You can own the dirt beneath Derek Jeter’s feet

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In ancient times, some random sect of people might lay claim to the remains of a venerated hero as a part of hero cult.  Parts of their weapons or clothes, a lock of hair, earlobes, whatever.  This practice developed over the centuries and, like most ancient practices, was adopted and/or co-opted by organized religion, with stuff like Elisha’s bones and Paul’s handkerchief becoming holy relics.

Over time the relic game got pretty sophisticated, to the point where the Catholic Church classified them by orders of degree.  Some stuff — actual items associated with Christ or saints themselves — are first class relics.  Down the list you go to, I dunno, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

Baseball plays the relics game too, though we don’t call it that. We call it “memorabilia.” The idea is still the same, though: the preservation of an inanimate object that, in and of itself, has no value apart from the veneration of an intangible event or memory in tangible form. Jerseys. Autographs.  That kind of thing.

Baseball should have degrees of this too.  Do you own the bat that with which Babe Ruth hit home run number 60 in 1927? Heck, that’s like the bones of John the Baptist.  The jersey Pete Rose wore when he broke Ty Cobb’s record? That’s totally as good as a spoon once used by St. Whatshisface to eat the mush which have him strength to do whatever miracle it is that is ascribed to him.

Not sure where to put this, however, but I’m guessing it’s farther down the list:

Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit will be a cause for celebration, marketing and — not least of all — digging up dirt.

After the game, a groundskeeper will tote a shovel and bucket onto the field to scoop five gallons of dirt from the batter’s box and shortstop’s patch. In baseball’s version of preserving the chain of evidence, the bucket will be sealed with tape and verified as the dirt beneath Jeter’s feet with tamper-proof holograms …

… The dirt — from Yankee Stadium if all goes perfectly, but from some ballpark, perhaps Citi Field July 1 to 3 — will find its way into a vast and lucrative universe of celebrity memorabilia and collectibles, much of it orchestrated by a company named Steiner Sports. Tablespoonfuls of the dirt will be poured into capsules to dangle on key chains; ladled into disks to be framed with photographs of the hit (in what is called a dirt collage); and glued into the interlocking NY carved into commemorative bats.

People don’t realize this, but I have a time machine, and I was able to transcribe a conversation between some people who bought the Derek Jeter dirt in 2012:

Man #1: He has given us… His shoe!

Man #2: The shoe is the sign. Let us follow His example. Let us, like Him, hold up one shoe and let the other be upon our foot, for this is His sign, that all who follow Him shall do likewise.

Man #1: No, no, no. The shoe is a sign that we must gather shoes together in abundance!

Woman: No, cast off the shoes! Follow the Gourd!  Follow the Gourd! The Holy Gourd of Jerusalem!

Man #2: No, hold up the sandal, as He has commanded us!

 

What in the heck is Derek Jeter doing with the Marlins?

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Last night we linked the Miami Herald story about the Marlins firing special assistants Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Jack McKeon. Let’s talk about that a little bit.

The firings themselves are eyebrow-raising inasmuch as “special assistants” like that are rarely key front office personnel. Former players, Hall of Famers and former managers like those guys are really ambassadors for the team and, particularly in the case of Jeff Conine, who is known as “Mr. Marlin,” why would new ownership want to kick its ambassadors to the curb? It’s not like you can just hire a bunch of new franchise legends for he role. Who ya gonna call? Dan Uggla?

Sure, I can see an argument for changing their responsibilities. If they actually had say in baseball operations, I can see new ownership wanting to relieve them of those duties. It’s also possible that Jeff Loria paid them too much money for guys who are only team ambassadors. So, sure, if the job is too cushy by the standards of the gig, I could see Jeter cutting their pay or their duties to make it conform to what other clubs do with their former stars. Maybe that makes them want to quit. If so, that’s OK I suppose.

Beyond that, however, it’s hard to see why you would NOT want guys like Conine, Dawson, Perez and McKeon to represent your club in the community and in the service of impressing prospective season ticket holders. The franchise’s first star player, a Hall of Famer who ended his career with the club, another Hall of Famer who is from Cuba (which is kind of a big deal in a place like Miami) and the manager who brought the club its last World Series championship are exactly who you want to represent your team. Especially when nearly everything else about your team has, for so very long, alienated the very public you want supporting it.

But let’s say, for the moment, that there was a good reason to fire those guys. Let’s say they’re all flaming jackwagons who have secretly poisoned the franchise from within. Let’s say that, despite his grandfatherly charm, Jack McKeon is a ruthless Machiavellian. Let’s say that Conine, Dawson and Perez beat up copy boys in the stairwells and microwave leftover fish in the break room every day. Even if that’s the case, how does this happen?

And here’s the twist: Jeter asked Marlins president David Samson to fire those four Marlins luminaries for him, because Jeter didn’t want to do it.

Even more strange, Jeter made the request after telling Samson what he already knew: that Samson would not be returning as team president.

It seems that Samson did carry out the firings. Unless some handsome severance package was being held hostage over it, I’m not sure how Samson doesn’t tell Jeter, “Hey Captain RE2PECT, know what? Up yours, you do it yourself.” Of course, one can only project one’s own sensibility on a guy like David Samson so much, so let’s cut him a bit of slack here. We don’t know how the conversation went. Maybe Samson was happy to tell those guys to hit the bricks.

But really, how doesn’t Jeter man-up and handle this himself? It’s not because he’s not yet officially the owner, because if he has the power to fire Samson, he has the power to fire Conine and his friends. Maybe there is more to this than the Herald story lets on, but as it stands now, it comes off as cowardice on Jeter’s part. It’s a really bad look.

I’ll be curious to see how this plays in the baseball establishment over the next couple of days. Everyone — particularly the press — loves Derek Jeter an credits him with a class, smoothness and media savvy matched by few others. This, though, was either (a) a failure of class and an act of disrespect to baseball luminaries; or (b) a complete bungling of public relations, serving to make what was, in reality, a reasonable move appear classless. It has to be one or the other.

Derek Jeter has been a teflon star for more than two decades, but two of the few things the media loves more than Derek Jeter are (a) old Baseball Men like McKeon, Dawson, Perez and Conine; and (b) “classiness.” It’ll be interesting to see if, for the first time in his professional life, the media gets its knives out for Derek Jeter for seeming content to dispense with both.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.