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


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.

Jones, Maddux, Morris consider Bonds, Clemens for Hall


COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Hall of Famers Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris and Ryne Sandberg are among 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee that will meet to consider the Cooperstown fate of an eight-man ballot that includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro.

Hall of Famers Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also are on the panel, which will meet in San Diego ahead of the winter meetings.

They will be joined by former Toronto CEO Paul Beeston, former Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs executive Theo Epstein, Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno, Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng, Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter and Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams.

Three media members/historians are on the committee: longtime statistical analyst Steve Hirdt of Stats Perform, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Neal and Slusser are past presidents of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark will be the committee’s non-voting chair.

The ballot also includes Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Curt Schilling. The committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A candidate needs 75% to be elected and anyone who does will be inducted on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the BBWAA vote, announced on Jan. 24.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their 10th and final appearances on the BBWAA ballot. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program, just over two weeks after getting his 3,000th hit.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) in 2021. Support dropped after hateful remarks he made in retirement toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the BBWAA ballot in 2019. Murphy was on the BBWAA ballot 15 times and received a high of 116 votes (23.2%) in 2000. Mattingly received a high of 145 votes (28.2%) in the first of 15 appearances on the BBWAA ballot in 2001, and Belle appeared on two BBWAA ballots, receiving 40 votes (7.7%) in 2006 and 19 (3.5%) in 2007.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.

This year’s BBWAA ballot includes Carlos Beltran, John Lackey and Jered Weaver among 14 newcomers and Scott Rolen, Todd Helton and Billy Wagner among holdovers.