It has often been said---and rightfully so, that Derek Jeter has led a charmed baseball career. Even though Jeter's famous luck ran out on opening day in a collision with Toronto catcher Ken Huckaby, the Yankees future captain must have sprinkled his last batch of gold dust on rookie Erick Almonte, who had a spalshy debut last night, with 2 hits, including a home run in the Yankees 9-7 victory over the Blue Jays.
The game itself was a bloated, tedious affair. The Yankees jumped out to a 9-1 lead, and then watched the Jays slowly chip their way back into the game. No lead is safe these days. Mike Mussina was not sharp, and Jose Contreras was awful in relief. But Chris Hammond came in and recorded a big strike out, before Juan Acevedo closed the door in the 9th and helped the Yankees gain their first sweep of a series on the road to start a season since the World War II.
Todd Ziele started at third base, batted in the 2-hole, and collected 3 hits including a homer in his first at bat. Hideki Matsui narrowly missed his first home run on American soil, and wound up with 2 hits, and an RBI.
Derek Jeter was on the Yankee bench during the game, arm in a sling, smile on his face. Jeter goofed around in his usual sunny manner, which must have come as a welcome sight for Yankee fans. At a time when he should be at his lowest, Jeter put on a good face, and brought his optimism and good cheer to his teammates.
Jeter is scheduled to have an MRI later this afternoon in Tampa. Phil Nevin, the Padres slugger who will miss the entire 2003 season because of a dislocated shoulder offered his empathy to Jeter.
Jeter's disposition may have alleviated any undue pressure Almonte may have put on himself. Almonte is a big kid, and gasp, may even be prettier than Jeter. Lil' Sexy was welcomed by his Yankee teammates, especially by fellow countryman Enrique Wilson, who will share duties at short for the time being with Almonte. Wilson, who looks more like a Dominican Hobbit, took Almonte out to lunch and bought him a pair of shoes earlier in the day, taking care of the rookie just like Manny Ramirez had once looked out for the young Wilson when he came up with the Indians:
"I don't make much money ($700,000 this season), but he makes less," Wilson said, about his Dominican soulmate from Santo Domingo. "We come from a poor city. We stay together. It's the same thing when American players come to our country. It's kind of hard."
..."He did everything as good as you can do it," JoeTorre said. "He doesn't say anything. He's really tough to read, but he certainly had a smile on his face when he hit the home run."
Joel Sherman reported in the Post:
"It doesn't surprise me [about Wilson]," said manager Joe Torre. "It's a real sign of class for Enrique to do what he did today. I'm real happy he did it."
Wilson felt he was just honoring his own heritage. Breaking in with the Indians in 1997-98, Wilson was prevented from reaching into his pocket by Manny Ramirez, who took care of food, clothes and housing, "Because he told me, ˇ®Rookies don't pay.' "
As for Jeter, we should know something by the end of the day, or early tomorrow about his immediate future. Reports around New York have been overly optimistic I think, but then again, I always dwell on the worst-case scenerio.
Travis Nelson, over at Boy of Summer, makes a convincing case for Mike Bordick as a possible replacement at short.
And Jay Jaffe, The Futility Infielder, has an excellent write-up on the entire Jeter story too.