Honor, Class, Rules, & Reality

The blogosphere and radio-waves are abuzz this morning with Derek Jeter's the-ends-justify-the-means "my job is to get on base" explanation for his Oscar-winning acting job last night – pretending he was hit by a pitch when he clearly was not.  The result?  He indeed did get on base and scored the game tying run when Curtis Granderson followed with a 2-run go-ahead home run.  The Yanks went on to lose the game – sigh.  But discussion today is largely focused on Jeter's acting job.

It is rather naive to be up in arms about this.  As Mike Golic on ESPN radio has been ranting all morning, it is no different from an outfielder trapping a ball and then holding up his mitt to sell "the catch" and see if he gets the call.  But I'd also be lying if I said that I thought it was a great play by Jeter.  It's something you would sheepishly accept, not proudly include in your highlight reel.

It does raise the issue of hypocrisy.  Someone here please explain to me what the difference is between A-Rod slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's mitt in the 2004 ALCS and Derek Jeter pretending he was hit last night.  I mean, other than how much people tend to like and admire the players in question.  If you have no problem with Jeter's actions, why would you have a problem with A-Rod's?  And if you have a problem with both, do you also have a problem with Golic's example of the trapped ball? 

The fact is that these actions – like Reggie Jackson sticking his hip out to block the throw back to first base  and avoid the double play in Game 6 of the '78 World Series - are examples of players trying to get away with something and placing the onus firmly on the umpires to call their bluffs.  This is not golf, where the culture of the sport and the reality of having it play out over time and geography mean that officials can not be on top of every little action and players are expected to respect an honor code when it comes to abiding by even the most arcane rules.  But neither is it soccer, where rolling around in agony after every slight bump to entice a call is an accepted – even expected – act.  Baseball is somewhere in between, and therein lies the rub. 

Fans often act like there is a clear honor code, and players sometimes reinforce this by, for instance, asserting with absolute certainty that an opposing player "walking on my mound" and other such transgressions violate some iron-clad and well-established honor code.  The fact is that there is no clear honor code except where a player's actions risk serious injury to another (going in spikes-high, throwing brush-back pitches above the shoulders, etc.) and judgments about the legitimacy of a player's actions are often made based on the likeability of the player being judged and the fandom of those doing the judging.  If A-Rod had done what Jeter did last night some people's positions on it would likely flip 180 degrees simply based on the player in question.

The fact is, when a player does these things and gets away with them, I first blame the umps, but I also think a little less of the player.  I guess I like living in the fantasy-world of baseball as a sport with a clear honor code and not as the ends-justify-the-means business that it really is.  At least I can admit it.

21 comments… add one

  • I knew this was going to get blown out of proportion. It was a heady move. It was a close game, pennant chase and the crafty veteran got on base and it led to a tie game. Great job Jeter! It’s about time you did something… ;)
    Now, on the other side, I would be PISSED if it happened to us!!! But it is on the ump.

    krueg September 16, 2010, 9:46 am
  • Eh, when you’re hitting .260, and have become a liability in a lineup, you do whatever you can to get on base. Jeter realizes that he’s sliding, and fast, and he knows that his value is taking first, and did it.
    Just another great argument for replay.
    Yeah, it’s bunk, and he lied and acted like it hit him, but he’s not the first, and they lost anyhow.
    The Tampa radio guys were off the hook: they may get fired.

    Brad September 16, 2010, 9:51 am
  • they may get fined, I meant to say, not fired.

    Brad September 16, 2010, 9:52 am
  • I don’t really care either way, I think it was a pretty clever move by Jeter, even as it seemed rather, well, undignified. IH is right: this is part of the game and that means that even the pillars of decency still look for outside-the-rules advantages. Jeter did something that his supposed “character” wouldn’t, in conventional wisdom, allow. The curtain is pulled back. Jeter is a baseball player like everyone else when he is on the field, just (a lot) better at playing that game of baseball.
    My thought last night was how do those Yankee-rooting soccer-hating fans who abhor the dive, who call strikers prima donnas for acting as if their leg was amputated when they are barely touched, process last night’s brilliant “gamesmanship”?

    SF September 16, 2010, 10:16 am
  • The funnier part is that he lied to the point that he had the trainer come out.

    Brad September 16, 2010, 10:32 am
  • “soccer-hating fans”
    raises hand.

    Brad September 16, 2010, 10:33 am
  • My thought last night was how do those Yankee-rooting soccer-hating fans who abhor the dive, who call strikers prima donnas for acting as if their leg was amputated when they are barely touched, process last night’s brilliant “gamesmanship”?
    Because he is on our team. And he’s Jeter. I’m not sure how that isn’t clear???

    krueg September 16, 2010, 10:50 am
  • Jeter is paid millions of dollars to not make an out, and in a one-run game him getting on base is HUGE (and the resulting homer by Granderson proves that). It is sort of a dick move, but Jeter has always been a very classy player so I don’t mind giving him a free pass.
    Now if it were someone like ARod, who has a history of being a douchebag… things would be different.

    Atheose - SF September 16, 2010, 12:20 pm
  • Also, when comparing it to ARod’s slap in 2004: that required ARod to proactively break a rule, and THEN follow it up with pretending like it didn’t happen. Jeter’s action was more reactionary. That’s the key difference there.

    Atheose - SF September 16, 2010, 12:23 pm
  • Ath, I totally agree. Jeter, meh, but if this was ARod…

    Clark SF September 16, 2010, 2:08 pm
  • This is all so fucking ridiculous. Players all over the league, and in all sports, try to draw calls. To sit here and judge Jeter in any kind of grand notion, or even ARod for that matter is fucking childish. Period.
    It’s kind of like SF’s chanting steroids and talking about *’s without even acknowledging that their own two seasons of sucess are similarily tainted if the original shit-talking were true…
    Bottom line, most people hate the Yankees. If this were a dude on the Royals against the Indians, it wouldn’t even be on sportscenter and we wouldn’t even be talking about it.
    END OF RANT.
    (I’ve been listening to sports radio today and the false outrage over this is a fucking joke.)

    krueg September 16, 2010, 2:20 pm
  • Rant continued:
    OK, so what about then an outfielder clearly catches a ball on a hop but sticks up the glove and starts running in as if it was an out…trying to get a call. It happens ALL THE TIME, ALL OVER BASEBALL! Am I wrong??? Is this not just typical asinine hating???

    krueg September 16, 2010, 2:39 pm
  • I haven’t been around for a while, sorry, but this is a thing? REALLY? This is the same thing as tagging a player at second and then showing the glove to the umpire, even if you know he was clearly safe. It’s the same thing as starting to walk towards first base even if you know the pitch was a strike.
    It happens every. Single. Day.
    How many times has a player faked getting hit? How many times has YOUKILIS fallen down in reaction to a high pitch and then yelled at the pitcher in fake anger when the ball went OVER THE PLATE, in order to gain even the smallest advantage?
    This post was great. The hilarity over the ‘mound-walking’ was one thing. I expect people to be irrational, stupid, and petty in regards to A-Rod, because hey, he’s the whipping boy because he’s had a better career than anyone active in the game today and he’s kind of a weird dude. I get it.
    But this. Come on. I don’t even see how you can ‘lose respect’ for a guy over this. How can anyone lose respect for Derek Jeter for trying to help his team win?
    Anyone who calls this move ‘classless’ or whatever, and then goes on to root for their own player who does the same thing is a 100% hypocrite.
    So, really, everyone.
    I seriously can’t believe this is a thing. It’s a great view of how hilariously biased ESPN is when even Derek Jeter doesn’t get a pass, simply because he wears the pinstripes. I know we didn’t need any more evidence on the mile-high pile, but damn. It’s about as transparent as Fox News these days.

    AndrewYF September 16, 2010, 4:11 pm
  • The thing is I think at this site, SF and YF alike, all agree that this is part of the game. That Jeter, like all other ballplayers, looks for any advantage, even if it means acting or playing the part of someone else, like a guy who got hit by a pitch.
    That’s the game. The controversy is kind of silly, but let’s at least acknowledge that it isn’t a controversy at this site.

    SF September 16, 2010, 6:03 pm
  • Sure it happens all the time Andrew/Krueg, nobody is saying otherwise. But this isn’t just a black-and-white situation; there can be varying degrees of it. An outfielder trapping a ball and holding his glove up for a split second is “wrong”. Jeter getting hit on the bat, jumping off to the side shaking his arm, and then calling a trainer out to look at his arm is also “wrong”. However, the latter scenario requires a lot more deception.
    But like I said above, I don’t think it’s a huge deal. It was a one-run game in a CRUCIAL series, and Jeter was doing what he’s paid to do: not make an out. Even though it’s “wrong”, I would still want a player on the Red Sox to do the exact same thing in that situation.

    Atheose - SF September 17, 2010, 9:10 am
  • I would still want a player on the Red Sox to do the exact same thing in that situation.
    …and so would all these idiots screaming about the horror of it all and how Jeter is some kind of criminal. It’s already pretty much dead in our 24 hour attention span country.

    krueg September 17, 2010, 10:55 am
  • Players who trap the ball don’t always know they didn’t trap the ball. Jeter knew he wasn’t hit.
    There are shades of gray here.

    SF September 17, 2010, 10:34 pm
  • finally, we have something legit to rag on jeter about…he’s been so perfect…the one thing that woke sox fans out of their collective slumber is a transgression so abominable, so despicable, so dishonorable, that we can finally put to rest the notion that he’s a good, honest, decent ballplayer…wow…go back to sleep sox fans…

    dc September 18, 2010, 1:41 am
  • dc, you must have picked up on something I haven’t. I really don’t see SFs at this site making much of a deal out of this. The hysterical anti-Jeter reactions these past few days have been playing out elsewhere, but not so much here.

    IronHorse (YF) September 18, 2010, 12:58 pm
  • IH is right. Everyone here knows this is a non-story. Like the Sox this year.
    PS Lackey is so awful. I still think this possible vaunted rotation could work out over the next couple of years, but what an absolutely shit-tacular season. To think I was excited about them acquiring him.

    Devine September 18, 2010, 11:41 pm
  • well IH, i was mostly echoing krueg’s emotion about the more vociferous critics whether they be sox fans participating on this site or not…i think the reason this was such big news elsewhere is the general hunger many folks have to dish dirt on everyone, politicians, actors, athletes, musicians…after having this clean and boring image for so long, as silly as the whole thing was, jeter gave them something to chew on…i’ll concede that while most of the comments here suggest “no big deal, part of the game” sentiment, there’s still that ever so subtle obligatory dig at the captain…i thought jeter [or his pr guy] said it best as usual: [paraphrasing badly]…’the ump made the call, what was i going to do, tell him oh no sir, you’ve made an egregious error…i was not hit by the ball, may i continue to bat?’…really, every single ballplayer could be considered guilty of benefitting from bad calls and milking it even though they knew the call was wrong…if some want to critique his bad acting, well that’s ok i guess…he never said he was an actor either…

    dc September 19, 2010, 10:20 am

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