Friday, September 17, 2010

Baffling backlash on Jeter faux hit by pitch

I can understand why Tampa Bay Rays fans would be upset about Derek Jeter feigning being hit by a pitch Wednesday night, even though the Rays went on to win the game. But the backlash against Jeter over this one play is bizarre.

Some members of this rather vocal group of objectors have gone so far as to call Jeter a cheater. Maybe they are just saying it because it rhymes. Or maybe they truly believe that the New York Yankees Captain went too far in trying to get on base for his team.

No question it was a con job, but it was a thing of beauty and extremely effective. Jeter will probably have to have a head wound gushing with blood to get a HBP call from an umpire in the future. But this was no more a cheating play than a hidden ball trick, which used to catch players napping all the time.

The backlash may be partly driven by Jeter's Mr. Clean image. Despite being single, living in New York and being captain of the Yankees, Jeter has managed to remain remarkably free of major controversy. He is one of Bud Selig's ambassadors for the game of baseball. Perhaps that has created a perception that Jeter must remain beyond reproach and always conduct himself with the highest integrity, which some people clearly feel his acting job betrayed. I don't believe this one play all of a sudden negates all of Jeter’s good behavior over the past 15 years. But if you read some of the newspapers and blogs, I may have the minority opinion.

Beyond finding the play pretty hilarious, it did warm my heart as a Yankee fan to see that Jeter's struggles haven't broken his spirit. He may not be playing up to his usual high standards, but no one can question Jeter's loyalty to his team and his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the Yankees get a victory.

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