Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2003-04-01 07:05
by Alex Belth


The Yankees and Cablevision agreed to a one-year deal minutes before game time last night. For those of you who believe in karma, the Yanks were punished for screwing with their fans for so long, as the Bombers suffered an unexpected and startling injury. The Yanks defeated the host Blue Jays, 8-4. led by Roger Clemens, and Alfonso Soriano, but lost Derek Jeter in the top of the 3rd inning. Jeter dislocated his left-shoulder in a collision with catcher Ken Huckaby. It was the kind of heads-up hustle play that we've come to expect from Jeter:

Jeter sustained the injury on an unusual play in the third inning after drawing a one-out walk. With Jason Giambi, a pull hitter, batting, the Blue Jays shifted their infielders to the right side, leaving third base uncovered.

Giambi bounced softly to the pitcher, Roy Halladay, who threw to first baseman Carlos Delgado for an out. Jeter crossed second and kept running, expecting no fielder to cover third.

The strategy worked for Jeter in a game here last August, but the Blue Jays were prepared this time. Huckaby raced down the third base line as Delgado fired across the infield. Huckaby caught the ball just as Jeter slid headfirst, and the umpire Paul Emmel signaled safe.

But Huckaby could not stop his momentum. After catching the high throw, he careered into Jeter with his knees, his shinguards crashing into Jeter's left shoulder. Jeter's helmet flew off and he instantly grabbed his shoulder. He was knocked off the base and Huckaby tagged him, ending the inning.

Asked if Huckaby's play was dirty, Jeter said: "I don't know, it's tough. He was running full speed trying to get to third base."

Huckaby called Jeter during the game and left a message in the Yankees' clubhouse. He said he intended no harm.

"The pitcher is supposed to cover on a ground ball to the infield, but the ball was hit back to him, so he couldn't get there," Huckaby said. "Derek did that to us last year, where he went from first to third with Giambi up on a ground ball, and I just reacted and took off for third base.

"When I caught the ball, the only way I could stop my momentum was to go down to my knees. I wasn't trying to block the base. I was just trying to go down and stop, so I could put the tag down. I was hoping I'd fall short, but I landed right on top of him."

I saw the play live, and it was immediately clear that Jeter was seriously hurt. It was a clean play by Huckaby, but a violent one all the same, just the kind to bring your blood to a boil if you are a Yankee fan. Especially when the catcher seemed to lay on top of Jeter for an extra second. But as Jeter continued to lay on the ground, the second-year catcher was clearly rattled:

"The longer he laid down the more I felt that (the Yankees) would think it was a cheap shot and I felt horrible for what happened," Huckaby said. "It wasn't a cheap shot at all. It was one of those fluke plays. How many times do you see a catcher covering third base on a throw to third? It never happens. For me, I was in a place where I didn't belong normally in a game."

..."I didn't know where the base was and I was going full speed," Huckaby said. "The only way I could stop was to go down on my knees or else I'd over run the base. I wasn't trying to block the base. And I didn't want to go down like that at all...I'm not looking for anyone to get hurt," he said. "I felt real bad about it. If I could not put his arm there I would."

According to the Post, Jeter is likely to miss 2-4 months:

"There are two options," the former Jets and Islander orthopedic surgeon and the director of the Nicholas Sports Medicine division at Manhattan's Lenox Hill Hospital told The Post last night. "One, you put it in a sling for a short period of time, let it heal and rehab it. That takes a couple of months. The other option is arthroscopic surgery in which you sew the ligaments back to the shoulder. Usually you allow the athlete four months before returning to his activity."

Nicholas said that the shoulder is a ball and socket joint and when it's dislocated the ball is no longer on top of the socket when it slides out of the joint.

"When athletes are involved in injuries you can push [the recovery time] but it's at least six to eight weeks with this," Nicholas said.

All considering, if the Yankees can get Jeter back for the second half of the season, healthy for the stretch run, they should consider themselves fortunate. They could lose him for the entire year. I sent an e-mail to Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus, the injury-guru, and asked him what we can expect. When I hear back from him, I'll post his response asap.

In the meantime, it looks as if Erick Almonte will be called up to play short. Almonte was once a highly regarded prospect. Apparently he can hit, but isn't much of a fielder. Ralph Wiley thinks he's the Yankees secret weapon. I'm not so sure.
Look for Boss George to make a trade sometime soon.

It will be interesting to see how the Yankees recover without their team leader. They have enough fire-power to play well without Jeter, but they will certainly miss him.

David Pinto considered what Joe Torre will do with his line-up before the game was over last night.

Aaron Gleeman was sad to see Jeter go down, however:

I did think it was funny that Karl Ravech (on Baseball Tonight following the game) said, "Our thoughts will be with Derek Jeter tonight." I think that is just a tad over the top. I mean, the guy hurt his shoulder, he didn't get paralyzed or anything. And since when is Jeter the first guy ever to suffer a semi-serious injury? Do you think Karl Ravech would have said the same thing if Nomar had separated his should yesterday against the D-Rays? I doubt it and I think that is why a lot of people aren't the biggest Derek Jeter fans.

Seconds after Ravech said that, Peter Gammons said the following: "A lot of people come up with stats saying how Jeter isn't a great player, but none of that matters, he is one." I have one question...what stat is there that says he isn't a great player? People need to learn that a player can simultaneously be great and overrated at the same time. Or even more importantly, can be great and still have major flaws (for example, defense).

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