Saturday, September 30, 2006

Some see a little DiMaggio in Jeter

Posted on Tue, Sep. 19, 2006
Some see a little DiMaggio in Jeter
By T.J. Quinn

NEW YORK - Every day the Captain walks into the clubhouse with his grande skim cappuccino from Starbucks, answers questions at his locker, goes off to the training room, takes batting practice, takes the field on a sprint ahead of the rest of the guys, plays baseball without much more emotion than an occasional pumped fist.

There is something in Derek Jeter's routine, the clean lines and the gentle strides, that looks familiar to a couple of old Red Sox.

He was born to pinstripes, never grandstands, never gives voyeurs a glance within. He has the unquestioned respect of a clubhouse where players carry enough MVP and Cy Young awards to fill a wing of a museum, and the same respect from those who play against him.

The old Red Sox players remember someone else like that.

"He's got a little Joe DiMaggio in him," says Bobby Doerr, the 88-year-old Hall of Fame second baseman who came into the game a year after DiMaggio and left at the same time. "You look at a player for what he does, for what he represents. That's the awe we had with Joe D."

Jeter, Doerr says, is worthy of the mantle.

"Right now, I think he might be the best player in baseball. There's nothing he can't do, for God's sake," says the Red Sox' 86-year-old legend-in-residence Johnny Pesky, speaking New England heresy. "He's the epitome of a Yankee."

Red Smith, maybe the greatest of all sportswriters, laid it out in the final column of his career in January 1982, about why he maintained his faith that he wouldn't spend the rest of his days with middling, uninspiring ballplayers: "I told myself not to worry. Some day there would be another Joe DiMaggio."

They were the last words Smith wrote. There hasn't been one since.

Jeter is playing toward what might be his first MVP award this season -- both Doerr and Pesky say he deserves it -- or possibly his first batting title. DiMaggio had three of the former and two of the latter, in a career that lost three years to World War II.

But those who knew DiMaggio and have seen Jeter say the comparison is legitimate.

"They have the same kind of mannerisms," Yogi Berra says. "Joe never walked to the outfield -- he always ran on the field, he always ran off, just like Jeter. (Players) all looked up to Joe. Joe did everything perfect like Jeter does. I knew Jeter as he came along; he's a loner a little bit, he likes to be private. But all the girls go after him. With Joe, it was the same thing."

Frank Torre, Joe's older brother, knew DiMaggio for years and has watched Jeter since he was a rookie shortstop in 1996.

If anything binds Jeter and DiMaggio, it is their sense of occasion.

"Some people perform at a higher level when the chips are down and that's why it's important not to look at stats," Frank Torre says. "But look at (Jeter). One of them plays they still talk about in Oakland. The flip. That's leadership taking over."

Jeter, ever reserved, gives the expected demure response when asked about the comparison.

"I've heard people say it. It's flattering any time you hear something like that. It's kind of unfair to him, though," Jeter says, sitting in front of his locker. "I've only been here a little while."Jeter's season


141 578 197 107 13 93 .341 .416 .386

(Statistics through Sunday; OB-on-base percentage; RISP-average with runners in scoring position)

© 2006 Lexington Herald-Leader and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Jeter's blast is magic trick

Jeter's blast is magic trick
Lowers boom, number to 3

TORONTO - There was laughter in Joe Torre's voice yesterday afternoon but also a bit of an edge. That grain of truth to every joke was obvious when Torre - asked if his players were growing impatient to finally clinch their ninth straight AL East title - quipped that "the manager sure is."

That is what losing three of four games to the Red Sox will do. Although it seems like a foregone conclusion that the Yanks eventually will have their champagne showers, everyone would prefer that it be sooner than later and last night's 7-6 victory over the Blue Jays brought them one step closer.

Not that it was easy. Derek Jeter, whose 25-game hitting streak ended Sunday, began a new one by blasting a two-run homer in the seventh inning for a 4-3 lead and the Yanks tacked on three insurance runs in the ninth, hoping to cruise to victory.

With a sapped bullpen, however, they had to endure Ron Villone giving up two singles and Octavio Dotel serving up a three-run homer to Troy Glaus in the bottom of the inning before Mike Myers got one out and Jose Veras ended it with the tying run on first.

Still, considering that the Yankees got to their hotel here around 4 a.m. yesterday after finishing back-to-back doubleheaders with the Red Sox, then started rookie Darrell Rasner last night and played more than half the game without Johnny Damon after he was ejected in the fourth, they were ecstatic to cut their magic number to three even with the nervous finish.

"Our job's not done yet," Damon said. "We need to win our division and we hope to do it soon."

Jeter's blast came off Jays starter A.J. Burnett, who was brilliant through five frames but faltered in his last two. After Alex Rodriguez pulled the Yanks to within 3-2 with a two-run shot an inning earlier, Burnett gave up a two-out bloop double to Damon's replacement, Aaron Guiel, and then watched Jeter swat a 96 mph fastball over the left-center field fence, turning a one-run deficit into a one-run lead.

It was only the second time since 2002 that Jeter had swung at a 3-0 pitch, according to Stats Inc. - the other was in his last at-bat Sunday - but it came at the perfect time.

"I got the green light - you have to get the OK before you can swing at it," Jeter said. "If you get ahead in the count, you have to be selective with the pitch you swing at. I didn't try to hit a home run, but fortunately, it went out."

The blast was Jeter's 14th of the season and he's now got 95 RBI. Damon's productivity in front of him in the lineup is one reason for Jeter's high RBI total, but yesterday it was Guiel who scored on Jeter's blast since Damon already had been sent for an early shower.

His ejection was abrupt. The affable center fielder was stepping into the on-deck circle after Hideki Matsui was called out on a check swing by home plate umpire Bill Miller, and began complaining that Miller should ask for help from the third base ump.

A crowd microphone picked up Miller saying something about Damon staying out of "my business" and then he gave Damon the thumb. It was the first time Damon was ejected since Aug. 30, 1997, when he was with the Royals and charged the mound after being hit by a pitch.

"The only thing I wanted out of it was for him to get help," Damon said. "I'm not saying I was right, I'm not saying I was wrong but there are four umpires out there for a reason."

As Damon headed back toward the clubhouse, he passed Rasner (3-0), who sat at the end of the bench with a jacket on between innings. The 25-year-old threw 45 pitches in relief on Thursday and was forced into the start by the pair of doubleheaders.

It looked like he might not make it out of the first inning after he loaded the bases with nobody out. But with Torre one hitter away from getting a reliever up, Rasner steeled himself and got two pop-ups and a strikeout to escape.

It was a telling moment, as Rasner pitched with poise and allowed three runs in six gutty innings to earn the victory. Afterward, he described it as "a struggle." One look around the clubhouse showed that most of his teammates felt the same way.

Originally published on September 19, 2006

All contents © 2006 Daily News, L.P.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jeter, Ortiz 'joke around'

Jeter, Ortiz 'joke around'

David Ortiz smiles after Derek Jeter tapped him on the backside during yesterday's action.

Big Papi had the last laugh, with both Derek Jeter and his teammates after the Red Sox took the first game of yesterday's day-night doubleheader, 5-2.
Boston DH David Ortiz had created a firestorm with his jabs at the Yankee captain last week - saying only power hitters such as himself should be awarded the MVP. And Ortiz only fueled the ire of Yankee fans by blowing off the media before Friday night's rainout. Big mistake.

Papi felt the wrath of the Bronx every time he stepped to the plate, with many in the crowd of 55,091 booing him and chanting "Der-ek Jet-er!" during his every at-bat. But Ortiz was unfazed, reaching base five times and finishing 2-for-2 with two doubles and three walks while raising his average to .285. He did not play in the nightcap.

Did the Yankee shortstop hear his name being chanted when Ortiz was at the plate? "You can't not notice it. It makes you feel good," said Jeter, who added that any back-page fodder involving the Boston slugger was "over with."

Jeter, whose average fell to .343 following his 2-for-10 performance in the doubleheader, admitted he did "joke around" with Ortiz after the Boston slugger's doubles in the first and third innings. But he wouldn't comment on whether he had buried the hatchet with Ortiz Friday night.

Trailed by reporters after the nightcap, Ortiz was asked what he thought of the fans' reaction in the opener. After a pause he apparently muttered, "Same ---." He was also asked whether everything has been smoothed over with Jeter, but he didn't answer that, either.

Christian Red and Darren Everson

Originally published on September 17, 2006

All contents © 2006 Daily News, L.P.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Jeter's MVP on all levels

Jeter's MVP on all levels
Huge contributions on and off the field
Sep. 19, 2006. 06:25 AM

Yankee captain Derek Jeter looked bad in his first three at-bats against the Jays in last night's series opener. Then, in the seventh, with a runner on second, he drove a 3-0 A.J. Burnett offering into the centre-field stands for a lead the Yankees never gave back. Performance when it counts.

"I got the green light," Jeter said. "(Burnett) is not fun to face. His stuff is as good as anyone in baseball. If he stays healthy, there's no limit to what he can do."

The blast reduced Jeter's magic number to reach 100 RBIs to five. But, more importantly, the win reduced the Yankees' magic number to clinch the AL East to just three over the idle Red Sox.

"It just gets us closer to where we want to be," Jeter said of the impact of his home run.

The key word is "we." There is no question that, despite what Red Sox' slugger David Ortiz argues, the AL MVP this year should be Jeter.

Sure, the Yankee captain doesn't have the raw offensive numbers to match Big Papi, Justin Morneau or Jermaine Dye, but his contributions to winning go far beyond the numbers.

Jeter sits with a .340 average — 14 homers and 95 RBIs — nice but not monstrous power numbers. Beyond that, he is a calming extension on the field and in the clubhouse in much the same way as his manager Joe Torre.

The classy way Jeter handled last week's Ortiz diatribe against his MVP candidacy was typical Jeter, pointing out that, as a Yankee, team goals are more important and then, on the weekend, interacting with Ortiz on the field at Yankee Stadium like a friend. End of controversy.

There is no jealousy emanating from Jeter with regard to any of his teammates. And if any of the baser emotions are hinted at by the media reporting on the Bombers, issues are quickly defused by Torre and/or his clubhouse equivalent, Jeter.

There is something supremely confident about a Yankee clubhouse. They arrived in the wee, wee hours of Sunday, exhausted after back-to-back doubleheaders against the Red Sox, bloodied from three losses, but unbowed. You wouldn't know it.

"These guys were in a great mood today," Torre said.

"I was thinking about resting guys, but the coaches said no. It's not the message we want to send."

So they all played. You didn't hear excuses. Just do it.

The Yankees have had 14 players on the DL, led by outfielders Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui. Second baseman Robinson Cano missed 40 games. A-Rod has slumped badly at times and Randy Johnson has recorded 17 wins despite a 4.93 ERA.

Yet here they sit, about to clinch the AL East for the 10th time in 11 seasons, with the other result being a wild card and a '97 World Series win.

Not coincidentally, the Yankees' 11-year playoff run corresponds exactly with Jeter's career at shortstop and Torre's as Yankee skipper.

Barring injury, the 32-year-old Jeter, five years after he retires, is headed to the hall of fame. He has a World Series and an All-Star MVP, but never the regular-season hardware. This should be Jeter's time.

His campaign talking points are simple. A normal-looking guy doing normal-looking things — only better. It would be a great response to baseball's distressing steroid scandals.

I was a Yankee hater until the late-'90s World Series. The easiest thing to hate was that they always seemed to be buying their stairway to heaven. The hardest thing was to enter a clubhouse with guys like Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams and Jeter and dislike them. They played the game right and Williams and Jeter are the holdovers.

There are those who still believe that the New York influenced media will win it for Jeter. In fact, the opposite is true. Since Don Mattingly captured AL MVP in 1985, A-Rod in '05 is the only other Yankee MVP.

Voters may resent the Yankees believing they buy greatness, but just remember that Jeter is homegrown.

Besides, my daughter Kelly in her room at university has four pictures of Jeter and only one of me. If I'm going to be trumped, let it be by an AL MVP.

Legal Notice: Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

When Yankees needed him most, Jeter delivered MVP year

When Yankees needed him most, Jeter delivered MVP year
Updated 9/20/2006 12:20 PM ET

Outside of New York, Derek Jeter is often viewed through a cynic's lens. He plays the biggest position on the biggest team in the biggest market, and so people wonder if he is something of a media fable, the Notre Dame of major league shortstops.

The power numbers don't help, because fans want a mind-blowing sum of homers and RBI, even if their sluggers have stopped frequenting the friendly neighborhood chemist. No, Jeter doesn't give you the long ball. He's an intangible figure in a tangible world.

That makes it easier to embrace the skepticism, to vote with the players who rush to declare the Yankees captain overrated in their anonymous polls. Even after watching Jeter win four World Series titles in his first five seasons, I was swayed by popular outsider thought.

I thought he should move to third base so Alex Rodriguez could play shortstop, and I was as wrong then as those who dismiss Jeter's MVP candidacy are now. Jeter is about to lead his team to its ninth consecutive division title, but this isn't about handing out a sentimental Oscar to a star who's never won for best actor.

This is about putting the value back in valuable, and rewarding a player for preventing his team from falling apart.

There's no point in advancing Jeter's cause by diminishing the performances of Jermaine Dye, Justin Morneau, Johan Santana and David Ortiz, who deserve no such diminishing. Ortiz got jobbed last year, when he deserved the American League award over A-Rod, but this year's Red Sox came undone when it mattered most. And in the wild-card era, if your team isn't at least hot and heavy in the playoff race during September's final hours, you shouldn't be named MVP.

Dye, Morneau and Santana are worthy choices; Jeter just happens to be worthier, as this was the year for the Yankees to finally miss the postseason for the first time since the canceled World Series of '94.

They'd lost Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield for the long term, and Robinson Cano went down, too. The A-Rod soap opera was threatening to take down the team, and the Red Sox were threatening to take off with the division.

Through it all, Jeter kept his head down. Kept hitting. Kept running out ground balls. Kept being Derek Jeter.

He's fighting Joe Mauer for a batting title, but victory or defeat there won't define Jeter's season — one at-bat on Aug. 18th will. After the Yanks won the first game of a day-night doubleheader and five-game series in Boston to take a 2½-game lead, the Red Sox were on the verge of knocking it right back to 1½.

They were up 10-8 in the seventh, Mike Timlin pitching to Jeter with the bases loaded and two out. Timlin had owned Jeter, beating him 17 times in 20 attempts. To punctuate this eight-pitch duel, Jeter hit a three-run double, and Boston was never again the same.

Two nights later, after Jonathan Papelbon struck out Bernie Williams and Johnny Damon in the ninth, Jeter blooped home the tying run and, ultimately, allowed for the five-game sweep. A week later, with the Yanks having lost four of five on the West Coast, Jeter personally pulled his team from the brink of another humiliating loss in its house of postseason horrors.

The Angels had won the first two games of the weekend, and people were wondering if the Yanks would ever beat them. They were being Chone Figgins-ed to death, as usual. A-Rod was in the midst of a 1-for-15 series with 10 strikeouts, this in the same building where his playoff misadventures inspired him to confess he'd "played like a dog."

Jeter only smacked two homers, including a two-run tone-setter in the first inning, and made one of his ridiculous, high-hopping throws from the hole to get — you guessed it — Chone Figgins.

These are the snapshots that color the portrait of Derek Jeter. He's best known for his postseason performances, for that option pitch to the plate against the A's, that first-pitch Game 4 homer in the 2000 Subway Series, and that Mr. November homer in the 2001 Series vs. the Diamondbacks.

But this regular season brought out the best in him. Jeter delivered the runs, the hits, the steals, the batting average and the on-base percentage at a time when the Yankees needed all of the above.

He's not the most talented player in the AL. Or the strongest. Or the fastest. Or the most quotable.

Jeter's just the most valuable, and there's nothing for New York myth-makers to exaggerate about that.

Ian O'Connor also writes for The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News

Posted 9/18/2006 10:53 PM ET
Updated 9/20/2006 12:20 PM ET

Copyright 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Boston’s Consolation Prize Is End of Jeter’s Streak

September 18, 2006
Red Sox 6, Yankees 3 Red Sox 5, Yankees 4
Boston’s Consolation Prize Is End of Jeter’s Streak

The Boston Red Sox never recovered from a five-game sweep by the Yankees at Fenway Park in August. The Yankees’ lead was too wide, and the Red Sox’ luck was too bad. But if this is the month for moral victories, the Red Sox scored one at Yankee Stadium this weekend.

The Yankees could have eliminated Boston from the playoff race by winning three of four games over the last two days. Instead, it was the Red Sox who took three of four, including both games yesterday.

In the process, they put an end to Derek Jeter’s 25-game hitting streak, the longest by a Yankee in 64 years. In his fourth and final at-bat last night, Jeter swung at a 3-0 pitch for the first time since 2002, grounding out to first in the seventh inning to finish 0 for 4.

The Red Sox scored twice with Mike Myers pitching to tie the score in the top of the eighth last night. In the bottom of the inning, Coco Crisp stretched his glove over the center-field wall to pull back a two-run homer by Jorge Posada.

Mark Loretta’s sacrifice fly off Kyle Farnsworth put the Red Sox ahead to stay in the ninth, and they held on for a 5-4 victory. The Red Sox won the opener, 6-3, and avoided the indignity of watching the Yankees celebrate by beating them.

“We have work to do,” Manager Joe Torre said. “We still have to win a couple of ballgames and get this thing settled. But this isn’t going to linger.”

Jeter was on deck when Mike Timlin, who saved both games, retired Melky Cabrera on a fly ball to left to end the doubleheader with a runner on first.

With one out and a runner on second in the seventh, Jeter took three balls from reliever Craig Hansen. According to Stats, Inc., Jeter had taken 3-0 pitches 118 times in a row from the start of the 2003 season until last night.

This time, Jeter swung and grounded out to first base. In his other at-bats, he grounded to the pitcher, flied to right and reached on an obvious throwing error by shortstop Dustin Pedroia.

Jeter’s hitting streak was the Yankees’ longest since Joe Gordon hit safely in 29 consecutive games in 1942. Torre said he told Jeter to swing on 3-0 but was not trying to preserve the streak.

“I wanted him to swing on 3-0 because I trust him as much as anybody with runners in scoring position,” Torre said. “It had nothing to do with the hitting streak, either. It’s a matter of knocking in a run. He’s had the ‘hit’ on 3-0 before, but he didn’t have pitches to swing at.”

Jeter said Torre had given him the green light against Hansen on Saturday. “If he wants you to swing, he’ll let you swing 3-0,” Jeter said of Torre.

The Yankees now head to Toronto for a three-game series starting tonight. Any combination of three Yankees victories and Blue Jays losses will eliminate Toronto. Any combination of four Yankees victories and Red Sox losses will eliminate Boston.

Despite the losses, the Yankees upheld a tradition of rookie hazing. As they dressed for the flight to Canada, the rookies slipped into costumes mimicking the principal owner George Steinbrenner: blue blazer, white turtleneck, gray wig, dark sunglasses.

“All I want to know is, where’s my golf cart to the bus?” reliever T. J. Beam said.

Cabrera, the left fielder, was another costumed rookie. He was the only Yankee to start all four games of the doubleheaders, and he is in an awkward spot as the playoffs approach. Torre has said Hideki Matsui will return to left field during the final homestand, and Gary Sheffield is expected to play on the road this week.

Where does that leave Cabrera? Or, for that matter, the veteran Bernie Williams, baseball’s career postseason leader in runs, homers and runs batted in?

“We don’t have any egos here,” Johnny Damon said. “Hopefully, everybody gets hot at the same time and gives Joe a tough decision. But we’ll find a way. Melky will definitely play. Bernie will definitely be playing. It’s a great situation Joe’s in.”

Cabrera made a lunging, snow-cone catch of a blooper by Eric Hinske in the first game, and Damon praised his arm and range. Matsui is an earnest defender, but Cabrera is more skilled. Torre seems inclined to use him at least as a defensive replacement in October.

“Melky will be valuable, whether it’s going out there to pick Matsui up or whether he plays and we do something else with Matsui,” Torre said. “We’ve got to see how much Sheffield is going to be involved in the whole thing.”

Torre said Cabrera had given the Yankees far more than they expected, adding, “If he doesn’t start in the playoffs, it’s certainly not a failure in any way.”

Another issue for the Yankees is the status of reliever Ron Villone, who allowed four runs in the seventh inning to lose the first game.

Torre leaned heavily on Villone around midseason, but backed off this month after Villone’s performance suffered. Villone had pitched only once in 11 days before Saturday, and he said he is physically fine.

“I already had my rest,” Villone said. “I’m feeling pretty strong now. The results aren’t there, but I’ve got to keep chugging away.”

Villone (3-3) has been scored on in 11 of his last 12 outings. He has a 15.53 earned run average in that span, with 17 walks in 13 1/3 innings. Outwardly, at least, Torre was not concerned.

“We’ll get him back,” Torre said. “We’ve got time to get him back.”

The Yankees’ problems — finding roles for Cabrera and Williams, and getting Villone on track — hardly compare to the questions the Red Sox must ponder this winter. After reaching the playoffs for three memorable seasons, the Red Sox must regroup.

Kevin Youkilis, a bit player on the 2004 champions and a major contributor now, took no satisfaction in delaying the Yankees’ celebration.

“There is no glory here — they are still in the driver’s seat to win it and it doesn’t make us happy at all,” Youkilis said. “Our goal this year was to win the division, and we didn’t accomplish that.”

Michael S. Schmidt and David Pickercontributed reporting.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jeter to Ortiz: Yanks have 'something to play for'

Updated: Sep. 12, 2006, 6:42 PM ET
Jeter to Ortiz: Yanks have 'something to play for' news services

Success is apparently its own reward for New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

When asked about Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz's grousing about his chances to be the American League MVP, Jeter noted the Yankees still have "something to play for."

In comments published Monday, Ortiz said the Red Sox's free-fall from the AL playoff race should not affect his MVP candidacy with voters, and compared his own performance to Jeter, whose MVP stock rose as the Yankees took command of the AL East. New York led Boston by 10½ games on Tuesday.

"Don't get me wrong -- he's a great player, having a great season, but he's got a lot of guys in that lineup," Ortiz said of Jeter. "Top to bottom, you've got a guy who can hurt you. Come hit in this lineup, see how good you can be."

To that, Jeter replied "I don't have to do it in his lineup."

"I'm not thinking about the MVP right now," he told reporters Monday. "We're thinking about winning a division. We've still got something to play for."

He then added, "No one here's focused on individual awards."

Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon said Ortiz's comments didn't sound like the Big Papi he played with for three seasons in Boston.

"It doesn't sound like Ortiz," Damon told reporters. "I can't believe he would say something like that."

Damon said he thought Ortiz was a "shoo-in" for MVP last season, but lost out to Alex Rodriguez last year because being a DH hurt him with the voters.

Copyright ©2006 ESPN Internet Ventures.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ortiz not villain for comments on Jeter

09/16/2006 6:31 PM ET
Ortiz not villain for comments on Jeter
Papi's statement ill-advised, not controversial or offensive

NEW YORK -- More than anything else, the David Ortiz/Derek Jeter "controversy" must have been the result of a slow news day in the American League East.

What did Ortiz actually say about Jeter that was so offensive? Ortiz said that sluggers, or at the very least, hitters with big RBI totals, typically win the Most Valuable Player Award over players such as Jeter.

There is a chance that if Ortiz is not playing for the Boston Red Sox and Jeter is not playing for the New York Yankees, these comments would come and go without measurable controversy. But with the Red Sox and the Yankees about to play once again when the story broke, these comments were predictably interpreted in some portions of the New York media as inflammatory, insulting, degrading, demeaning, etc.

That was all in the eye of the beholder. In the context of this rivalry, hype is always within arm's reach. But objectively, what David Ortiz said about the award was true.

Over the last 10 years, in the two leagues, only one MVP winner was not a slugger, or at the very least a player with major RBI totals. That was Ichiro Suzuki in 2001, the year in which he burst unto the American baseball scene with a display of his marvelous all-around ability. He was a justifiable winner, but he was alone in being a non-slugger MVP over the last decade. From Ken Griffey Jr. to Alex Rodriguez, from Barry Bonds to Albert Pujols, every other MVP winner was a big bopper.

We can argue about whether the voters, the baseball writers, are correct in their approach. We can argue that intangibles, rather than statistics, should receive more consideration in the process. But argument or not, the statistical nature of the MVP winners has become somewhat predictable.

If you voted for a 10-year American League MVP over this same period, you could make a clear and compelling case for Derek Jeter being that man. His level of play, his leadership, his example have made him not only the captain, but the current focal point of this franchise, the indispensable Yankee.

But raw numbers probably never can do justice to Derek Jeter's actual value. Even in his best seasons, there was always somebody whose statistics were more of the eye-popping nature, and that somebody was the eventual MVP winner.

Maybe this will be Derek Jeter's year. His play helped hold his team together when it was struck by injuries to key players. He is in the hunt to win a batting championship. In any case, the MVP race is probably not going to come down to what David Ortiz said about Derek Jeter.

The mistake Ortiz made here was saying anything about one of the other viable MVP candidates. That can be construed as campaigning, and that never plays well with the voters. If you're asked a question about the other candidates in an MVP race, the only winning answer is something along the lines of "I'm thrilled just to be mentioned in the same breath as these great players."

Ortiz did later clarify his remarks about Jeter, saying, "Come on, dude. That guy is one of my favorite players. You never talk [negatively] about Derek Jeter, bro. It's wrong. That guy plays his [rear end] off."

To his credit, Yankees manager Joe Torre attempted to diminish the controversy, two days in a row.

"I think that was blown out of proportion," Torre said on Saturday. "The David Ortiz I know is a guy who is respectful of not only his teammates but his opponents. Sometimes people say something and they mean something else. I'm not saying that's the case here, but I wouldn't overdo what has been written."

Torre said much the same thing on Saturday, suggesting that Ortiz should be judged on who he has been in general during his career, rather than on the basis of an isolated statement.

The stature of Derek Jeter among Yankees fans is such that any hint of criticism in his direction will infuriate a portion of the population. That is understandable, but in this case, what David Ortiz said was not fundamentally critical. It simply called forth a fact that was unfriendly to Jeter's chances of winning the 2006 American League MVP.

David Ortiz would have been better off saying nothing about Derek Jeter's MVP candidacy. But you've got to go a long way to make Ortiz into the ultimate villain for making these remarks. Some people were able to make this journey, which probably indicates that, in the absence of a red-hot AL East race, actual baseball news on the New York/Boston rivalry front was in short supply.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Friday, September 15, 2006


September 12, 2006 -- Yankees 9 Orioles 6

BALTIMORE - Derek Jeter's answer to David Ortiz' suggestion that Jeter wouldn't be as good a hitter or an MVP winner in the Red Sox lineup sounded like a Jeter single through the middle - crisp.
"I don't have to do it in his lineup," a smiling Jeter said before the Yankees rallied with a six-run seventh inning to beat the hapless Orioles, 9-6, at Camden Yards last night.

The victory lowered the Yankees' magic number over the idle Red Sox to 10 and hiked their AL East lead to a season-high 101/2 games. It also left them one game ahead of the Tigers (86-58) for the AL's best record.

Randy Johnson posted the win despite supplying six mediocre innings. He is 17-10, matching last year's win total. "I got away with one," Johnson said. "And I am grateful."

Also, Joe Torre passed Miller Huggins for third place on the all-time Yankee wins list with 1,068.

Ortiz on Sunday said Jeter's MVP candidacy is helped by the Yankee hitters surrounding Jeter. "Don't get me wrong, he's a great player but he's got a lot of guys in that lineup," the Boston DH said. "Top to bottom, you've got a guy who can hurt you. Come hit in this lineup, see how good you can be."

Ortiz believes he should win the award based on his production numbers this year, even though the Red Sox won't qualify for the postseason.

"If I get 50 home runs and 10 more RBIs [which would give him 137], that's going to be a number no one else in the American League will have," Ortiz said. "But they'll vote for a position player, use that as an excuse.

"They're talking about [Derek] Jeter a lot, right? He's done a great job, but Jeter is not a 40-homer hitter or an RBI guy. It doesn't matter how much you've done for your ballclub, the bottom line is, the guy who hits 40 home runs and knocks in 100, that's the guy you know helped your team win games."

Jeter steered the topic away from the MVP argument. "I am not thinking about the MVP," said Jeter, who extended his career-high best hitting streak to 21 games and is hitting .346, second to Joe Mauer's .350 in the AL batting race.

"We are trying to win the [AL East]. No one cares about individual awards."

For the Yankees, the big blow last night was Robinson Cano's three-run double in the seventh that left fielder Fernando Tatis fell down going back on. After missing two games with a stomach flu, Alex Rodriguez went 3-for-5 and hit his 32nd homer.

Ortiz' comments surprised former teammate Johnny Damon. "That doesn't sound like Ortiz," he said.

While Jeter doesn't have Ortiz' homers (13 to 48), he is not hitting a soft .346. He has scored 99 runs and driven in 91. His .396 batting average with runners in scoring position leads the league. Plus, Jeter contributes with his defense; something Ortiz can't.

"You got to see Derek do the job," Damon said. "He gets clutch hits and plays Gold Glove shortstop. I am going to choose my teammate."

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cano sparks rally, Jeter extends streak in Yankees' win

Cano sparks rally, Jeter extends streak in Yankees' win
- September 11, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Career win No. 280 for Randy Johnson wasn't one of those gems that serves as a testament to his greatness. Rather, it was a victory that speaks volumes about the perseverance of the New York Yankees and the inability of Fernando Tatis to play left field.

Robinson Cano doubled in three runs with a seventh-inning line drive over a stumbling Tatis, giving the Yankees the lead for good Monday night in a 9-6 comeback victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Derek Jeter went 2-for-5 to extend his career-best hitting streak to 21 games and help the Yankees stretch their lead in the AL East over Boston to a season-high 10½ games. New York, which won three of four from the Orioles, lowered its magic number to 10 for its ninth straight division title and moved 30 games over .500 (86-56) for the first time since 2004.

Johnson (17-10) won his third straight start, allowing five runs and nine hits in six innings. When he walked off the mound for the last time, New York trailed 5-2.

But the Yankees sent 10 men to the plate in a six-run seventh, the key blow a liner by Cano that probably should been caught.

After a sacrifice fly by Bobby Abreu and an RBI single by Alex Rodriguez brought New York to 5-4, Baltimore rookie James Hoey (0-1) loaded the bases when he hit Jorge Posada with a pitch. That brought up Cano, who hit a rising liner to left at Tatis, an infielder by trade.

Tatis turned one way and then another before falling in a heap as the ball soared over his glove. Bernie Williams followed with an RBI single for an 8-5 lead.

That made a winner out of Johnson, who is 6-1 in his last seven starts.

"It's not the way I drew it up, but along the way there have been games like this where you've won, and then there have been some real good pitched games that you've lost, so they say everything evens out," he said. "It was just a game where I realize, from an individual standpoint, I'm very fortunate the offense picked me up."

Hoey gave up six runs and four hits, walking one and hitting two batters in 2/3 innings.

"The hardest ball hit off him should have been caught," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo lamented. "If [Tatis] makes that play, we're out of the inning. That pretty much told the story."

With his 1,068th win with the Yankees, New York manager Joe Torre moved past Miller Huggins for third place on team's all-time list, trailing only Joe McCarthy (1,460) and Casey Stengel (1,149).

"Anytime you're in the company of Stengel and McCarthy and Huggins it's pretty special territory," Torre said. "When you think of Babe Ruth, you always think of Miller Huggins, so that's a pretty good era to be compared to."

New York's comeback ruined a fine performance by Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez, who pitched six gritty innings as an emergency replacement for Kris Benson, who was scratched with strep throat.

Lopez, who pitched two innings of relief on Saturday, gave up two runs and five hits in six innings, striking out five and walking three.

"He did plenty good enough," Perlozzo said. "He did his job better than we thought he was going to."

Ramon Hernandez hit his 19th homer for the Orioles, the third in two games, to make it 8-6 in the eighth. But Baltimore, which got a season-high three hits from Chris Gomez, could get no closer.

After Rodriguez hit his 32nd homer off Chris Ray in the ninth, Kyle Farnsworth got three outs for his fourth save.

The loss dropped the Orioles a season-high 19 games under .500 (62-81) and assured them a ninth straight season without a winning record.

Baltimore took a 4-2 lead with a three-run fifth. Gomez singled and David Newhan was hit by a pitch, and both advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Brian Roberts. Melvin Mora followed with a two-run single, Nick Markakis singled and Miguel Tejada capped the uprising with a sacrifice fly.

Doubles by Kevin Millar and Gomez made it 5-2 in the sixth, but the lead wouldn't last.

The Yankees wasted successive singles by Johnny Damon and Jeter in the first inning and then took a 2-0 lead in the second on an RBI single by Melky Cabrera and a run-scoring grounder by Damon.

Baltimore got a run back in the third when Tatis hit a triple and scored when the relay throw from Cano at second base skipped past third and into foul territory.

Game notes
Bill Spade, a New York firefighter who performed a rescue operation at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... The scoreboard at Camden Yards listed Rodriguez as a shortstop during his first at-bat. He moved to third base in 2004. ... Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui, who has been on the DL since May 12 with a fractured left wrist, will be activated Tuesday and may start at DH against Tampa Bay, Torre said.

Copyright ©2006 ESPN Internet Ventures.

Winningest Yankees managers
W - L Pct.
Joe McCarthy 1,460-867 .627
Casey Stengel 1,149-696 .623
Joe Torre 1,068-690 .608
Miller Huggins 1,067-719 .597
Ralph Houk 944-806 .539

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Notes: Jeter focused on team, not MVP

09/11/2006 8:02 PM ET
Notes: Jeter focused on team, not MVP
Rivera's program pushed back; Matsui to return Tuesday
By Michael Gluskin /

BALTIMORE -- Derek Jeter is having one of the best seasons of his career, and with the Yankees owning the American League's second-best record and likely headed to the playoffs, Jeter is a strong candidate to win the AL Most Valuable Player Award.
Talk of whether Jeter is a worthy candidate or not surfaced before Monday's game, a day after Red Sox slugger David Ortiz indicated that he would be a better choice than Jeter, even though Boston will probably not advance into the postseason.

"If I get 50 home runs and 10 more RBIs [for a total of 137], that's going to be a round number that no one else in the American League will have," Ortiz told reporters after Sunday's win over the Royals. "They're talking about Jeter a lot, right? He's done a great job, he's having a great season, but Jeter is not a 40-homer hitter or an RBI guy."

"Don't get me wrong -- he's a great player, having a great season, but he's got a lot of guys in that lineup," Ortiz said. "Top to bottom, you've got a guy who can hurt you. Come hit in this lineup, see how good you can be."

Jeter, who extended his career high hitting streak to 21 games in the first inning Monday, responded to Ortiz's comments prior to the game.

"I don't have to do it in his lineup," Jeter said. "I'm not thinking about winning the MVP. I'm just thinking about winning the division. No one's focus here is on individual awards. We've got something to play for."

Johnny Damon, who played with Ortiz for the past three seasons in Boston, said Ortiz's comments didn't sound like something the Red Sox designated hitter would normally say. This year, Damon has seen Jeter on an everyday basis.

"He's gotten clutch hit after clutch hit," Damon said. "I'm going to choose my teammate, bottom line. I see the value Derek brings."

Jeter's .345 batting average ranked second in the American League before Monday's game behind Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer (.350), and Jeter leads the league in batting with runners in scoring position with a .391 mark. The Yankees' captain has also driven in more than 90 runs for the first time since 1999, and his 29 stolen bases are three shy of a career high.

Manager Joe Torre said he believes Jeter when he says that he's not thinking about winning the MVP Award.

"I think he just thinks about what works for him. The way he plays the game is, you know, put the game above anything else," Torre said. "In a lot of ways, that takes pressure off you because it keeps you from worrying about an 0-for-3, and it keeps you from being content with a 3-for-3."

Rivera update: Closer Mariano Rivera's throwing program was pushed back one day, meaning he will not throw again until Wednesday. Rivera, who hasn't pitched this month, extended himself while throwing before Sunday's game, and said the team is just being cautious with him.

Both Rivera and Torre said the All-Star closer is feeling good, and Rivera might throw off the mound for the first time this weekend, possibly Friday or Saturday. In past seasons when the Yankees made the playoffs, Torre liked to use his closer for more than one inning, and Torre said he would like to do that again this season if the team is in the postseason, provided Rivera's healthy.

"I'll let how he feels dictate how I use him," Torre said.

Help on the way: Outfielder Hideki Matsui will rejoin the Yankees on Tuesday, after missing 110 games with a fractured left wrist. Matsui played in four rehab games with Double-A Trenton during the past week, going 3-for-11 with one double and one RBI.

Torre said he that Matsui will start out as the DH, and will either play Tuesday or Wednesday. Before the injury, Matsui batted .261 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 32 games.

"It's always a good problem when you have more ability than you had yesterday," said Torre about added Matsui to an already-potent lineup.

The Yankees will also have Miguel Cairo available for Tuesday's game. Cairo, who has missed more than 30 games with a strained left hamstring, fielded ground balls and ran during batting practice Monday and was later activated.

Health beat: Jason Giambi has missed the last three games with left wrist inflammation, but is expected to play either Tuesday or Wednesday.

"It feels good. I'm definitely looking to play Tuesday," Giambi said. "Even when I move it, it feels good."

Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup Monday after missing the last two games due to illness.

Quoteable: "You don't want to be reminded, but you certainly need to remember what happened in New York." -- Torre on the five-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks

Coming up: The Yankees begin a seven-game homestand on Tuesday, when they host the Devil Rays at 7:05 p.m. ET. Mike Mussina will pitch on six days' rest against Tim Corcoran.

Michael Gluskin is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

© 2001-2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

The following are trademarks or service marks of Major League Baseball entities and may be used only with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. or the relevant Major League Baseball entity: Major League, Major League Baseball, MLB, the silhouetted batter logo, World Series, National League, American League, Division Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Game, and the names, nicknames, logos, uniform designs, color combinations, and slogans designating the Major League Baseball clubs and entities, and their respective mascots, events and exhibitions.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Yanks learned their importance on 9/11

09/07/2006 5:18 PM ET
Yanks learned their importance on 9/11
Players found solace in their ability to provide joy, distraction
By Mark Feinsand /

NEW YORK -- When the Yankees took the field in Chicago on Sept. 18, 2001, Bernie Williams couldn't understand why he was about to play a baseball game.

Only one week had passed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks brought down the Twin Towers, and with New York City still in the midst of its anguish and mourning in the aftermath of the horrific events, playing the White Sox just didn't feel right.

Until he took the field.

"When we started playing, I didn't see the sense of it," Williams said. "We were playing games and resuming our season, and it seemed ridiculous to me.

"It started making sense when I saw the faces of people who had lost loved ones, people who needed something to take them away for a few minutes and see something else," he added. "We helped bring some sense of normalcy to the whole thing."

Of course, normalcy would never be defined quite the same again.

On Monday, Sept. 10, the Yankees and Red Sox had their game at Yankee Stadium rained out. New York held a 13-game lead over Boston in the American League East, so there wasn't much drama to the series. When both teams woke up on Tuesday, the pennant race seemed like a distant memory.

"It was like I was watching a movie or some primetime drama, but it was 9:00 in the morning," Mike Mussina said. "I just stayed at the house for about three days. No one had any idea how long we would be out; the airline industry was shut down, the city was shut down. It was a strange week."

"It was so surreal," Williams said. "It seemed like it couldn't be happening; it was like a bad dream. Unfortunately, it was real. I was home, and by the time I turned the TV on, the first tower was already hit. When the plane hit the second one, I thought I was watching a replay. People were debating whether it was an accident, but once the second one was hit, we knew we were being attacked."

Derek Jeter remembers waking up between 10 and 11 a.m. -- well over an hour after the Twin Towers had been hit -- and hearing a message from his teammate and close friend, Jorge Posada.

"It was kind of eerie," Jeter said. "I had a message from Jorge asking if our game had been canceled. I had no idea why he was asking that until I turned on the TV. Then I couldn't turn it off after that."

By the time Jeter turned his television on, the World Trade Center had been reduced to a smoking pile of ash and debris. Later in the day, Jeter made his way out of his Upper East Side apartment to get some food, and he couldn't believe what he saw.

"It felt like I was on a movie set," he said. "There were no cars on the streets of Manhattan. It was weird."

Baseball postponed its entire schedule following the attacks, as the Yankees gathered in the Bronx for a workout on Saturday, just five days after the attacks.

"Hopefully we can get back to baseball, but I don't think things will be normal for a long time -- if ever again," Torre said that day. "The strangeness of coming together after not seeing each other, it was like we were complete strangers, though we weren't. We were in a baseball clubhouse and I don't think we talked about baseball at all."

After the workout, Torre, Williams, Jeter and other members of the Yankees visited the rescue staging area at the Javits Center, the Armory and St. Vincent's Hospital, though they were unsure of the roles they were supposed to play. Most of the people they were set to encounter had either lost loved ones or were holding out hope that their family members would emerge from the disaster from five days earlier.

"At the Armory, I felt very uncomfortable, like we needed someone to go in and test the waters to see if we had any right being there," Torre said. "One family looked up at us, and with their eyes, asked us to come closer. I remember Bernie going up to someone and saying, 'I don't know what to say, but you look like you need a hug.' That was probably the most emotional part of the whole thing."

"My role in the world seemed very insignificant; I hit a ball for a living," Williams said. "There are people out there who have great jobs that impact people in a way I could never imagine, and it took this incident to realize what kind of impact I actually did have, just by playing for the Yankees."

Jeter remembers feeling uncomfortable during the trip downtown, but he knew that, despite his own feelings, it was a trip he had to take.

"What do you say to someone who just lost a family member?" Jeter said. "It made you feel good, though, because there were people who were happy to see us. It put a smile on some faces, so I was glad we were able to go."

After a Sunday workout, the Yankees boarded a plane and headed for Chicago, where they would restart their season on Tuesday night. There were American flags all around the ballpark, as fans chanted "USA! USA" throughout the game.

Firefighters and police lined the infield before the game, prompting a standing ovation from the fans -- and the players. The Yankees wore NYPD and FDNY hats in honor of those still working back in New York.

"I told them, 'The NY on our hats represents the people of New York, not just the Yankees,'" Torre said, recalling his pregame speech. "We needed to help people get distracted from what they've gone through. We weren't asking them to forget it; we just tried to give them a few hours of enjoyment."

"It was just a somber week," Mussina said. "Getting back on the field may have brought us -- and other people -- some relief from all the stress, all the anguish and all the emotion. We got out there, did what we were supposed to be doing and got away from it for a couple of hours."

The Yankees played three games in Chicago and three in Baltimore before returning home. On Sept. 25, two weeks after the attacks, Yankee Stadium opened its doors for business once again, hosting one of the most emotional nights in the ballpark's storied history.

During pregame ceremonies, players joined members of the police, fire department and rescue teams on the field as a giant American flag covered the outfield.

"It was emotional," Mariano Rivera said. "A lot of people were crying."

Despite losing to Tampa Bay that night, the Yankees clinched the AL East title after Boston lost its game. The celebration in the clubhouse was subdued, as players congratulated one another, hugging and shaking hands. No champagne corks were popped, though each player was given a bottle of champagne by the team in honor of the title.

"It was secondary," Jeter said. "It was a little different, especially playing in New York. It was great for the fans, because it gave them something to cheer for, even if it was just for a couple of hours each day."

Five years later, the memories are still crystal clear.

The Yankees may not have been able to help heal the wounds inflicted on families as a result of the events of Sept. 11, but they were able to provide a distraction -- no matter how momentary it may have been -- to those people looking for something else to focus on.

"I never realized how much of an impact I had as a player, what I represented to the city in a situation like that," Williams said. "It's obviously a time I will never forget."

"Baseball was the furthest thing from our minds, but then we realized how important it was," Torre said. "It seems so long ago, yet it seems like it was 10 minutes ago. It will always be a vivid memory."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

© 2001-2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

The following are trademarks or service marks of Major League Baseball entities and may be used only with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. or the relevant Major League Baseball entity: Major League, Major League Baseball, MLB, the silhouetted batter logo, World Series, National League, American League, Division Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Game, and the names, nicknames, logos, uniform designs, color combinations, and slogans designating the Major League Baseball clubs and entities, and their respective mascots, events and exhibitions.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Streaking Jeter carries shorthanded Yanks past O's

Streaking Jeter carries shorthanded Yanks past O's
September 10, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Derek Jeter keeps hitting, and the New York Yankees continue to win.

It's no coincidence.

Jeter extended his career-high hitting streak to 20 games, going 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBI to lead New York over the Baltimore Orioles 9-4 Sunday.

Jeter hit a double in the first inning and gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead with a two-run homer in the third. He added a run-scoring grounder in the fourth and a sacrifice fly in the sixth before finishing with a ninth-inning groundout.

His 20-game hitting streak is the longest by a Yankee since Bernie Williams' 21-game run in August 1993. New York is 12-8 since Jeter last went hitless.

"He's just a flat-out good player," Williams said.

Yankees leadoff hitter Johnny Damon has scored 106 runs this season, in part because he's batting ahead of Jeter in the lineup. Jeter batted third on Sunday, but he's usually in the 2-hole.

"We're putting together a nice supporting cast around him and it shows. He could very well be the MVP," Damon said. "He's the guy you want coming up in the clutch. I always hope I'm on base for him."

Damon was on third base in the fourth inning when Jeter hit a grounder to the right side that easily produced another run and moved Melky Cabrera to third.

"I like when he's hitting in key situations," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He seems to know what to do, even something as simple as a groundball to second with nobody out to get a runner in and a runner over. He just never lets his guard down."

Jaret Wright (10-7) allowed three runs and three hits in 6 1-3 innings to earn his first win since Aug. 12. He struck out two, walked two and did not permit a runner past first base until Ramon Hernandez homered in the fifth.

"I tried to stay on the attack, tried to get ahead," Wright said. "Before that I was getting in trouble being behind in the count."

The victory boosted New York (85-56) past Detroit for the best record in the AL.

"This is our high-water mark right now, 29 games over," Torre said. "You don't worry about who you're behind or who you're ahead, if you can get the right number of games over .500 you're going to be there."

The Orioles will not, and now it's official. Baltimore fell a season-high 18 games under .500 (62-80) and were officially eliminated from playoff contention with Minnesota's 12-1 win over Detroit.

Hernandez went 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBI, his third multihomer game of the season and the sixth of his career. But Baltimore managed only three other hits in losing for the sixth time in seven games.

Former Oriole Sal Fasano and Nick Green homered for New York. It was Fasano's first home run with the Yankees since joining the team in a July 26 trade with Philadelphia.

All three homers came off Baltimore rookie Hayden Penn (0-2), who yielded seven runs, nine hits and two walks in three-plus innings. Coming off a 2006 debut in which the right-hander gave up eight runs and retired only two batters against Oakland, Penn lowered his ERA from 108.00 to 36.82.

But there were few positives in his second straight poor performance.

"Right now I'm searching for answers. I just didn't get it done," he said.

Penn got through the first inning this time, but New York struck for three runs in the second. Robinson Cano hit a leadoff double and Aaron Guiel walked before Fasano homered on a 3-2 pitch.

Jeter hit his 13th homer in the third after Cabrera doubled. Green led off the fourth with his second home run, and Penn departed immediately before Jeter drove in Damon with a grounder to second for a 7-0 lead.

After Hernandez ruined Wright's shutout bid, a sacrifice fly by Jeter and Bobby Abreu's RBI single put the Yankees up 9-1 in the sixth.

Wright was pulled after issuing two walks in the seventh. Ron Villone retired David Newhan before Hernandez hit his 18th homer, an opposite-field shot to left.

Game notes
New York played a second straight game without 1B Jason Giambi (hand injury) and 3B Alex Rodriguez (ill). ... Baltimore DH Jay Gibbons was a late scratch because of back spasms. ... The Yankees didn't go down in order until the seventh. ... Fasano's three RBI were one more than he had in his first 18 games with the Yankees.

Copyright ©2006 ESPN Internet Ventures.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sept. 11 events had impact outside NYC

09/08/2006 8:00 AM ET
Sept. 11 events had impact outside NYC
Players remember where they were at the time of attacks
By Mychael Urban /

The focus, rightfully so, was on New York City. And the Pentagon. And a field of heroism and devastation in Western Pennsylvania.
But the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, had a numbing, frightful affect on the entire nation, and the five years that have passed since that dreadful day have done nothing to fade the uncomfortable memories.

"It doesn't seem like it's been five years because you're reminded day in and day out because of some terrorist act," says Braves outfielder Brian Jordan. "I can't believe it's been five years. It seems like it was yesterday."

The tragedy left nobody untouched. Time stood still, and Major League Baseball followed suit. With unanimous support from everyone in the game, Commissioner Bud Selig shut the game down for a week.

"That was great on the part of Bud Selig to do that because no one wanted to watch baseball at that time," says Wes Helms of the Marlins. "I think after we came back, it took everybody's mind off of it because people could watch a sporting event, which is entertainment, and kind of settle their nerves. Hopefully, we did our part."

Eventually, yes. On Sept. 11, 2001, though, baseball was the last thing on anybody's mind.

"The first thing I thought of was to get out of New York and get here [home to Houston]," says Astros pitcher Andy Pettitte, who was with the Yankees at the time. "[Yankees manager Joe] Torre was just like, 'Take care of your families, whatever you need to do.'"

"It was a crazy day," says Jack Wilson, whose Pirates were scheduled to play the Mets at PNC Park that night. "My wife was pregnant with our son, Jacob, and she had her first visit with the doctor that day. I remember the receptionist there saying that the planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. We watched it on TV as soon as we got home and it was pretty unbelievable.

"It didn't seem real."

Unreal. That's one of the first thoughts that came to mind as word quickly spread across the country in the minutes and hours immediately after the attacks.

"It was weird," says Cubs outfielder Juan Pierre, who was with the Rockies at the time. "We were on the West Coast. When we woke up, it had already happened. Guys turned on SportsCenter, and you wanted to see sports, and it was like, 'Hey, man, hold on.' They showed it . I called [teammate] Terry Shumpert and said, 'Hey, man, did you see what happened? Is it real?'

"You just stayed glued to the TV all day long."

That's what much of the country did that day. Many of us helplessly watched the horror unfold from afar as soon as we heard about what had happened. Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon, however, was on a plane when it happened.

The morning of the attacks, before they started, Nixon was in Tampa preparing for a series against the Devil Rays when he received a call from his wife, Kathryn, who told him she was going into labor. Nixon quickly got on a flight back to Boston so he could be there to witness the birth of his first child, a son named Chase.

While in the air, he received a double dose of heartache.

"One of the flight attendants walked back like she was sick to her stomach," Nixon recalls. "The pilot came on the intercom and said we were going to have to ground our flight in Norfolk, Virginia. There had been an unfortunate tragedy in New York. And he said there was a terrorist attack.

"I wanted the plane to hurry up and land so I could call Kathryn. I didn't think about anything other than the fact that Kathryn was up there, and I wanted to be there for the birth of my son. Anyone who has had children always wants to be there for the birth. I wanted to land and find out what was going on.

"When I got on the ground, you could see what was done, the damage, on TV. ... And I realized then that there weren't going to be any more flights out that day. You can't delay pregnancies, and I knew she was probably going to have to go on without me.

"I was really bummed out because I wasn't going to be there for this beautiful day -- my son being born. I asked my Mom, 'Why? Why did this have to happen right now?'"

Why? That's another thought widely associated with 9/11. A's pitcher Barry Zito remembers asking the question over and over.

"You try to fathom what you're seeing with your own eyes, and you can't," he says. "Why? How? Who? You just had so many questions, but it kept coming back to, 'Why?' It was so beyond comprehension, so surreal, so inhuman, you almost didn't believe it. You didn't want to believe it, but it's right there on your TV screen, live."

Shortly after play resumed, the scene of destruction that most of us have seen only on TV screens became all too real for Jordan and some of his Atlanta teammates. The first games back were played on Sept. 17, and after a four-game series in Philadelphia, the Braves traveled by bus to take on the Mets at Shea Stadium on Friday, Sept. 21, for the first post-attacks game in New York.

Chipper Jones recalls seeing "that plume of haze over the city" as the bus rolled into town.

"It was an eerie, eerie feeling driving in there, because we didn't know what to expect," he says. "We were the first sporting event going in there. You don't know if there were going to be follow-up attacks or what. It was a pretty scary time. What better place to carry out an attack than at a jam-packed sporting venue?

"We were all a little nervous and hesitant."

The understandable trepidation gave way to another strange sensation once the game started.

"It almost didn't matter who won that game," says Jordan. "It was good to be back playing -- and playing for the fans of New York."

"That's a game that none of us who were there will ever forget," adds Jones. "It's probably the only time in my career when it's been less about baseball and more about entertaining people. No matter how minor the game of baseball is, it still gave people something to get their minds off it for a couple of hours."

And that the Mets won the game, on a dramatic -- some say cathartic -- home run by Mike Piazza, was fine by the Braves.

"Competitively, you want to win," Jordan says. "But it was just a great time to see Piazza win the game right there for New York. They needed something."

The next day, manager Bobby Cox was among the Braves who visited Ground Zero.

"It was a lot worse down there than it was on television," Cox says. "It was a bigger area in person. It was scary. It was just surreal."

Wilson's Pirates made their first trip back into New York about three weeks after the attacks, and the experience featured a mixture of pride and anxiety.

"The people came out to the game with their American flags," he says. "I remember there was a ceremony, and they showed footage that was very touching, then they sang 'God Bless America.' Then, as they were singing the national anthem, a plane flew over the stadium and everybody jumped. Every guy in our line jumped, and every guy in their line jumped. It was pretty scary.

"You knew, from then on, you'd never look at planes the same way."

When air travel resumed in the days after the attacks, some players, such as Pettitte, chartered planes to get home. But Nixon couldn't afford to wait. So after meeting up with some family members in North Carolina after landing in Virginia, he drove to Boston and got there a few hours after Chase introduced himself to the world.

"When they finally got there, it was about 3 a.m.," says Kathryn. "And he was with his mom, his dad, and his sister. For them to have come all that way, it was all very emotional."

Twenty-one hours after that labor call from Kathryn, the disastrous day now known simply as "9/11" was -- technically, at least -- over.

It was Sept. 12. A better day.

"I went right over there and grabbed [Chase] and just held him," Nixon says. "The biggest thing I felt was relief. All that had happened that day seemed to escape my mind for a little bit, because I was spending my first moments with my son."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

© 2001-2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

The following are trademarks or service marks of Major League Baseball entities and may be used only with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. or the relevant Major League Baseball entity: Major League, Major League Baseball, MLB, the silhouetted batter logo, World Series, National League, American League, Division Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Game, and the names, nicknames, logos, uniform designs, color combinations, and slogans designating the Major League Baseball clubs and entities, and their respective mascots, events and exhibitions.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Jeter a finalist for AL Aaron Award

09/07/2006 9:00 AM ET
Jeter a finalist for AL Aaron Award
Yankees captain one of six AL nominees for offensive honor
By Ryan Mink /

NEW YORK -- When people think about Hank Aaron, they think about home runs. But that's certainly not the first thing that comes to mind about Derek Jeter.
"I'm not much of a home run threat," Jeter said with a laugh.

But that hasn't stopped Jeter from being recognized as one of the game's top offensive threats.

The Yankees shortstop has been named a finalist for the 2006 American League Hank Aaron Award. Since 1999, the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, Major League Baseball has recognized the best offensive performer from each league with the Hank Aaron Award presented by CENTURY 21.

Past recipients include Barry Bonds (three times), Alex Rodriguez (three times), Manny Ramirez (twice), Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, Sammy Sosa and Carlos Delgado. Last year's winners, selected during balloting during the regular season's final month on, were Boston's David Ortiz and Atlanta's Andruw Jones.

The first phase of balloting for the Hank Aaron Award was conducted from Aug. 2-31, allowing fans to vote for the most outstanding offensive performer in each league. One nominee from each club was among the choices, and that fan vote reduced the field to the top six vote-getters per league.

The final phase now will be conducted on through Sept. 30, and again fans will choose one player from each league. Those two players with the most votes will be announced at a presentation ceremony during the World Series.

As of Sept. 5, Jeter was hitting .343 (second in the AL) with a .420 on-base percentage (fourth in the AL), 12 homers and 84 RBIs. Jeter is having his best season since 1999, when he hit .349 with 102 RBIs and 24 homers.

Yankees manager Joe Torre always talks about how consistent Jeter is for his team. But Torre said he's noticed even more offensive consistency from Jeter this season.

"The consistency that I noticed, beyond his statistics, is the fact that he comes here with the same intensity every day," Torre said.

"When things are going good, you try to make them last," Jeter said. "When things are going bad or you're not feeling as good, you try to find ways to be productive and help the team."

Jeter has also stolen 29 bases this year, three short of his career high. He runs the bases extremely well and he's been a key figure in the Yankees' attempts to hit-and-run more, as he's adept at hitting the ball the other way through the open hole at second base.

"I think sometimes people lose sight when they talk about baseball players, that hitting home runs makes them great, and if you don't hit home runs, then you're not," Jeter said. "Home runs get all the highlights -- you see them on 'SportsCenter' and all that. But there's more to the game than just home runs."

And those are the things Jeter excels at.

Ryan Mink is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

© 2001-2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

The following are trademarks or service marks of Major League Baseball entities and may be used only with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. or the relevant Major League Baseball entity: Major League, Major League Baseball, MLB, the silhouetted batter logo, World Series, National League, American League, Division Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Game, and the names, nicknames, logos, uniform designs, color combinations, and slogans designating the Major League Baseball clubs and entities, and their respective mascots, events and exhibitions.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Jeter vs. A-Rod

Jeter vs. A-Rod
Inside the lives of two biggest stars in the galaxy

When the calls rang out to strip Alex Rodriguez of his pinstripes, to get him out of New York before he brought the Yankees down, Brian Cashman's phone started ringing.
"There were teams willing to step up. Some called and said, 'If you do anything, we want to be in on it.' I had some throw ideas at me. I was like, 'Wow,'" Cashman says. "You can check with other teams; I told them all, 'We're not moving him.'"

But they all seemed to think it was possible.

When was the last time a team asked Cashman about Derek Jeter's availability?

"Never," Cashman says. "Not while I've been GM."

The idea of Capt. Jeter in anything other than a Yankee uniform is inconceivable. But as respected as he is, Jeter also might be the least-desired $20 million player in the game.

The idea of A-Rod going somewhere? Perfectly conceivable to a number of general managers, and, for a spell, even to Yankee fans.

One poorly timed strikeout in the playoffs could change everything, but Rodriguez has been through a sort of Bronx baptism over the past few weeks. Even through the worst depths of his 1-for-24 slump, Yankee fans began to cheer him when he came to the plate and the Bleacher Creatures still serenaded him.

"I think they figured out you shouldn't boo a Yankee that's struggling. When you see a guy struggle, you support him, you don't dog him," Cashman says. "Because there was a period when they were booing when it was inappropriate. It became the thing to do like, you go to a Broadway show, you boo Alex. It was almost like a little fad."

Cashman has a vested interest in having Yankee fans recalibrate their standards for Rodriguez, but something clearly had changed even before he belted a home run Thursday that elicted a curtain call.

"I think people took a second look. They saw Alex fight through it and they said, 'Hey, he's our guy. We need all those guys.'"

When Rodriguez came to the plate for the first time in Thursday's game he heard the supporting applause, then the obligatory but mild boos when he popped up to first. When he tapped a ball over the head of Tigers shortstop Neifi Perez in the third, bringing in Bobby Abreu, they cheered mightily. When he lined a ball to left for what normally would have been a single, he charged hard from the moment he left the box, reaching second in part because Perez dropped the relay throw, and in part because he was dead set on getting there. For that they screamed. After the home run, forget it.

Friday night, two home runs. Pandemonium and another curtain call.

But the whole continuing saga, started back in 2001 when A-Rod described Jeter to Esquire magazine as a mere No. 2 hitter who never had to lead, has reached a stasis. Fans and experts of all stripes wondered whether the two could share a team. The Yankees decided they could, and as the team has gained control of the AL East, Jeter and Rodriguez have coexisted as suns in separate solar systems, mostly indifferent to each other, supportive on the field, always bland, always non-controversial, but always essential.

Herewith, a glimpse at the inner workings of a team with two baseball giants.

What's The Clubhouse Skinny On Jeter And A-Rod?

They coexist peacefully in the Yankee clubhouse, on opposite sides toward the back of a well-appointed room that more resembles a hotel lobby than a locker room. The Yankees rarely hang out near their lockers the way most teams do, chased out by their unmatched press attention. During a typical pregame lull last week, Rodriguez came through the door in a pink T-shirt and black sweatpants, shared a laugh with Robinson Cano and went to his locker. He was soon met by a Sports Illustrated writer who has been following him, then had a few quick, one-on-one conversations with writers he knows.

Jeter came to his locker already half into his uniform, opened some mail, then held court while a dozen writers asked him for the official word on Carl Pavano following the revelation that the missing pitcher had broken ribs in a car accident. When Jeter talks about a controversial subject, his words are as carefully crafted and intently dissected as though he were the Fed chairman talking about the economy.

He was asked about whether Pavano's failure to return is a letdown. "It's not a letdown if you weren't counting on it," he says. And the market plummets.

What Are Jeter And A-Rod Best Known For?

For Jeter, it's the dive into the stands against the Red Sox, the flip to Jorge Posada to get Jeremy Giambi at the plate, the home runs against Baltimore in '96, the Mets in the Subway Series, and the Diamondbacks in '01.

And he is the captain, without question.

One reason the Yankees can handle so many big stars - don't forget they have Jason Giambi, Randy Johnson, Gary Sheffield, Mike Mussina and Hideki Matsui, all of whom were franchise players - is because they know who runs the show.

"I think everyone who comes in here knows it's Derek's team," says Johnny Damon. "Derek's the captain of the greatest franchise in sports."

For A-Rod, it's the contract. It will always be the contract as long as he is still under his 10-year, $252 million deal. He has had monster postseason performances, with a career .305 batting average in 31 games. He mauled the Twins in the '04 division series (hitting .421) but was mediocre (by his standards) against Boston in the following LCS (.258 batting, despite five RBI and eight runs scored). He still evokes the image of a spoiled star slapping at Bronson Arroyo, and last season his pathetic .133 average against the Angels in the division series made a mockery of his MVP award.

"He's always hearing about his contract," Damon says. "Alex is a very good teammate. You never hear about that." To illustrate his point, Damon says Rodriguez always invites him on his chartered flights home to Florida on off-days so Damon can spend a day with his own family.

What About Outside The Clubhouse? Who Gets The Endorsements?

Jeter actually passed A-Rod in endorsement money last year, according to Sports Illustrated. Jeter brought in roughly $7 million, while Rodriguez was a million behind. Over the past few years Jeter has scored well with Ford, Gatorade and Visa and he just unveiled a new cologne called Driven. They both did Wheaties, but Rodriguez had the box to himself and Jeter had to share the cover with David Wells and Bernie Williams in 1998. Rodriguez also did a Got Milk? ad, thus giving him breakfast dominance.

What Do Their Teammates Really Think Of Them?

Grumblings about A-Rod have been public for awhile, that some teammates think he is too programmed, too concerned with his image, too aloof. They don't all feel that way, as Damon points out, and Rodriguez has several friends in the clubhouse. But the players who weren't sure about A-Rod say they became less so this season as he found new ways to draw attention to himself.

Some noted that while Giambi, Sheffield and Damon came to town and quietly fell into the fold (Sheffield was quiet by his standards), Rodriguez was hardly shy, saying after his first season that George Steinbrenner had told him to be more of a leader. Regardless of the fact that Steinbrenner said it, some players felt Rodriguez would have been smarter to keep it to himself. The bare-chested shot of him relaxing in Central Park this summer didn't help, either.

One player says he has been put off by Rodriguez' attempts to be everything to everyone, saying he's a man of the streets one day, a CEO the next.

But it has also been noticed that while Jeter took steps to reassure Giambi's place in the clubhouse following the BALCO scandal last year, he never did the same for Rodriguez, bringing into question whether he is the captain of all 25 players, or just the ones he likes.

"He had to become a Yankee on his own," one team source says of Rodriguez.

How Is It That Jeter, An Inferior Player In Almost Every Measure, Commands So Much More Respect?

One Hall of Famer's View: "Alex Rodriguez is a better hitter, he has a better glove, better range, a better arm and he's a better baserunner. But Derek Jeter is a better baseball player."

What he means is that Jeter has that knack for the big hit, the big play, doing little things needed to win. But find a team outside of the Bronx willing to pay Jeter $20 million a year.

There are certainly some Yankees who think Jeter is too protective of his image and can be a little stiff. Jeter is prideful, and if he is indeed a phony, as one player says, at least he's consistent.

A-Rod's baptism has come in the waters of Yankee expectations. No matter if he is the MVP, or Jeter is, as many people believe he will be this season, their relationship will be dissected until they win a World Series. It won't matter who gives his teammates rides on his airplane, or who speaks up for whom, or who gets the most boos or cheers. Chemistry, as Joe Torre has said, is a three-run homer.

Originally published on September 3, 2006

All contents © 2006 Daily News, L.P.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Jeter chases Mauer for title

09/03/2006 3:20 PM ET
Notes: Jeter chases Mauer for title
Matsui heads to Staten Island; Giambi going through slump
By Ryan Mink /

NEW YORK -- While Derek Jeter says he's not paying attention to the American League batting title race, the matchup between Jeter and Minnesota's Joe Mauer has been hot news around Yankee Stadium.

The two hitters entered the series with 10 points separating their season averages, but that has been trimmed to seven over the past two games.

Jeter is 9-for-17 on the homestand -- 4-for-7 in the series against the Twins -- and has a season-high 13-game hit streak. He is now hitting .343 on the season.

Mauer is 2-for-5 against the Yankees and is at .350, the same average with which he entered the series. While Jeter's average has been climbing, Mauer's has fallen significantly over the past two months. He was hitting .392 as of July 1.

But Yankees manager Joe Torre isn't counting Mauer out of the title.

"He's a big, strong kid, and I think it's gone far beyond the fact that, 'Oh, wait until the dog days come,' because the dog days have come and gone and this kid is still standing tall," Torre said, adding that being a catcher makes Mauer's season more impressive.

Mauer said playing shortstop can also be a demanding position. Mauer was surprised the batting title was the hot topic when the Twins are in a playoff run, but said he can't imagine what it's like for Jeter.

"He's doing it on a bigger scale, media wise," Mauer said. "From everything I've seen -- and I got to play with him on his team in Pittsburgh [for the All-Star game] -- he's everything as advertised. He handles everything really well."

While Jeter says the batting title isn't on his mind, Torre said he believes Jeter would care more about winning AL MVP.

"I think Derek would appreciate that more than a batting title, because it's connected to the team and that's what he's about," Torre said.

Jeter is certainly a candidate for the award, as is Boston's David Ortiz, who Torre thought was the other player with the best bid. Johnny Damon, who played with Ortiz in Boston, said he felt Jeter deserves the award.

"I always appreciated what Derek did, even from afar [while with Boston]," Damon said. "On any given day, he can go out and beat you, and it doesn't have to be the long ball. It can be a number of things."

While Ortiz's 47 homers, 121 RBIs and clutch hits make him a more than legitimate MVP contender, Jeter's consistency is what Torre and his teammates laud.

That consistency reached a new high Sunday as Jeter tied legendary Yankee Phil Rizzuto for most games played at the shortstop in franchise history, with 1,647.

"The fact of what this youngster has done in a short period of time is pretty remarkable," Torre said. "His consistency has been unparalleled, in my mind, especially from age 20 right through to the present time."

"I think it just means I've been here for a long time," Jeter said with a laugh. "It's flying by, but then it does seem like it's not flying by. So it's a little bit of both."

Matsui update: Hideki Matsui will go to Class A Staten Island to do any further pregame workouts before playing for Double-A Trenton at home on Wednesday.

Torre said he expects Matsui to be the designated hitter in the game before eventually moving into the field in the three or four games he expects Matsui to play with Trenton.

"I don't think he needs practice in the outfield," Torre said. "There's nothing he has to prove that he can't [accomplish] in batting practice, catching fly balls."

Underused bullpen? With back-to-back rainy days, Torre didn't use Kyle Farnsworth as he planned to.

Farnsworth hasn't pitched since Aug. 27, against the Angels, and is still serving as the Yankees' closer while Mariano Rivera is rested. Torre said Rivera is unavailable Sunday and will be day-to-day in the Yankees' series against the Royals.

Scott Proctor, who leads in the AL in appearances, hasn't pitched since giving up a two-out ninth-inning homer against the Tigers on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, Proctor hasn't been out there since he gave up that home run," Torre said. "I know people like to get out there and get the taste out of their mouth. Hopefully that won't be an issue. It certainly wasn't a punishment on our part."

Giambi scuffling: Jason Giambi isn't only battling his sore left wrist but a mild slump, as well. He is 5-for-22 (.227) since leaving Boston. Giambi had a cortisone injection in the left wrist on Thursday.

"I think it just takes a couple of days for that medication to kick in," Torre said. "He's swinging the bat all right, just isn't getting any hits right now."

Coming up: The Yankees will hit the road to open a three-game series with the Royals on Monday. Chien-Ming Wang will face Kansas City's Luke Hudson in the 8:10 p.m. ET start.

Ryan Mink is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

© 2001-2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

The following are trademarks or service marks of Major League Baseball entities and may be used only with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. or the relevant Major League Baseball entity: Major League, Major League Baseball, MLB, the silhouetted batter logo, World Series, National League, American League, Division Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Game, and the names, nicknames, logos, uniform designs, color combinations, and slogans designating the Major League Baseball clubs and entities, and their respective mascots, events and exhibitions.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Derek Jeter gets his own fragrance

Derek Jeter gets his own fragrance
By The Associated Press
July 31, 2006

Derek Jeter cologne is on the way.

Avon Products Inc. has signed the New York Yankees shortstop to a deal in which it will create a men's fragrance called Driven -- "reflecting the unique personality of one of the most driven men in America," according to a news release from the company.

The fragrance, the first in a line of men's grooming products bearing Jeter's name, goes on sale in November.

"I have been very involved with creating this fragrance -- everything from the blend of scents to the design of the bottle and logo," Jeter said in the news release. "I did have some help, however. Because women buy a large percentage of the men's grooming products sold in the U.S., I asked my mother Dot and sister Sharlee to be part of the project.

"I wanted to make sure the final product was something men would like to wear -- and that women would want them to wear."

The fragrance is a blend of chilled grapefruit, clean oak moss and spice

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Friday, September 01, 2006

A-Rod always will be second to Jeter's star

Posted on Tue, Aug. 15, 2006
A-Rod always will be second to Jeter's star
By Filip Bondy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK - Why does it have to be a competition, a popularity contest? But it is, always, and in this matter Derek Jeter will forever be the winner. He is homegrown, he has four rings, he is the captain, and he hits the two-run homer in the third inning, lays down the perfect bunt in the eighth, both of them when the game is tied.

For this one night, the two guys on the left side of the infield did just fine. Jeter smacked his homer against starter John Lackey, doubled in the fifth, bunted on his own for a single along the third base line, raised his average to .344. The fans were chanting, "MVP," as the Yanks rode his shoulders to a 7-2 victory over the Angels.

And then there was Alex Rodriguez, who made a couple of nice fielding plays and slapped a long sacrifice fly to the wall in the right corner, caught by Vladimir Guerrero at the 314-foot mark, good enough to score Johnny Damon from third for the go-ahead run in the seventh.

Nice work by A-Rod, in the clutch. But he missed that grand slam, the big headlines, by maybe five feet. The star of this game? You never have to ask. There is an impregnable wall, an infinite reservoir of good will, surrounding the team's shortstop. Those are the rules around here.

"I'm just thinking we need to score more runs, because the game was close," Jeter said about his reaction to those chants. "We need to do the small things to win."

The homer wasn't small. It was hit to dead center, where Jeter thought it had been caught by Reggie Willits. It wasn't. The wall cooperated, bowed to the necessary dimensions.

It is Jeter's park, Jeter's crowd, Jeter's pennant race.

It is a heckuva race, by the way, growing more bi-divisional by the day. Two games up on Boston, the Yankees need to get to Sept. 4 in good shape, after which they play 10 straight games, 17 of 23, against sub-.500 teams.

Jeter says he can't get excited yet about the standings. He assumes a postseason will take place in the Bronx. It always has, as long as he's been around. Jeter agrees with Joe Torre, whose theory is simple: "Play the schedule."

But the victory last night was important for several reasons. It gave Rodriguez a chance at a little redemption. It got Jason Giambi off the hook for some bonehead baserunning in the second inning, when he rumbled through a stop sign from Larry Bowa. And it proved the Yanks can play with the Angels, a club that has given them fits on very big stages for the past five years.

"Most teams, you say, `Let's wear down the starters, get to the bullpen,' " Jeter said. "You can't do that with the Angels. They hit and run, they steal bases. You're not accidentally going to beat them."

The Yankees beat the Angels last night in classic fashion: A quality start from winner Randy Johnson, who gave up two runs in seven innings; the big hits from Jeter; the sacrifice from A-Rod; some solid bullpen work from Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera over the final two innings.

Another 52,100 fans, too. Jeter drinks it all in, figures he will be around here for quite some time. The subject of retirement came up in a roundabout way the other day. Jeter said he would like to go to a World Cup in the future, when he is done with baseball.

"How often do they hold them?" he asked.

"Every four years," he was told.

"Then not 2010 or 2014," Jeter said. "It will have to be 2018."

Do the math. Jeter, 32, thinks he will play into his 40s. Rodriguez will look to his left, and there will be Jeter, health not withstanding, getting the cheers for eight to 11 more seasons.

Three seasons later, you never know how much these two guys like, or dislike, each other. They exchange salutations and glances in the infield, but rarely in the clubhouse, where they dress on opposite sides. They stood happily next to each other Monday afternoon for the team photo, A-Rod towering over Jeter.

The good headlines go to the other guy though, always. You just give credit to A-Rod credit for coming here in the first place, to a city that promised its heart to the shortstop long ago.


© 2006, New York Daily News.

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