Saturday, July 14, 2007

Jeter gets lots of hits; takes them away, too

Jeter gets lots of hits; takes them away, too
July 8, 2007

He is on pace for more than 3,000 hits, but three of Derek Jeter's career highlights are spontaneous and spectacular fielding plays.

There was the backhand flip to catcher Jorge Posada that nailed Jeremy Giambi at the plate to save the Yankees against Oakland in the 2001 ALDS. There was his perilous running leap into the stands after catching Trot Nixon's pop, saving two runs, on which he lacerated his chin and bruised his cheek and shoulder in the 12th inning of a tense 2004 regular-season game against Boston. There was his pivot and blind relay throw to the plate that nailed Timo Perez of the Mets in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series, an early turning point.

And yet even with Gold Glove Awards for the previous three seasons, Jeter's defense frequently is questioned. Respected critics such as statistics guru Bill James and ESPN baseball columnist Rob Neyer say Jeter's range is limited and his arm is erratic. They rank him near the bottom defensively among major-league shortstops.

Jeter had made 13 errors through Friday, and his slow start in the field this season forced Joe Torre to be defensive about his shortstop's defense when the errors were coming in bunches in April. "I don't even worry about it," the Yankees' manager said. "You judge somebody like that by watching the plays he makes after the errors, and he made a couple with runners trying to score without any problem. As long as it's not in his head, it's not going to bother me."

Jeter scoffs when asked about the charts and statistical analysis that critics use to disparage his play. "The computer stuff? It's impossible to figure out defense with a mathematical equation," he said. "You can't do it. You've got different people pitching, you've got different people running, you've got different people hitting. You can use a mathematical equation if everything is the same. But it's impossible to do it when everything is different."

Jeter has become known for the jump throw from the hole, and he said he started doing it in high school because "I thought it was quicker and easier to get rid of the ball that way than coming to a full stop and planting. It just evolved." As for those wide receiver-like grabs of pop flies to the outfield, he said he never practices them. "I just go for it until someone else calls it. It's something I've always done. You have to be aggressive."

Torre, who managed Ozzie Smith, said the Cardinals' wizard used to practice fielding pop flies daily, but he called Jeter "as good as I've ever seen going out there and sometimes making acrobatic plays."

He also said Jeter does two things better than any other current shortstop: "One of them, Torre noted, "is coming in on the topped ball and making the off-balance throw. And we've all seen that jump throw out of the hole. Derek is a presence out there and he seems to be in control all the time."


New York's Gold Glove winners


Gil Hodges, 1B 1957


Willie Mays, OF 1957


Tommie Agee, OF 1970

Carlos Beltran, OF 2006

Ron Darling, P 1989

Doug Flynn, 2B 1980

Bud Harrelson, SS 1971

Keith Hernandez, 1B 1983-88

Rey OrdoƱez, SS 1997-99

Robin Ventura, 3B 1999


Scott Brosius, 3B 1999

Wade Boggs, 3B 1994-95

Chris Chambliss, 1B 1978

Ron Guidry, P 1982-86

Elston Howard, C 1963-64

Derek Jeter, SS 2004-06

Mickey Mantle, OF 1962

Roger Maris, OF 1960

Don Mattingly, 1B 1985-89, 91-94

Thurman Munson, C 1973-75

Bobby Murcer, OF 1972

Mike Mussina, P 2001, 03

Graig Nettles, 3B 1977-78

Joe Pepitone, 1B 1965-66, 69

Bobby Richardson, 2B 1961-65

Bobby Shantz, P 1957-60

Norm Siebern, OF 1958

Tom Tresh, OF 1965

Bernie Williams, OF 1997-2000

Dave Winfield, OF 1982-85, 87

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.


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