It has become cliche. More than a handful of essays and articles have been published exposing the flaws in Jeter's game: his defense, primarily, but also his lack of speed and power, his unwillingness to change positions or bat lower in the lineup, his mediocre pitch selection, etc. Everywhere outside the Bronx, Jeter-haters abound. I've despised Jeter with a passion for almost a decade, brought on first by his being the centerpiece of the Millennial Yankee Dynasty and later by his undeserved Gold Gloves in '04, '05, and '06 which stole the spotlight from underappreciated defensive contributers like Orlando Cabrera, Miguel Tejada, and Alex Gonzalez.
These days what rubs me the wrong way is not only Jeter's holier-than-thou attitude, but the awestruck tone taken on by baseball commentators when the talk about him. Cue Rick Sutcliffe, coloring the World Baseball Classic last night on ESPN2. Apparently, Captain Jeter had not been in the lineup prior to the USA's elimination game against the Netherlands, supplanted by Jimmy Rollins, he of the deserved Gold Gloves, MVP award, and 2008 World Series ring. A true Captain America, one would assume, would've taken the benching in stride, complimented his teammate, and prepared for whatever opportunity might present itself. Jeter, however, according to Sutcliffe, was in an unprecedented "foul mood" during batting practice. Strangely, Sutcliffe did not deride the captain for putting his own pride ahead of his support of the club, but rather took it as an indication that "things needed to change" in the US clubhouse. Throughout the game (Jeter was inserted in the lineup at DH when Chipper Jones was scratched) Sutcliffe continued to praise "Mr. November," saying at one point, "How could you not love him?" The problem was, while J-Roll went 2-for-4 with a triple, homer, and 4 RBI, as well as some run-saving defense plays, Jeter was an absolute rally-killer, finishing 0-for-3 with six men left on base.
Davey Johnson promised that he would stick with the "hot hand" going into the WBC. It will be interesting to see if he can stick to his guns even when it means giving a living legend the cold shoulder. The US team faces a much tougher elimination game against either Venezuela or Puerto Rico (both of whom have already beat the US once) on Tuesday.