Derek Jeter’s Diary: The Tragedy of Robbie and the Lingering Smell of Pepperoni

The baseball season is a long and lonely road. To preserve his sanity, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter keeps a diary. These are excerpts from The Captain’s private journal.

Wednesday, June 11: at Seattle Mariners

Robbie Cano gave me a watch yesterday.

The Mariners gave me an old Kingdome seat and the usual Turn 2 Foundation check, but Robbie gave me a watch. A Shawn Carter Hublot. It’s a nice watch, a very expensive watch. The kind of watch Jay gave him when he signed with Jay’s new agency, the agency that steered Robbie up to Seattle, away from the team that nurtured him and made him a champion. A one-time champion, yeah, but a champion nonetheless.

Robbie had the watch inscribed for me:

To Derek: Thank you for showing me how to be a leader. With love and respect, RC

I’ve been thinking about the watch a lot.

On one level, it’s touching that he thought to do that for me. But on another level, it’s really a reminder of how I failed him. As his teammate, as his friend, as his Captain. All you can do as Captain is lead by example, and you can’t control what lessons someone else might take from that example. But you still wonder how Robbie could have watched me day in, day out and learned that he should abandon the most important franchise in sports history for the biggest paycheck possible and leave us with a hole we had to fill with a Brian Roberts type. I’ve played for one team my entire career. Maybe I could’ve gotten more money somewhere else. I’ll never know, because I opted to sign very reasonable and fair deals in New York rather than set up bidding wars where a Detroit or a Chicago or an L.A. attempted to extort the Steinbrenners, who have always been more than generous with me, and who one day soon will be my partners in the team. I never would’ve have traded the yearly chance at a championship for five or 10 or 20 extra million. You can’t buy a ring, no matter what they say about 2009; you still have to go out there and win all of those games. You can’t buy tradition. You can buy a bunch of $30,000 Hublots. They’re very nice watches; Jay has some amazing taste. There’s even a tiny extra hand on the face you can set to show when your bottle service is going to arrive. It’s pretty practical for a luxury piece.

So I had my traveling jeweler take the watch and re-engrave it for Robbie:

To RC: Thank you for accidentally showing me how to be an even better leader. —DJ2 Final Season

You hope he gets the right message this time.

Though it might not matter in the end, because Robbie’s got another nine years left in Seattle. Unfortunately, there’s no hand on the watch to count down the time left on his contract. He’ll just have to scratch it into the dugout wall every night.

Thursday, June 12: at Seattle Mariners

Tonight was my last game in Seattle. It will always be a special place for me because my career started here. You never forget where you took your first big league at-bat, your first ground ball fielded cleanly in the hole. I went 0-for-5, 2-for-3, 1-for-3 in that series, the last three days of May in 1995. I batted ninth, ninth, and eighth. Even then I was slowly working my way to the top of the lineup, even if I played only 15 games that season. So Seattle’s always going to mean something to me. I’m grateful to the city for the memories.

I’m even more grateful we’re getting out of town with a sweep. They swept us back in 1995. I’ve been waiting a really long time for the payback. It never felt right that we didn’t win in my first three games.

It feels good. Not gonna lie. Closure by winning.

Friday, June 13: at Oakland Athletics

I don’t rank my plays. It’s not something I do. For one, it’s totally unnecessary, because the advanced projectors in the Highlight Dome at my place in Tampa have a randomize function that will automatically select memorable plays from the database and display them in a variety of formats: IMAX, 360-degree 3-D, wireframes, whatever you need. The ranking algorithm is very accurate, too, but I’ve always found it’s much better to let the machine pick and leave that part up to chance. It keeps you on your toes and prevents you from getting in a rut with just the best-known plays. There are some hidden gems in there that you like to see from time to time.

I bring this up in my diary because of course Oakland was the site of the Flip Play, and the New York Times is making a thing out of how the A’s don’t want to show it in their good-bye montage on Sunday. I couldn’t care less which plays they show. We’ve all seen that play before. It’s a very famous play by now. You’re just flattered they would go through the trouble of honoring you at all after crushing their dreams like that. That was probably their best chance of getting back to the Series.

On the other hand, maybe they have a big surprise planned. Maybe they’re bringing out Jeremy Giambi to finally slide into home, like he should have in the first place. I still would have gotten him, because I’d just have flipped the ball a little lower; I practiced that backhand toss hundreds of times, at every possible angle. I was prepared. That’s why the Flip Play happened. Preparation plus opportunity equals success. P + O = S. It’s written on the bottom of the brim of my hat, right next to its simplified version: W.

Anyway, it’ll be nice to see Jeremy again if that’s how it goes. I’ll even sign the ball after I flip it to him:

I don’t rank plays —DJ2 Final Season

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Saturday, June 14: at Oakland Athletics

They stopped the game for half an hour in the fourth inning because they couldn’t get the lights to turn on. You suppose that’s better than the usual sewage geysers, but it’s still disappointing they haven’t yet figured out where their circuit breaker is. The A’s are a proud franchise by many standards, and they deserve better than to be held hostage in these kinds of conditions by the Giants and their territorial rights.

On the other hand, there’s a pretty good chance the lighting outage was some kind of Billy Beane gamesmanship that his baseball computer said would disrupt us. If that’s the case, you hate to see technology put to such bush league use. Especially because it worked and Kuroda completely lost his rhythm and didn’t get out of the fifth. There should be an unwritten rule banning Moneyball blackouts. They’re not in the spirit of the game.

Sunday, June 15: at Oakland Athletics

The A’s gave me a vintage bottle of local wine and a check for Turn 2.

There was no Flip Play. And no Jeremy Giambi.

I’m more than OK with that. We’ll always have our randomized encounters in the Highlight Dome. The next time I see him in there, maybe I’ll pop open the wine and toast his hologram. Thanks for not sliding, just in case.

Monday, June 16: Off day

I get home from the West Coast road trip and hear some very dramatic sobbing coming from the wardrobe.

I try to wait it out, because this will happen from time to time, and sometimes it stops on its own while I have a Thirst for Winning Gatorade G2 from my private flavor line. It’s navy blue and tastes like adrenaline and blueberries, but with a hint of champagne. That’s my favorite, even better than Captain’s Clutch, which they never really perfected. Too much wheatgrass, not enough orange peel and taurine.

But the sobbing continues, so I have no choice but to open the wardrobe doors. A-Rod looks surprised to see me.

“He’s dead, Jetes.”

“Who’s dead, Alex?”

“Tony Gwynn.”

“Really? That’s terrible. Great guy. Very sad to hear it.”

“First Zim, now Gwynnie.”

“You never get used to it.”

“He loved hitting almost as much as I did.”

“Maybe even more.”

“Well, I had to think about other phases of the game. I was a much more well-rounded player. Five tools, Jetes.”

“He was a great player.”

“Seven tools now, if you include full-gallop and tail-whip.”

“I don’t think scouts count those. There are no centaurs in the minors.”

“I miss playing, Jetes. So much.”

“Why don’t you start a team inside the wardrobe?”

“The competition is lacking.”

“Better than nothing.”

“It’s all fauns and nymphs in here. Very lazy. They don’t even work out.”

“That must be very hard for you.”

“Very hard, Jetes. I would gallop the shit out of some fungoes.”

“I bet you would.”

“Serious question. Lean in, I need to whisper.”

“OK.”

“Do you think he’s killing everybody?”

“Who’s ‘he’?”

“You know who.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. Him.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“He’s a maniac. Look what he did to me.”

“You might want to start taking some of the responsibility for that. Real talk, Alex.”

“He sent the pizza man to kill you today. Real talk, Jetes.”

“He what?”

“Don’t worry, I took care of it.”

“What did you do, Alex?”

“I took care of it.”

“Don’t ever answer the door when I’m not home.”

“Someone needs to protect you, Jetes. I am that someone.”

“Why do I smell pepperoni?”

“I took care of it.”

“Don’t take care of anything for me.”

“I’ll do whatever it takes. We have to play together next year. Final seasons, Jetes.”

“I’m retiring. You know that.”

“Sure you are, Jetes.”

“I am, Alex. Final season.”

He looks like he’s about to sob again, but instead he starts laughing uncontrollably. It’s unnerving.

I close the wardrobe doors.

The faint smell of pepperoni lingers in the room.

Filed Under: MLB, New York Yankees, Derek Jeter's Diary, Repugnant Yankee Homerism, Alex Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners, Captain's Log

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Mark Lisanti is an editor at Grantland.

Archive @ marklisanti