feels as if he lost...Jeter is supposed to be the best winner. It starts with him being a terrible loser.
It's hard to disagree with Lupica, but I don't know of many players who enjoy themselves more than Jeter either. Winning may be the only thing that makes Jeter sleep well at night, and we don't know what kind of loser he really is, because he's never been in a losing situation, but between the lines, the guy is all smiles, all-confidence, all the time. During tense games, I often yell at him on TV, "Dammit Jeter, would you stop having so much fun. This shit is killing my stomach and you're smiling. Throw a bat, smash a water cooler, do something." But Jeter is no Paulie O. His confidence is unflappable, and so is his insistence that competition is supposed to be enjoyed. Looking at Jeter play baseball, it's hard to think there is anything else he'd rather be doing.
"I don't think he thinks about a whole lot other than playing," Joe Torre told the writers in Oakland over the weekend.
He may not be the best player on the team, but he is their biggest star. Lupica continues:
He is not the ballplayer DiMaggio was, or Mickey Mantle, or even Don Mattingly in his prime. There is no rule in the books that the star of the team has to be the best player on the team. It is that way with Jeter. He is the star of these Yankees and comes home tonight, at short.