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August 17, 2006

The Pop-Up

Since everyone in the media seems to want to talk about this play, I'll offer an opinion. Here's the story off the AP Wire tonight:

The play that epitomized the blowout came in the five-run sixth inning, when a pair of All-Stars turned a simple pop fly into an embarrassing error.

The third baseman and shortstop were settling under the popup when they came together. The ball glanced off Rodriguez's glove and fell behind Jeter. Both players looked so disgusted that neither seemed anxious to retrieve the ball.

"I thought he had it," Jeter said. "I didn't touch the ball. When it was hit, I was calling it. I guess he didn't hear me. I thought he had it."

At first the error was charged to Rodriguez, which would have given him a league-leading 22 for the season. After official scorer Howie Karpin looked at replays, he changed the error to Jeter for impeding the catch. Miguel Tejada scored on the play and Tatis followed with a two-run homer, completing the scoring.

"It was a stupid play all around," Rodriguez said. "He called. I called. We didn't hear each other."

Torre was as disgusted as anybody.

"It was out there for everybody to see," he said. "Somebody's got to make the play."

I just finished watching the play in question via the Yankees Encore on YES - so, I can report on what I saw with my own eyes.

First off, the game was already out of hand when the play occurred. So, don't let anyone fool you by saying this was a game impacting error. In the big picture, it (the muff) meant nothing to this contest.

In the YES replays, you clearly see Jeter moving his mouth when the pop is in the air. It appears that he's saying "I got it!" a few times. In the same replays, you never see A-Rod open his mouth, at all.

Rodriguez was clearly planted under the ball. He was in perfect position to catch it. Jeter had to range to his right to get towards the ball. I would offer that Derek had to move around 10 feet, away from his position on the pitch, towards the foul line, to get to where the ball was going to land.

Jeter went behind A-Rod and their gloves bumped as they both reached up for the ball. That appeared to be the only serious contact between the two players. It seemed as if their gloves met just as the ball was going into the pocket of A-Rod's mitt - and that knocked the ball loose.

After this happened, Jeter stood behind A-Rod for about 6 seconds with a stone-cold expression on his face. The only way I can describe the look is to say it's the same type of look that a husband gets from his wife when he says "I think your hair looks fine." It's the are-you-eff'ing-kidding-me and/or are-you-that-clueless look of disapproval.

While I could not see A-Rod's expression when this happened (or, maybe I missed it?), I can say that YES had Jeter and Rodriguez on a split screen after the miscue (and the subsequent replays) and, while Jeter still had the same all-the-nerves-in-my-face-are-dead expression, Alex Rodriguez had a semi-giggle smile on his face. It appeared to be a not-knowing-what-else-to-do nervous type reaction. I think A-Rod's facial reaction could be filed under "Smile, because it rains on you everyday, anyway."

Based on what I saw during the YES replays, the distance between the two players on the pop-up, and the post-error reaction from Jeter, I do not believe that A-Rod ever called for the ball (despite his reported claim that he did). And, this was the miscommunication that led to the error.

Does this play give us a hint that perhaps Derek Jeter has a dislike for Alex Rodriguez? I doubt it. In fact, I will say that I do not think that Jeter dislikes A-Rod.

While I would suggest that Derek and Alex are not best buds these days, I have seen enough of them over the years to know that they do not strongly dislike each other. At the worst, I would say that they're now like any other two co-workers who know that it makes more sense to get along and be civil (and sometimes joke with each other) rather than to work against each other.

What I think the play tells us is that Derek Jeter dislikes sloppy baseball - no matter what the score. And, perhaps, and I stress perhaps (because I'm just guessing), Jeter's reaction was an expression of his cumulative feelings towards the way A-Rod has handled himself defensively this season.

Should teammates allow expressions like this to be seen on the field? I think that most would say "no" - that it's not something that you should see - even in Little League. Remember what happened years ago when David Wells (in Baltimore) showed that he was upset that Derek Jeter didn't make a play? This situation is no different. It was a mistake for Jeter to allow that to be seen today.

But, you know that the beauty of baseball is that sometimes you do everything perfect and it fails in the end - and sometimes you do nothing right and you get lucky with success.

Maybe this can be a time where Jeter makes a mistake and yet something good comes out of it?

Let's be clear on this point. I'm not saying that something good will come from this event. I just hoping that something good can come from this in the end.

In fact, if you asked me if you should bet money on something good happening, I would tell you to invest your funds on lotto tickets - the odds would be more in your favor.

It's probably better to give the matter another 24-hours to see which way the media and fans take it - as it can go any direction at this point.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at August 17, 2006 09:28 PM


What I would have given to seen Jeter scale A-Rod's back like he did Cano's last year to make that catch.

Posted by: Michael Black [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 17, 2006 10:35 PM

This started to sound like that protracted montage in "JFK" where Costner tries to prove it was impossible for one man to have killed Kennedy.

At least you didn't get into magic bullets and grassy knolls.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 17, 2006 10:49 PM

FWIW, I've always been a bigger fan of the Seinfeld "Magic Loogey" speech.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 17, 2006 11:55 PM

I think we should train cameras on all players for every moment possible and send this info to a clinic in Switzerland. With this info we will conclude who likes who and who doesn't. This information must be determined for the good of the team.

I knew there was a good reason the Yankees have lost so many games this year.

It's YES HD and viewers with too much time on their hands. At least we don't have the pitching to blame. Whew.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 05:02 AM

Fair point - as we know that Ruth and Gehrig didn't love each other - and they did OK nonetheless.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 08:19 AM

Steve - You say this:

"First off, the game was already out of hand when the play occurred. So, don't let anyone fool you by saying this was a game impacting error. In the big picture, it (the muff) meant nothing to this contest."

Shouldn't you have stopped right there if this play meant absolutely nothing? I can't believe that after the Yanks got their ass whipped the media feels the need to focus on one play that had nothing to do with the game, but since it was scored an 'E' and it involved the two superstars of the New York Yankees then it's newsworthy.

I think you dedicated too much time to this. You really spent a lot of time analyzing the play, so it meant as much to as you as it did for the media. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but you are not of the ilk to confuse the forest for the trees. The story is that the Yanks got whipped and didn't play crisp baseball. Pretty simple, ehh? We are all guilty of this, "A mind trained to look for complex solutions is often stumped by simplicity."

Yesterday's loss happened in the past....we know we have nothing else to do but look forward. Exciting times...let's embrace the chaos.

Posted by: Garcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 09:15 AM

I thought it was worth noting because:

1. It was a day game and many people missed the play - whereas I had a chance to see it and could share what I saw without any bias.

2. The "error" is being mentioned in the media now and that's usually what I comment on here - Yankees news.

I'm not trying to add another log to the fire. I'm just trying to explain what the fire is all about.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 09:27 AM

Someone already got to my "JFK" analogy. "Back and to the left, back and to the left."

Posted by: Josh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 01:14 PM