WWJD-What Would Jeter Do?

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You want to wax poetic thoughts and bring the brain into the discussion on whether New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter did the right thing by overacting the call of being hit in a recent game against the Tampa Bay Rays instead of just tossing the bat and walking to first base. But was his actions any different than a few of the events that unfold every night upon that very same diamond? And even if his actions can be viewed as deceptive and dishonest, does it really tarnish his reputation, or just become a focal point for change?

Was Jeter’s actions so appalling that the media cyclone is still at full force about it, with most people outside the New York tri-state region condemning the actions. And is this one action going to be the cornerstone of discussions about expanding replay uses, or even taking away some of the human elements of the game from the Umpire crews. Already there are calls and jeers out nightly about the umpiring of game all around the MLB, but will a video replay system really provide instant gratification and change, or will that system be cursed after it “misses” an important play or doesn’t have a definite angle to overturn a decision.

But how was Jeter’s actions at the plate so much different than the phantom tag of a base runner, or a wide slide of the foot on the pivot for a double play? Why is it that a perfect professional acting job is being pushed to such a high level and cause for immediate action? It is actually really simple. People love to bring people down from their ivory towers.

Our society lives for getting the dirt and the low down dirty truth on people who have success in our World. That is why shows like “Access Hollywood”, Inside Edition” , “TMZ” and “Entertainment Tonight” get such high ratings at the 7-8 pm time frame. The average Joe or Jane get a small internal thrill out of seeing people with success being pulled down a level or two, and this is especially no different with sports figures. If Joe Schmoe had done what Mel Gibson has been portrayed to have done, would anyone outside his immediate family and friends even care?

If this had happened with Chicago White Sox catcher A J Pierzenski during a game it would be pegged as “A J being A J” and would be a story for about an hour. But this was the Captain of the 2009 World Champion Yankees who pulled of the ruse of the day. And for that reason, Jeter has been dragged through the coals and burned in effigy by some outside of the American League bubble.

All for doing what every player might have done in the same situation. Why do you think most hitters do not move their feet during breaking pitches? There is a probability that the ball will hit their toes and they get a free pass.

If a rookie on the Kansas City Royals or even San Diego Padres had attempted the same deceptive practice, it might have not even been broadcasted in the highlights more than twice outside of their local team marketplace. Because it was performed by an icon of truth, justice and the Yankee way, the teardown process started even before the Yankee Trainer examined Jeter near the Yankees batting circle.

But the video showed a smile on Jeter’s face which immediately started the Jeter demolition program on his character by what had just transpired on the field. That simple little upward smirking on his lips might have been the epic moment of ignition for the fire storm that is still raging in some circles. But the question still lingers, what did Jeter do differently than any of our own Tampa Bay Rays players would have done?

If Carlos Pena or Evan Longoria had a ball bounce off the knob of their bat and the Home Plate Umpire wanted to give them a base, do you think they would argue and complain they wanted to stand in the box? Even the best form of sportsmanship can sometimes border on trying to upstage the Umpire, which will get you basically earmarked for a while. If Jeter had turned to the Umpire and said it hit his bat after the Umpire had signaled for Jeter to take a walk….would a later inning retaliation from behind the plate have happened?

Gamesmanship and sportsmanship is a double edged sword that can get you undivided attention and unwanted fury thrust at you for a play that is genuinely considered routine by MLB players. I remember watching the movie “Eight Men Out” when they thought the “fix was in”, and both sportswriters kept a different scorecard and marked the plays they thought were “deceptive” or misplayed by the 1919 White Sox. I think if you kept a scorecard even today and marked down any close call or controversial play, you might have at least a half dozen by the end of the game.

Baseball is a human game. It is decided and played by humans with limited interruptions for review. And that is perfect for me. I personally do not have a problem with what Jeter did because I played Collegiate baseball, and I would have taken the base too. It is a bit sad that the episode has gotten so big now that it will not filter out of our consciousness for a few weeks.

But it is a subtle reminder that sometimes things are not as they appear during a game, and slight of hand or foot could produce multiple calls or situations. Some people live by the premise that “it is not cheating unless you get caught”. Well, in Jeter’s case it is all there in a small sampling video produced by the camera’s eye. Gamesmanship or just playing the game by its own rules, that is case before each of us right now. The best part of it is that it did not have a final piece in the games decision, but it did provide a lead for the Yankees.

In the end, you have to go back to that old Yankee saying I heard a few years back that mimicked a religious phrasing. WWJD…..What Would Jeter Do? In this case, we saw what Jeter would do. Now it is time for you to decide if you believe his actions warrant a change, a revocation or even just be considered a part of the fabric of the game. Honestly, I think most of us might have done the same, but that would be admitting we are human.

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