Derek Jeter resumes his role as a living Rorschach test for sports writers

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Derek Jeter was famous for a lot of things, but one of his more underrated contributions over the years was his service as a living, breathing Rorschach test for sports writers. He never said or did anything particularly controversial. He, more than any player I can think of, stuck to the script. In so doing, he made himself into whatever a person talking about him wanted him to be. Or needed him to be.

If they were angry at some brash young athlete they could hold up Jeter as an example of how the brash athlete should act. If they needed to bash Alex Rodriguez, they could use Jeter as a counterexample. If the modern game was getting them down, they could hold up Jeter as an example of old school baseball, despite the fact that the behavior of the old school guys was not at all like what they wanted us to believe.

The key part here, is that Jeter himself almost never spoke out on such things. People just assumed that he agreed with their particular take on whatever issue of the day was raging, in reality or just in their minds. He was pretty savvy in allowing that dynamic to persist, of course, but he didn’t start it, let alone perpetuate it the way sports writers have over the years.

With Jeter buying the Miami Marlins, he’s back to serving as the personal avatar for whoever needs one. Like Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, who has decided that Jeter will stop all of the things he hates about modern baseball:

Derek Jeter is going to rock baseball’s world as boss of the Marlins. Jeter believes in scouting, talent, heart and soul, and he will look to fill the Marlins roster with the same kind of winning player he was during his 20-year championship career with the Yankees. In doing so he will slow down the rush to analytics that is now being portrayed the answer to all of baseball’s questions . . . In his heart, Jeter wants to run a baseball team that crushes what he views to be over-the-top analytic-based teams. As simple as it sounds, he wants to bring the game back to the players . . .

Kernan specifically believes that Jeter will cut back on shifts and relief pitcher usage and will encourage his Marlins teams to rely less on home runs and hit the ball the other way. He believes he’ll be the anti-sabermetic executive:

Perhaps it will translate this way: Perhaps pitch counts will grow. Perhaps, if a pitcher is throwing a shutout after six innings, maybe the pitcher will go an extra inning. Perhaps it just won’t be a bullpen-by-numbers situation. If a reliever is doing well, maybe he will get an extra out, an extra inning.

Perhaps his team will not shift as much. The 14-time All-Star shortstop was never a big fan of the shift on his way to five World Series rings.

Perhaps everything will not be geared to hitting the home run. There will be room for a batter who inside-outs a pitch the way Jeter was known for as a hitter and his 3,465 hits.

Fundamentals will become vital again, cutoffs, too, and making sure to follow the ball like his famous flip play.

Importantly, Kernan does not believe this based on anything Jeter said after voicing his interest in becoming an owner or having his bid accepted by Jeff Loria. He bases it on a throwaway quote Jeter gave him about numbers ruling the game “at his locker several years before he retired.” Really. That’s it.

I suppose it’s possible that Derek Jeter’s approach as a team owner will be to stand athwart baseball history yelling “STOP!” thereby mirroring the inferences Kernan has made based on a vague conversation they had several years ago. It’s far more likely, however, that Jeter will hire professionals in their field and that he and they will practice baseball management at, more or less, the state of the current art.

I am dead certain, however, that whatever Jeter does, sports writers will continue to attempt to use Derek Jeter as a delivery vessel for their own grouchy grievances, just as Kernan is clearly doing here.

Blue Jays shut down Steve Pearce for the rest of 2017

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The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.

Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.

With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.

Brewers’ Julio Mendez remains hospitalized after hit by pitch

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Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.

Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.

Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.