Just about everything this side of eating breakfast will be some notable “last” for Derek Jeter this season. Today is his last home opener. Which occasioned a press conference about it all, of course. Indeed, he won’t have the last of his press conferences until sometime in the mid-2020s by my calculations. You can see the whole presser here.
The highlight: Jeter said Yankees fans are the greatest in the world. He quickly followed that by saying that, in claiming Yankee fan superiority, he means no disrespect to any other teams’ fans.
Which, as usual, is a pathetic example of the controversy-courting Jeter looking to stir the pot by saying audacious things. It’s the single biggest reason he’s been so darn unpopular throughout his career. Also:
- Jeter said he’d try to enjoy his farewell season and farewell tour, but he doesn’t know how he’s going to balance it all given that his priority each day is the game. Getting ready to play every day, which takes a lot more work than, say, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera had to deal with when they had their last season.
- He mentioned that the expectation that the Yankees had to win every year started after 1996, and noted that in 1996 the Yankees “may have snuck up on some people.”
That’s a rare and candid acknowledgment from a Yankee. Since the mid-90s there has been a pretty strong drumbeat that such expectations have always existed in Yankees-land. Those of us who remember the 80s and the early 90s know better. Those older, who remember the late 60s through the mid-70s know better too. When they weren’t winning in those periods, there wasn’t some national “how can the Yankees not be winning?!” thing in the air. They were treated just like any other team. One that has good stretches and bad stretches and life goes on. Perhaps the expectations lasted during the DiMaggio-Mantle years, and they certainly have existed for the past 15-17 years or so, but it hasn’t always been the case. And if the Yankees were ever to experience another decade in the wilderness, the expectations would adjust downward once again.
Anyway: happy home opener, Captain.
The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.
It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:
On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:
“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.
A couple of weeks ago our president wrote one of his more . . . vexing tweets. He was talking about immigration when he whipped out the phrase . . . “Easy D”:
No one was quite sure what he meant by Easy D. Was it the older brother of N.W.A.’s founder? The third sequel to that Emma Stone movie from a few years back? So many questions!
Baseball Twitter had fun with it, though, with a lot of people wondering how they could work it in casually to their commentary:
It wasn’t a scout who did it, but twelve days after that, a player obliged Mr. McCullough:
I have no more idea what Turner was talking about with that than Trump was. We’ll have to wait for the full story in the L.A. Times. But I am going to assume Turner was doing McCullough a solid with that one rather than commenting on the president’s tweet. Either way, I’m glad he made the effort.
And before you ask: yes, it’s a slow news day.