MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Derek Jeter’s final All-Star Game wasn’t half bad.
It started with a loud and long round of applause during player introductions and a louder and longer round when he made a very slick stop of an Andrew McCutchen ground ball in the top of the first. On a shot to his left, mind you, which is a play Jeter has not always made well. He made it well tonight, however, and even though he couldn’t quite get the speedy McCutchen at first — no one could, most likely — it was a very nice beginning to his game.
The nice beginning continued in the bottom of the first when he came to bat to a longer and louder round of applause. N.L. catcher Jonathan Lucroy and the home plate umpire took several steps back to give Jeter some time and the spotlight. But as is always the case with Jeter, he’d rather get down to business. He smiled and thanked the crowd, but he also looked back at Lucroy several times as if to say “Get your ass back in that box and let’s get on with this, will ya?” He wasn’t annoyed, but his demeanor was certainly consistent with what he’s been saying all week: he’s here for a baseball game, not a tribute.
Jeter then promptly laced a double off Adam Wainwright and came around to score on Mike Trout’s triple. Jeter is not a young man. He is not the player he once was. But on this night he looked like he could do this forever. He came up again in the bottom of the third and dropped a bloop single down the first base line that fell in between Paul Goldschmidt and Yasiel Puig. He took second on a wild pitch but was stranded there to end the inning.
Then: the departure. Jeter took his position at shortstop to start the top of the fourth. But the game paused and Alexei Ramirez came running out to relieve him. They hugged at short, and Jeter jogged off the field to the largest ovation of the night, with “New York, New York” playing over the P.A. More hugs in the dugout and, finally, a curtain call. This whole process took close to five minutes. The applause did not stop. It didn’t even flag.
Jeter came into the league with a bang nearly 20 years ago. He’s certainly making a hell of an exit.
On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.
Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.
The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.
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.