Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

Oh Bother

mban602l

(Once again, this post is long.  And a bit rambling.  You’ve been warned.)

Let me start this off by saying that I know players do it.  I know Victor Martinez has a history of doing it.  I know that managers like Joe Maddon most likely encourage players to do it.  But that doesn’t mean I like it.

I get the idea that your job as a batter is to get on base any way you can.  I get that.  But I fail to see the difference between what Jeter did against the Rays the other night and what ARod did against the Red Sox in game 6 of the 2004 ALCS.  ARod became so notorious for that slap that people called him “Slappy” for quite a long time (Hell, I STILL call him “Slappy”!).  I’ve always maintained that my biggest issue with the slap play isn’t that ARod tried it but that after he was called for it he brought out all the histrionics trying to defend himself.  (I have a clear vision of his putting his hands on his head and asking “What’d I do?” in the middle of it all.  Whether it is a totally ACCURATE vision is another case altogether.)  But you know what?  I was wrong.

Seriously.  Why should it be all right to play without any kind of sportsmanship?  It doesn’t have to be against the rules to be wrong.  (Isn’t that the argument many use about steroids back before there was testing in MLB?)  Click o that first link, the photo of Jeter, and tell me what he’s doing in that photo isn’t wrong?  I’m not trying to be sanctimonious because, God knows, I’ve done my share of lying in my life, but when  you get caught lying there are usually consequences to deal with.  In baseball (maybe in all sports but I’m focusing on baseball right now) you don’t have consequences.  You get called “smart” or “crafty” for coming up with a new way to reach your goal.

I can read the minds of many of you right now.  This is all because I don’t like Derek Jeter.  Well, you’re right about one thing, I DON’T like Derek Jeter.  I can name many things, from his ignoring Ken Huckaby’s apology (an apology he didn’t have to make) to unnecessarily diving into the stands to catch a ball, to his deriding the Red Sox for celebrating winning the wild card in 2003 (I saw this live on ESPN and still can’t find a link after all these years), to his refusing to tell the fans to back off of ARod (when he had done so in the past and after that for other players), to his performance the other night.

But this isn’t about my dislike of Derek Jeter.  This is about the selective encouragement of cheating or, at the very least, poor sportsmanship.  History tells us that ARod doesn’t care if he gets caught looking bush league but Jeter, presumably, does.  The thing is, Jeter knows that he’s the mighty Derek Jeter.  Man with the intangibles and calm eyes.  He’s certain no one will look at the footage from the other night and think he was being unsportsmanlike.  He was just being a captain!  Doing what he needed to help his team get the victory.  Heck, the manager who got thrown out of the game for fighting with the umps about this said if one of his own players did it he’d “applaud” them.  And that’s the problem.

When did professional sports become about applauding the folks who cheat (whether it be by using PEDs or stealing signs, or messing with the ball, or lying about getting hit so you can get on base)?

Minor league baseball players are under constant scrutiny.  They can’t do anything that goes against the rules, or that makes the team look bad even if it isn’t against the rules, without having to be responsible for it (whether it be a public apology, a fine, a suspension or anything the team does that doesn’t get publicity).  They are taught to have a certain code yet when they get called up to the bigs they are, basically, told to throw the code book away because once you’re making big money anything goes.

It is unpopular to state that you think sports should be played the “right” way.  You’re accused of either being naive, a goody-goody, simple-minded or just unrealistic.  I think that’s ridiculous.

Let’s take into consideration the BBWAA election rules for the Hall of Fame, specifically rule 5:

5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

Cheating, however small, speaks to the integrity, sportsmanship and character of a player.  But the fact that the league, the managers/coaches, the other players, the media and the fans allow the cheating to go on makes the waters murky.    Jeter can pull of the acting job he did the other night and even be praised for it (and he’s a sure to be first year eligible hall of famer) but ARod does it and it’s another black mark on that imaginary book people keep on folks they don’t like.  How do players or people watching or the kids influenced by this stuff know when it’s okay to cheat and when it isn’t?  Do you teach that it’s only bad if you get caught or it’s only bad if you get caught and people don’t like you to begin with because if they like you and you get caught they’ll excuse you for it? (I know it’s common to  joke “Won’t someone think of the children!” but I think it’s valid in this discussion.  Kids want to play professional ball and want to know how to do it and we’re basically telling them, “Cheat.  You need to cheat to do it.”)

Certainly there are worse things happening in the world right now than Derek Jeter pretending to be hit by a pitch.  But I think it’s a worthy discussion.  Given the way MLB is run, I don’t think Jeter should be punished for what he did but he sure as hell shouldn’t be praised for it either.

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September 17, 2010 - Posted by | 2010 | , ,

5 Comments »

  1. He’s getting into the hall of fame. One Red Sox fan calling him a cheater isnt going to keep him out.

    Comment by Brian | September 17, 2010 | Reply

    • That sound you hear is the point of this entry flying over your head.

      Comment by Cyn | September 17, 2010 | Reply

  2. There once was a time when almost everybody grew up knowing that you were not supposed to lie, cheat, or steal. Beyond that, most kids had some kind of religious or ethical training and pretty much accepted that you needed to be kind and have good manners. Organizations like the boy scouts expected even more. Sportsmanship was taught and admired and lack of it would cause other people to think less of you.

    In baseball, that was easy. You never threw the bat. You certainly stole bases if you could but that was within the rules. The umpire’s word was law and you didn’t argue because of sportsmanship. You didn’t deliberately hit anyone with a pitch. You shook hands afterward. You didn’t have to smile and have tea together as you did in tennis, but it was everybody’s game and the best game and you played the game the right way.

    In some other games it seemed less possible to be sportsmanlike. For instance, basketball fouls and general mayhem were only wrong if the referee called them so; football required hitting and was overtly warlike and also seemed to suggest that illegal actions became so by virtue of being called by the referees.

    I can remember long discussions about the baseball rules, about how much “selling” the action was permissible before it became arguing or lying. I have questions today about what the catcher is doing sometimes. A batter looking dramatically astonished at the call of balls or strikes seems childish. Looking astounded that you’re called out at first, or any time, is occasionally acceptable, but always looking astounded is ridiculous. I think that frequency has something to do with how and how often a player “sells” a play. There are even times when it is not cheating to trick an opposing player on the base paths about where the ball is but it would be cheating to trick the umpire into believing you have the ball and have tagged the runner so that he is called out. It is not cheating to take the base when the call is in your favor (the next unfair call will most likely not be in your favor) but it is cheating to pretend you got hit by a pitch when you didn’t.

    It has been suggested that a perfect version of instant replay should be developed so that umpires don’t make bad calls. The point of all this, the real issue, doesn’t depend on the umpires; that calls for shifting the responsibility for playing the game the right way onto the umpires.

    The point is that none of these players can possibly have played this game for the number of years they obviously have done without having conversations and deliberations over and over about all of these issues, with their parents, their teammates, their coaches, trainers, mentors and friends time and again from the first days of sandlot ball through little league and for all the years thereafter. Can you imagine how rigorously Jason Varitek studied and developed his catcher’s art to go so far with the “sell” and no farther. These players all know very well what is cheating because of those years of conversations and deliberations and because of unavoidably developing their own sense of what is allowed and what is not.

    So when they do something like Jeter did, they have dishonored the game, they have spit in the eye of the baseball gods, and they have turned their back on their own baseball heritage and declared themselves more important than the game. They commit hubris. They become unworthy. You can’t ask little kids to be like them, anymore. That’s the line they cross with me.

    Comment by Anita | September 19, 2010 | Reply

  3. DEREK JETER DID NOT DIVE INTO THE STANDS TO CATCH A BALL.

    Jeter made a running catch of the ball while on the field. His momentum carried him into the stands.

    I get your point, but I see this mistake, like, everywhere.

    Good post, also.

    Comment by JS | September 23, 2010 | Reply

    • Hey, it’s what it’s known as everywhere, including Yankee Universe. They sell pictures of it called “The Dive”.

      And in the flow of what I was writing, “made a running catch of the ball while on the field” didn’t really work. 🙂

      Comment by Cyn | September 24, 2010 | Reply


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