The Absentee Captain?

Chad Finn wonders if Derek Jeter is failing in his role as team leader:

And yet . . . well, it’s just the more we see, the more we wonder if his legendary
leadership is entirely by example, with a healthy dose of
media-scripted myth mixed in. At some point, doesn’t all the talk about
the "businesslike" clubhouse and the 25 players, 25 private planes
mentality leave a pock mark on his not-quite-unblemished
Rather than unifying this team, in tough times he always seems to go
out of his way to make the point that this is a "different group" than
the four-time champs, almost as if he’s disingenuously distancing
himself from the problems. This past week, Jorge Posada, the proud
owner of a fistful of World Series rings himself, tried taking a more
verbal approach, calling out the team for going through the motions
after another blase loss. It was a noble attempt to give the club a
spark, but it didn’t have the cachet or effect it would have it Jeter
had done it. Yet Jeter still shows little outward leadership beyond
strategically standing at the top step of the dugout and offering his
trademark fist-pump when things are looking up. The Yankees, as Posada
seemed to realize, need something more than that right now.

I think Chad Finn wrote and still writes (?) a very good Red Sox blog, which makes this entry unfortunate because despite the niceties at the beginning about how great a player Derek Jeter is, this column is little more than a thinly veilled character assassination piece. It is not convincing and it barely hides the biases of its author. I will not be diplomatic. Mr. Finn, apologize at once! Derek Jeter is a great man! He is a great leader of men. How dare you call into question this?

Seriously, I don’t care.

But. Come on. Seriously? Who knows if he leads in a bad or good way? Did anyone wonder aloud if Jason Varitek was doing his job of leading when the Sox limped to third place last season? Where were the articles about Varitek failing to call out his fellow underperforming teammates?

Baseball fans love to be sports psychologists. It’s fun to speculate about the personalities of different players and how it affects them on the field. But would Derek Jeter turning into Bobby Knight really help this team?

I say this is a poorly executed attack at the Myth of Derek Jeter. Long live the Myth!

41 comments… add one
  • Not directed to you Nick (no disrespect) but Bla Bla Bla…
    Derek Jeter is the ultimate Captain, regardless of this season’s success or lack there of. This team is filled with underachieving “Stars” and you can’t motivate “Stars.”
    I kind of had an epihany yesterday…Regardless of the numerous dead horses I beat, this is my/our team and I am stuck with it for at least 2007. Debating about whose fault it is doesn’t make me feel any better. Debating who made the call on Igawa, still doesn’t help. Regretting the Johnny Damon contract, no relief. Trying to imagine who in their right mind would take Damon, Abreu and Farnsworth, no sting taken away there. For 2007 this is the team we live and die with, win or lose.

    John - YF (Trisk) July 6, 2007, 5:07 pm
  • You came to that epiphany now? Isn’t that the nature of fandom?
    Couldn’t agree more, Nick. Jeter’s “leadership” isn’t relevant when you’re entire pitching staff starts the year on the DL, and then you lose your DH and your CF and there’s no effing bench.

    YF July 6, 2007, 5:31 pm
  • Any captaincy is overrated, frankly. This year proves that Jeter just doesn’t have much power in the position of “C”: this year is hardly his fault. Conversely, when Bobby Abreu was hitting the ball last year, it wasn’t Jeter’s leadership that made it happen, either.
    Last year’s captain of the Sox is this year’s captain of the Sox. Look at the ‘pen and starters: it’s just not the captain that deserves the credit, hardly ever.
    The only sport that I ever thought the captaincy really mattered was hockey, since the captain was afforded certain rights in-game with referees that no other player received. Additionally, hockey is a physical, emotional sport different from baseball, and rousing speeches can tend to have a more energizing effect in the short term. Baseball is just too laconic a game for that to make a huge difference. And frankly, it might not make a real difference in hockey, either.
    Jeter’s captaincy is utterly overrated. Like all captaincies.

    SF July 6, 2007, 5:36 pm
  • It’s pretty elementary why this kind of speculation is out there… (1) the Yankees are playing terribly, and (2) the media — along with New York fans and MLB itself — have built Derek Jeter up into arguably the biggest “face” of baseball.
    It’s a little like Hollywood stars complaining about their lack of privacy. Small price to pay for that kind of success, imho.

    Hudson July 6, 2007, 5:37 pm
  • Jeter isn’t the one complaining so I’m not sure the analogy works. But this piece just struck me as petty. One of the main reasons I think it was written is because Finn is a Sox fan.

    Nick-YF July 6, 2007, 5:43 pm
  • The problem is that Finn correctly has a beef with the overhype of Jeter as some kind of heroic captain who single-handedly led the victorious Yankees against the forces of the villainous Red Sox (and the National League and any other playoff opponents). Now that the Yanks are floundering, his beef more correctly should lie with why are those who so gave Jeter credit for all the success not dumping the blame on him? I agree with SF that the Yankees’ failures and successes are equally on Jeter’s shoulders in that he is one of 25 players. This season, the failures are less on his shoulders because he’s actually pulled his weight.
    I still maintain he’s not that great a captain — for whatever relevance the captaincy has, which isn’t much — thanks to the Giambi-Rodriguez double-standard he plainly exhibited last season. Can’t see Varitek doing that, frankly.

    Paul SF July 6, 2007, 6:03 pm
  • You have players like Hideki Matsui and Paul O’Neill who say that Jeter is the greatest teammate they have ever played with and then you have the media-interpreted psycho-drama of A-Rod and Jeter’s conflict and how supposedly Jeter failed as a teammate last season. I go with Hideki’s view over those who don’t play with the guy.
    Anyway, I still don’t know why Finn didn’t call into question V-Tek’s captaincy when the Sox stuck it up last season.

    Nick-YF July 6, 2007, 6:15 pm
  • Can’t see Varitek doing that, frankly.
    I just can’t speculate like this. Jeter’s lack of leadership on the A-Rod situation last year inspired a great deal of debate on this site, and I tend to think that Jeter was not much of a teammate during that whole scene. On the other hand, the team still made it to the playoffs and failed because of pitching and hitting, not because Jeter wasn’t a good enough captain to Rodriguez. Again, a perfect example of the general lack of significant impact a captain can have on a team. As I said before, Jeter just doesn’t have much impact on the team beyond his performance, which has been impeccable, so for me it basically ends there. For me that’s what makes all the idolatry of Jeter’s captaincy kind of silly – there are far better things to revere him for, the impact of his captaincy is just not one of them.
    I think the whole “what a captain, our captain” thing is basically mythmaking fanboyism. It’s part of the romance of baseball, attaching such grand influence to a player’s titular position. But ultimately it’s a false attribution.

    SF July 6, 2007, 6:21 pm
  • Derek Jeter may be sorely lacking in the leadership department, but he has a lovely perfume for men, from what I hear.
    Driven by Derek Jeter – EDT Spray 2.5 oz for Men
    Driven smells like oakmoss, spice and chilled grapefruit

    SoxFan July 6, 2007, 7:20 pm
  • paul, you just don’t like jeter, plenty of evidence there…end of story…
    “…Finn correctly has a beef with the overhype of Jeter…”…says who?…he’s a soxfan, and therefore has an inherent hate [jealousy] for yankees, especially someone like jeter…
    “…lack of leadership on the A-Rod situation…”…you all still assume he did nothing, because nothing was publicized…no telling what he did behind the scenes…
    “…all the idolatry of Jeter’s captaincy…”…frankly, the only people who give a shit about jeter’s captaincy are soxfans, who seem somewhat obsessed with it…you’ll notice there’s no “c” on his shirt advertising it…

    dc July 6, 2007, 10:43 pm
  • “…Finn correctly has a beef with the overhype of Jeter…”…says who?…he’s a soxfan, and therefore has an inherent hate [jealousy] for yankees, especially someone like jeter…
    Um, says me. I wrote the post. It was my opinion. You obviously disagree. Nice generalization of the Soxfan “hatred/obsession”, by the way. Good to see you’re back to your old standbys, even after a long absence.
    “…lack of leadership on the A-Rod situation…”…you all still assume he did nothing, because nothing was publicized…no telling what he did behind the scenes…
    Wrong. We know he did nothing because he said nothing. When Giambi was booed by the fans, Jeter did something and told the fans to lay off him. Jeter did no such favors for Rodriguez, who had done nothing wrong except insult Jeter in a magazine a few years ago. It was a clear double standard and poor leadership. I’m not talking about whether Jeter spoke to A-Rod behind the scenes. Maybe he did. Who knows? But he could have made Rodriguez’s life a whole lot easier and chose not to.
    “…all the idolatry of Jeter’s captaincy…”…frankly, the only people who give a shit about jeter’s captaincy are soxfans, who seem somewhat obsessed with it…you’ll notice there’s no “c” on his shirt advertising it…
    Ah, it must be all those Sox fans posting “O Captain my Captain” when Jeter gets a hit during the Yankee game threads.

    Paul SF July 7, 2007, 12:44 pm
  • what if they spoke behind the scenes and A-Rod told him not to say anything? It’s certainly a possibility.
    Anyway, I’m not sure I understand how Jeter saying anything would have helped him anyway. I don’t remember Yanks fans magically cheering Giambi after Jeter’s comments. They started doing that when he started hitting. And they’ve done that again with A-Rod this season. When was the last time he was booed?

    Nick-YF July 7, 2007, 12:57 pm
  • frankly, the only people who give a shit about jeter’s captaincy are soxfans
    You forgot the sarcasm emoticon, dc.

    SF July 7, 2007, 2:04 pm
  • The Myth of Jeter being the best shortstop of his generation and a first ballot Hall of Famer typically includes people playing the leadership/captain card. Thats when the estimations of his greatness become ‘overrating’. Think about someone making the comment that ‘Tek is better than Posada (despite the stats) due to his ‘leadership’

    Honkball July 7, 2007, 10:17 pm
  • “…Um, says me….”…yep, and you and finn are biased, which was the point…
    “…Wrong. We know he did nothing because he said nothing…”…well one of us is wrong, and i’d say it’s probably you in this case…you have no proof that jeter didn’t have a chat with arod…and, for the record, arod’s insulting jeter showed poor judgement, and indicative of HIS character as a teammate…i seriously doubt that jeter kissing arod’s butt would have made any difference in his performance…in fact, maybe jeter showing him some tough love built some character…doubt it, but maybe…
    “O Captain my Captain”…gimme a break pauly…your captain is the one who has to wear a “c” to remind himself that he is the captain, or is blatant self-aggrandizement the reason…
    good to see you haven’t changed either paul…you all hate jeter, even while some of you have some respect for his abilities…i can’t blame you, he’s cool, handsome, gets all the hot chicks, blah, blah…i get a pass on the generalization bullshit because i told you a long time ago that i’m going to take that short cut when it suits my purpose, so save the lecture…i’m glad you guys are enjoying the season…it’s more fun when you have something to be cocky about…

    dc July 8, 2007, 12:02 am
  • “…and indicative of HIS character as a teammate…”
    before someone corrects me, i realize that arod wasn’t a teammate of jeter’s at the time of the magazine insults, so i might better have said, “insult a fellow ballplayer, who was supposed to have been his friend”….just as bad…

    dc July 8, 2007, 12:08 am
  • SF July 8, 2007, 2:04 am
  • look sf, i understand what you’re trying to tell me, but the fact that some yf’s like to point out that jeter is the yankee captain [not sure why really], is irrelevant to the point i made about some sox fans obsession with him…some of you guys stretch the point when crowing about his flaws as a player and a captain…frankly, i could care less if he’s the captain or not, because i think the whole thing is over-rated…it’s a stretch to blame the captain of any team for that team’s performance…that was my point…

    dc July 8, 2007, 9:55 am
  • is irrelevant to the point i made about some sox fans obsession with him
    Where’s the evidence of “obsession”, dc? Nick started this thread and fans of both teams chimed in. If you search the archives of the site you’ll see far more Jeter hagiography and/or deification (whatever you want to call it) from Yankees fans then you will find Sox fans unilaterally posting about his overratedness. A Sox fan responding to a Yankee fan thread doesn’t qualify as “obsession”, on any level. Your accusations are simply off-base, with regards to this site. Do an archive search (I’ve done several to make sure) and (I hope) you’ll realize you are wrong.

    SF July 8, 2007, 10:19 am
  • i know it’s tough to search this site sf, so i’ll take your word for the imbalance of comments about jeter…you have to admit though that there’s a fair amount of jeter-hate on this site…you don’t have to look any further than paul’s comments…

    dc July 8, 2007, 3:37 pm
  • Egads, dc, there are Sox fans who don’t like Jeter, a New York Yankee?
    Perish the thought. This be a completely objectionable offense, and dareisay, OFF WITH HIS HEAD!
    Paul, you knave, how dare you suggest that Jeter’s captaincy is anything but the most legitimate leadership position in the world? The only thing with more legitimacy is the current occupant of the Oval Office.
    For shame, Paul. For shame.

    QuoSF July 8, 2007, 3:43 pm
  • next time actually read what i said before you comment quo…here’s the gist: the position of team captain is “over-rated”, which includes jeter…they shouldn’t get too much credit or too much blame…you guys are obsessed with his captaincy despite sf’s attempts to refute…you won’t find too many yf’s dumping on tek’s captaincy [except for that lame “c”]…hockey wannabe?

    dc July 9, 2007, 9:11 am
  • Read my own comment earlier in he thread, dc. I think you are just picking a fight here, with some disregard for the substance of what’s been written earlier.

    SF July 9, 2007, 10:21 am
  • So much of this discussion is based on speculation and bias… IMO it’s almost impossible to judge a captain’s impact without being in the clubhouse or on the field with him.
    “Do an archive search (I’ve done several to make sure)”
    To help elevate the level of future discussion, SF, would you explain the methods you use to search the archives? In my experience, dc is right – it is hard to search this site…

    Andrews July 9, 2007, 12:33 pm
  • Andrews, that was my original point with this post. This discussion can only be argued speculatively and with bias. This is more true of this argument I think than something like an MVP debate or who is a better pitcher. For those discussions we have a lot more data, a lot more hard facts. In this case we have anecdotal records which have been presented to us through media that are in fact mediating our experiences. Paul has picked up on a narrative that many reporters have told us: Jeter holds a grudge against A-Rod for his Esquire comments. Several years have transpired since said article and a very many things could have occurred between these two players in that time. Truly, we don’t know the nature of their relationship, the conversations they’ve had, the off-field experiences they have shared. We actually don’t know the players we root for. And, Andrews, I think you are completely right to say that it’s pretty impossible to judge the nature of a player’s effect on his fellow teammates without actually being a teammate.
    Now Finn’s piece is presented without the context that he is a huge Sox fan, who hates the Yankees. I think that’s what bothered me. Because I find that it’s nothing more than a Sox fan taking a random cheap shot at Jeter in a national column.

    Nick-YF July 9, 2007, 12:53 pm
  • I typically do several Google searches with key phrases, then scan the results, it’s not anything too scientific, Andrews. Just typing in ‘captain’ with regards to this thread, and/or ‘oh captain my captain’ yields quite a bit.
    As for “speculation and bias”, I agree, but am not sure, at least not in my case, that bias is at work. I simply think (and I explicitly posted this early on) that captains in general, regardless of uniform, don’t deserve much blame OR much credit. Hence, Jeter is certainly NOT at fault for the Yankees’ travails this season (how can he possibly be held responsible!?), but on the other hand neither does he deserve deification for being such a great leader in other years. He’s a great player, he’s clearly a good teammate, if ONLY because he works tirelessly and performs fantastically — what else do you need to say? The captaincy discussion is like the BBTN guys discussing “intangibles” to some extent; it’s talking around nothing, filling space. Baseball is too laconic to feel as much effect from a captain (or a “field general”, like from a quarterback) as other more physical, time-constrained sports. I imagine a smart, effective, and emotionally inspiring but controlled leader might have impact during crunch time in a football game, just from an organizations and clock-management standpoint, but in baseball I am skeptical.
    (And as for throwing out silly insults because Tek has a “C” patch on his uniform, well that’s pretty juvenile and not really a useful point, at least not to me.)

    SF July 9, 2007, 1:02 pm
  • I don’t understand this thing with the archives. It’s just a Google search within the site. Google’s about the most intuitive search engine out there. I imagine just typing “Jeter captain” without the quotes will get you a substantive amount of discussion. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve never had any trouble finding what I’ve needed within the site.
    You’re right, Nick, about not knowing what transpired between Jeter and ARod in more recent years. A-Rod himself did say however that they probably wouldn’t be having any sleepovers. I assume this to mean their relationship is still strained, and perhaps it’s a leap, but I don’t think it’s an illogical one, to tie the strained relationship to the difference in the way Jeter handled the Giambi/ARod/booing situations. Unless, like you said, A-Rod told him not to worry about it, which is possible but unlikely, given the way such quotes take place (spur of the moment, in response to questions immediately after a ballgame, and if I recall Jeter’s response was: “The fans don’t need me to tell them who to boo” or something similar, when he had in fact already done exactly that).
    DC, you won’t find many YFs dumping on Varitek’s captaincy because you won’t find many Sox fans harping incessantly during game threads and in other places about “Our Hero” Varitek’s “intangibles” and how his “great leadership” has led the Sox to another victory. Those phrases scream obsession to me, and they’re all used by Yankee fans about Derek Jeter.

    Paul SF July 9, 2007, 7:07 pm
  • sf, your search comes up short because some of the jeter-bashing can/has taken place in other discussions without the specific words you searched with…i’ll say it again: being captain is over-rated and doesn’t necessarily reflect any value to the team…it’s symbolic…and no, i’m not trying to pick a fight when i point out the inconsistencies and double-standards with the way some of you argue a point sometimes…seems ok for you to defend your players…as quo might say, “duh”…and you have gushed about tek’s “intangibles” with the pitchers, especially since that seems to be all he’s got going for him these days…nice try to provoke me with the “juvenile” insult, but it [the “c”] remains funny…what’s “juvenile” is wearing the “c” in the first place…i’ll let you have the last word since i don’t seem to be getting anywhere with this discussion…

    dc July 9, 2007, 11:23 pm
  • and you have gushed about tek’s “intangibles” with the pitchers
    Have I? Can’t find where I discuss anything like that.
    This is a big issue, dc: why do you throw out a charge like that without citing an example? It’s because you can’t. I did a two minute search on “varitek intangibles” and just plain “intangibles” (to follow your charge) and came up with one comment from February of this year where someone named “tommy” asserts that Tek has “intangibles”. Here it is:

    SF July 10, 2007, 7:32 am
  • One last thing, dc: I did a search on “Varitek pitchers” and it yielded a comment of mine from January, which remains entirely consistent with what I have posted in this thread here:
    Additionally, that thread has some interesting stuff from Quo on Tek. I don’t think you’d be able to qualify it as anything but reasonable and critical, all while it’s clearly from a Sox fan’s perspective.

    SF July 10, 2007, 7:37 am
  • geez…i thought i’d let you have the last word, but to be fair, i need to remind you that i use the pronoun “you” not necessarily to mean you personally sf, but to refer to “some” sox fans collectively…i’ve posted that little disclaimer before, and i used the phrase “some sox fans” earlier in the comments here [9:55am]…that 9:55 comment pretty much sums up how i feel about the subject, but you’re welcome to continue to disagree…also, putting the word intangibles with regard to tek in quotes wasn’t intended to imply that i was quoting verbatim anyone’s specific description of his skills…sox fans may not have used that specific word in connection with varitek, but it does describe what some sox fans believe he brings to the table…you were nit-picking a little bit by taking it so literally…you can’t deny that sox fans have aggressively argued tek’s value to the team as a handler of pitchers, maybe even you…like i said, defending your own players is a [no duh] given, so yf’s should have the same right without expecting some baseless, unprovable counter-arguments…also like i said, the search is not fool-proof [no search engine is flawless] since it is unlikely to turn up all comments we’ve made about a particular subject, especially if the wording is too specific…i wouldn’t want to wade through all the detail, but i suspect if we searched just “jeter” and “varitek” it might turn up some interesting tidbits that prove my point…to your credit, you have praised jeter in past comments…i don’t need a search to recall that…frankly it’s a bummer that you turned on me just for the purpose of defending paul…he’s off-base here, and i’m not the only one to point it out, even while i’m admitting that the whole captain thing is over-rated…

    dc July 10, 2007, 8:12 am
  • “Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve never had any trouble finding what I’ve needed within the site.”
    Obviously, some of us have, hence the question.
    Trying to pick a fight, as usual, I see.

    Andrews July 10, 2007, 10:51 am
  • Aw, let it go, guys. The search engine is Google, it’s flawed but follows the same rules as Google, which at this point is industry standard. A suggestion: install the Google toolbar (I assume that most people have this already, but perhaps I assume incorrectly), and click on the highlighter button once you’ve done a search; that makes it far easier to scan comments deep in long threads for key phrases or words.

    SF July 10, 2007, 11:05 am
  • There is a bottom-line argument for me that I hope isn’t tautalogical but it goes something like this: An organization, specifically its decision-makers who presumably have a better understanding of its players’ personalities and team dynamic, has decided to name this player (whether it is Jeter or Varitek) as the captain, its leader. This, in itself, tells me that the player has the qualities of personality needed to be a leader, and I find it far more compelling evidence that the player’s personality fits his role than anecdotes relayed by beat reporters and turned into arguments by bloggers. If multiple people say that this guy is a good clubhouse presence and the organization actually makes it official, questioning it seems misguided.

    Nick-YF July 10, 2007, 11:09 am
  • Mostly agreed, Nick, but that doesn’t put someone above criticism. I just don’t see the point in granting a captain (Jeter, Varitek, you name the guy I don’t care) much credit or blame for anything other than how they perform. Call me a skeptic, I guess. I don’t think Tek’s leadership won the Series for the Sox in 2004 (that would be Dave Roberts and a couple of inches, a lucky bounce off a ball hit by Tony Clark, Curt Schilling, Bellhorn, etc. etc.) and I don’t think Jeter has done much other than be a stellar, HoF ballpayer for the Yankees. There’s way too much chance in the inches of the game to think that a captain does much of anything beyond the symbolic, and the symbolic doesn’t get very far when your starters are hanging curveballs.
    Why do we need more than Hall of Fame performance, other than the romance of wanting a player to be more than they are?

    SF July 10, 2007, 11:17 am
  • Not picking fights, except to say if you have problems with searching this site, they’re the same problems you’d have searching Google.
    Not sure, Andrews, why you read into everything I write a hostility that isn’t there. I know you would argue that it’s because I exhibit “trollish” behavior, but considering no one else here has leveled those accusations, I’m still left wondering what I do that annoys you so much — other than liking the Sox of course. ;-)

    Paul SF July 10, 2007, 11:35 am
  • Paul, of course I have no problem with you liking the sox, and hating the yanks, for that matter. While no one else has called your behavior trollish, many people on the site have had their problems with you. We all dislike, or hate, even the other side of the rivalry. That’s why we’re here. It just seems sometimes that you have a huge chip on your shoulder, and in my opinion, and maybe that of others, it makes some of your comments appear petty. As I’ve posted on many occasions, I think the thread posts you put up are often fantastic – I just wish you would take it down a notch in your responsive comments.
    Maybe I’m off base here, but it seems that you’re out to retaliate against all yf’s for the behavior of a real asshole in yanks garb when you were a kid? Some of us are actually decent people…

    Andrews July 10, 2007, 12:34 pm
  • “(I assume that most people have this already, but perhaps I assume incorrectly”
    You do, but thanks, that should help.

    Andrews July 10, 2007, 12:36 pm
  • “I just don’t see the point in granting a captain (Jeter, Varitek, you name the guy I don’t care) much credit or blame for anything other than how they perform”
    I think that the captain sets a tone for the way the team conducts itself. This manifests itself in ways that can’t be quantified, but can have an impact on the success, or failure of a season.

    Andrews July 10, 2007, 12:52 pm
  • I think that the captain sets a tone for the way the team conducts itself.
    Hmm, it would make sense, then, that A-Rod can’t keep it in his pants…

    SF July 10, 2007, 12:59 pm
  • Andrews, not sure what I can say. At times I get strident during the course of a debate, but I think we all do. I’ve been quick to apologize when I realize I’ve been out of line, and that’s really all I can do when things get out of hand. I don’t think they get out of hand that often, and frankly, the times you have called me out for responses you thought were petty or trollish were not the times I would have called me out for being petty or trollish.
    I’ve had friends who are Yankee fans throughout my life, including a great one for the last four years or so who sadly just moved away. So I don’t think my view of “you people” (ha) is any more colored by the jerks as it is by the truly great friends.

    Paul SF July 10, 2007, 1:00 pm

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