What in the World Series is going on here?

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We’re 10 days into the 2012 postseason and the American League finalists can’t hit, the National League contenders can’t get any starting pitching and none of the teams still playing seem to be any better than the ones that were eliminated.

Here are the hitting lines of the four teams still standing:

Detroit: .258/.299/.351, 3 HR, 20 RBI in 248 AB
New York: .205/.277/.326, 6 HR, 20 RBI in 258 AB

St. Louis: .249/.342/.438, 9 HR, 40 RBI in 233 AB
San Fran: .196/.270/.332, 5 HR, 20 RBI in 199 AB

If these were actual regular-season player lines, the Cardinals would be a fringe regular as a corner outfielder and the other three would be riding the pine. The Yankees have scored fewer runs in their seven games than the NLDS-losing Reds did in five games.

The AL contenders have combined for 198 hits and 239 strikeouts so far. Obviously, that’s not the norm. In the regular season, AL teams had 20 hits for every 17 strikeouts. In the postseason, it’s been 20 hits for every 24 strikeouts.

Overall, AL hitters are batting .218 and slugging .310 this postseason. To put that in perspective, Justin Verlander limited major league hitters to a .217 average and a .306 slugging percentage this season. So, essentially, every AL pitcher this month is Justin Verlander.

The NL, on the other hand, hasn’t had it so bad for offense. Not early in games anyway. What is odd is just how bad the starters are getting roughed up, especially with four of the league’s top five rotations represented. Going by ERA, the Nationals had the NL’s best rotation this year, followed by the Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds and Giants. And yet…

Cardinals starters: 2-2, 4.22 ERA
Reds starters: 1-2, 4.30 ERA
Nationals starters: 0-2, 5.25 ERA
Giants starters: 1-3, 6.49 ERA

Outside of Washington’s, the bullpens have been far more effective, which is fortunate since they’ve so often needed to cover five innings per game. The Cards’ bullpen has a 1.80 ERA in 30 innings. The Giants are at 2.51 ERA in 28 2/3 innings.

So, what are we left with 10 days in? The AL’s best offensive team has a .650 OPS, a mark that would have rated the worst in the major leagues this season. NL starting pitchers are 4-8 with a 4.92 ERA, which is a worse ERA than every NL team besides the Rockies posted this year. And for all of the exciting games, it’s hard to argue that we’ve actually seen a great caliber of play from any of these teams this month. While there have been thrills and chills, it hasn’t exactly been a showcase.

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.