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Jeter’s Tour de Force Fielding

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Okay, it doesn’t have a name yet, but Derek Jeter’s relay to Jorge Posada
against the As stands to become a fielding play for the ages. (Couldn’t we at
least christen that bit of turf in the Oakland Coliseum the Jee Spot?) It’s
hard to overstate its importance: in one brief shining moment a
one-dinger-away-from-winter-vacation nailbiter seemed to morph into a
five-game post-season winning streak. But before we file that play away in
our memory books, let’s think about it for a moment. The replays highlight
Jeter’s he-did-what? physicality, but any baseball person will tell you
that this was first and foremost a mental play, all about young Mr. Jeter’s
presence of mind. We oohed and ahhed because of where it happened. But a
hundred times a season at shortstop, Jeter picks a ball up on the short hop
and shovels it to Alfonso Soriano; it was the same move, merely transposed
from shallow short to the first baseline. Jeter’s real triumph was
immediately recognizing that Shane Spencer’s heave was going to land in the
no-mans land. And that he could do something about it. Keep in mind that
contibuting to Jeter’s heroics were two other mental errors on the play:
Shane Spencer overthrowing two cutoff men (When I saw it I said “scab
throw, union relay”) and Jeremy Giambi failing to slide. For all his baseball
smarts, Jeter’s game five dive into the stands struck me as, well, kinda dumb.
First, of course, he risked serious injury: A separated shoulder would have
ended the Yankees’ chance at a four-peat as surely as an As rally. And you
will also remember that (a) Mariano Rivera was on the mound and (b) Eric Chavez
tagged up and moved into scoring position on the play. Sure, Fox got a lot of
mileage out of the tumble, but please Derek, be careful. We need you too
much.

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