Derek Jeter: “I still have a season to play”

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Derek Jeter met the press today. As he said in his Facebook post last week, 2014 will be his last season. But this wasn’t a ceremony or a retirement press conference as such. The team and Jeter referred to it as Jeter’s “media availability” which he does every spring, and Jeter did everything he could to make it seem like no big deal. Just the usual February meet-and-greet.

And while most of the conversation was about his retirement, it wasn’t like most retirement announcements we normally see. Jeter had no prepared statement. He said he said everything in the Facebook message last week. The reason? He didn’t want to be a distraction and didn’t want his teammates to have to show up for a formal announcement ceremony. He just asked for it to be a normal. “I still have a season to play,” Jeter said.

Jeter’s second question was about how he felt. He said “I feel good. This has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel physically. I feel great.” He said, over and over, that “the time is right” and that he just wanted to do different things with his life. He mentioned wanting to have a family some day. When pressed for reasons for his retirement he half-jokingly, but somewhat seriously, asked the reporters if they didn’t really read his Facebook announcement. Because that was it. Everything he had to say about it was in there.

Still, the questions came. And to some degree Jeter did open up. He said that a lot of his career had become a job in the past year. Not the playing — he said he still likes coming to the ballpark and playing — but meeting with the media. Answering the increasing questions about how long he can go on. He also referred to the rehab from injuries like he endured last year. And though he didn’t say so, it’s not hard to read in the notion that Jeter would expect to have more rehab as he gets older and that he wouldn’t much care for that.

A couple of reporters asked Jeter if he was emotional about it. He sparred with them — “what, are you trying to get me to cry?” he joked. And there were no tears. Jeter referenced the fact that he has always hidden his emotions to some extent, but yes, he has them. He’s not going to be emotional about it now, however, as he still has a season in front of him. “It’s not the end yet,” Jeter said.

But there were a few words that even the stoic Jeter must admit were more reflective of the end of his career. He was asked about being drafted in 1992 and how time has flown. He said if he had a message for younger players it would be to “enjoy it as much as you can,” and implied that he didn’t always do that himself, though such an approach “has always worked for me.”

2014 will be Jeter’s 20th season as a major leaguer. As he enters it, he has a career line of .312/.381/.446 with 3,316 hit, 256 homers and 1,261 runs batted in. He has five gold gloves and five World Series rings.

Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday

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This Sunday three players will be honored in Cooperstown as Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez become the 313th, 314th and 315th members inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Executives Bud Selig and John Schuerholz will be inducted as well, making it 316 and 317.

Raines was quite possibly the NL’s best player in a five-year span from 1983-87.  WAR thinks so, placing him ahead of Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy, all of whom got more plaudits at the time. Raines hit .318/.406/.467 during that period and averaged 114 runs scored and 71 steals per year. During those five years, only Rickey Henderson scored more runs (572-568) and only Wade Boggs had a better OBP (.443 to .406). That Raines had to wait until his last year of eligibility was in large part due to him being a very similar player to Henderson. Which is kind of an unfair comparison — Henderson is one of the best players of all time — but that’s how the voters operate sometimes.

Bagwell likewise had to wait a bit longer than he should’ve, mostly due to thus far evidence-free beliefs that he used PEDs. On the merits, Bagwell was one of the best first basemen of all time, with a career line of .297/.408/.540, 449 homers and 1,529 RBI. Between 1994 and 2001, he averaged — averaged! — a line of .306/.428/.589, 37 homers and 120 RBI while playing in perhaps the worst hitters park in history in the Astrodome.

People whispered about Rodriguez and PEDs just as much as they did Bagwell, but he got in on the first ballot, suggesting that the BBWAA is getting over its hangups. He is also clearly deserving of induction. Rodriguez, the 1999 AL MVP, was named to 14 All-Star teams and he won 13 Gold Gloves. He finished his career with a .296/.334/.464 line, 311 homers and 1,332 RBI. His 2,427 games caught is a major league record. He was, without question, the best defensive catcher of his era and many believe he was the best of all time. If he’s not, he’s in the top two or three.

As for the executives: we’re long on record as believing that Bud Selig’s induction is a disgrace. It was nonetheless a foregone conclusion, as the Hall of Fame has tended to view induction as part of retiring commissioners’ severance package. If there was any remaining doubt about him getting in, the fact that the committee which elected Selig was, more or less, hand-picked by people loyal to Selig and/or Major League Baseball put it to rest.  John Schuerholz is clearly deserving as he was one of the top executives of the past half century, starting out with the Orioles and then building winners in both Kansas City and Atlanta, sustaining those organizations’ success for far longer periods than most teams experience it.

Beyond those two, ESPN’s Claire Smith will be on the stage to accept the 2017 J. G. Taylor Spink Award, given to baseball writers. She is the first woman to be given baseball writing’s highest honor.  Athletics broadcaster will be honored as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting. Smith passed away in 2005.

The ceremony will be held on a big lawn a mile south of the Hall of Fame. If you’re in the neighborhood, admission is free and lawn chairs and blankets and things are welcome. If you’re not in the neighborhood, the festivities will be broadcast live on MLB Network and will be shown via webcast at http://www.baseballhall.org.

Aaron Judge broke a tooth celebrating the Yankees walkoff win

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Brett Gardner hit a walkoff homer last night, giving the Yankees a dramatic 11-inning win. A grand celebration ensued. And then a trip to the dentist presumably ensured for Aaron Judge.

Seems that Judge broke a tooth during the scrum, as Gardner’s helmet — which was bouncing around, not on Gardner’s head — bounced up and smacked Judge in the mouth. Judge quickly went to the clubhouse and wasn’t available for comment afterward. If he was, he likely would’ve said “Thith wath a great win. Gardner juth looked for hith pitch and put a good thwing on it.”

Judge is expected to make the start tonight for the Yankees.