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Watch: Andrew Romine plays all nine positions in one game

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Weird baseball came early to the Tigers this weekend. Instead of allowing Andrew Romine to start at all nine positions on Sunday, as announced, club manager Brad Ausmus decided to have the outfielder go for the feat during Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Twins.

This doesn’t happen often. It’s the kind of end-of-season gimmick that helps draw crowds to a losing team and gives diehard fans a neat piece of trivia. In fact, only four other major league players have ever played all nine positions in a single game: Royals’ shortstop Bert Campaneris (1965), Twins’ infielder/outfielder Cesar Tovar (1968), Rangers’ infielder Scott Sheldon (2000) and Tigers’ infielder Shane Halter (2000). (A bonus fun fact: Ausmus was playing behind the dish on the day that Halter started at all nine positions, per MLB.com’s Jason Beck.)

Here’s how it all went down:

Romine started Saturday’s game in a familiar position, taking his spot in left field for the first inning. He fielded two fly ball outs, but couldn’t quite get to Miguel Sano‘s line drive single in time, and Tigers’ right-hander Buck Farmer walked in a run in the next at-bat.

In the second, Romine shook things up in the outfield. He shifted to center, while right fielder Alex Presley moved to left field and JaCoby Jones left his post in center field to cover right field. This time, no balls were hit in Romine’s direction, and Farmer held the Twins to a solitary walk.

Romine completed his tour of the outfield in the third inning, swapping places with Jones again so he could try out the right field corner. Eddie Rosario slapped a first-pitch single in Romine’s direction, but was left stranded as Sano and Max Kepler went down swinging to end the threat.

With all three outfield positions checked off, Romine changed places with third baseman Nick Castellanos in the fourth inning. Perhaps he’s a magnet: Eduardo Escobar popped out in the first at-bat, sending Romine hustling for the ball in foul territory.

Ausmus inserted Jeimer Candelario as a pinch-hitter in the top of the fifth inning, and the rookie returned to man the hot corner in the bottom of the inning while Romine tried his glove at shortstop. Joe Mauer led off with a walk, but Jorge Polanco gave Romine the opportunity he needed to test his double-play skills, grounding into a 4-6-3 play to catch Mauer at second base.

The Tigers stuck with their by-the-book strategy, keeping Romine moving around the horn in the sixth as he scooted over to second base and Dixon Machado shifted to short. Romine didn’t get any whizbangers here, though, as Chad Bell stepped in to replace Farmer and set down a quick 1-2-3 half-inning.

The real test of the night came in the seventh, when Romine made his first career appearance behind the dish. It’s a position his brother, Yankees’ catcher Austin Romine, is much more familiar with, and one that Andrew didn’t take a special shine to during his brief tryout on Saturday — despite getting to use his brother’s hand-me-down glove. He guided Blaine Hardy through four at-bats (with some generous help from Bryan Holaday at second base), during which Hardy induced a fly out, line drive double, RBI single, and a walk. Romine, meanwhile, contributed his first (and hopefully last) passed ball, and briefly returned to second base while James McCann stepped in to catch the rest of the inning.

Romine’s leash was even shorter when he got on the mound in the eighth. He missed the strike zone with his first two pitches and worked a 3-1 count before inducing a Miguel Sano groundout. That may have been too close for comfort for Ausmus, however, who moved Romine to first base for his ninth and final position of the night.

Romine fielded a routine grounder to end the eighth inning and returned in the bottom of the ninth as the Twins tried to rally for a late lead, capping the Tigers’ win after palming a Zack Granite grounder at first base.

“Right now, I’m just happy we won. I think it’ll kick in a little bit when I go and sit down and celebrate with the guys in the locker room,” the exhausted infielder/outfielder/catcher/pitcher said following the game. “Relief, happiness, you name it, I’m feeling it right now. It’s so much fun.”

Let’s hope he gets a breather tomorrow. He’s earned it.

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.