Derek Jeter’s final, wonderful All-Star Game ends in the fourth inning

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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.

Oh good, it’s “Yasiel Puig is a showboat” season

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With the Los Angeles Dodgers punching their ticket to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is now going to be the subject of commentary by people who tend not to care about Yasiel Puig until it’s useful for them to write outraged columns or go on talk radio rants about baseball deportment.

We got a brief teaser of this last night when, after scoring the Dodgers’ ninth run on a Logan Forsythe double, TBS analyst Ron Darling criticized Puig for his “shenanigans” and “rubbing it in.” Never mind that his third base coach was waving him home and that, if he didn’t run hard, he was just as likely to be criticized for dogging it. In other news, baseball teams don’t stop trying in the fourth inning of baseball games, nor should they.

That was just an appetizer, though. The first real course of the “Puig is a problem” feast we’re likely to be served over the next week and a half comes from Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who wrote it even before the Dodgers won Game 5 last night:

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless . . . In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires.

This may as well be a fill in the blanks column from 2013 or 2014, when “Puig is a flashy showboater who costs his team more than he gives it” columns were all the rage. It ignores the fact that Puig, commonly dinged for being lazy, worked his butt off in 2017, particularly on defense, to the point where he has a strong case for a Gold Glove this year. It also ignores his .455/.538/.727 line in the NLDS sweep of the Diamondbacks and his .389/.500/.611 line against the Cubs in the NLCS. In the regular season he set career highs for games, homers, RBI, stolen bases and almost set a career high for walks despite having seventy fewer plate appearances than he did back in 2013 when he walked 67 times. He’s not the MVP candidate some thought he might be, but he’s a fantastic player who has been a key part of the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 29 years.

But the dings on Puig from the likes of Mushnick have rarely been about production. They’ve simply been about style and the manner in which he’s carried himself. To the extent those issues were legitimate points of criticism — particularly his tardiness, his relationships with his teammates and his at times questionable dedication — they have primarily been in-house concerns for the Dodgers, not the casual fan like Mushnick. On that score the Dodgers have dealt with Puig and, by all accounts, Puig has responded pretty well. An occasional lapse to be sure, but nothing which makes him a greater burden than a benefit. I mean, if he was, would be be batting cleanup in a pennant-clinching game?

So if the beef with Puig is not really about baseball, what could Phil Mushnick’s issue with him possible be?

I, for one, have no idea whatsoever.