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, April 30: Rainout vs. Seattle Mariners
Another rainy day. Another day without baseball on a day that was supposed to have baseball. Another day washing away.
I stay home this time. I finally watch back last night’s game, which was a total mess. But no amount of video is going to change anything about it. It’ll still start with the crowd’s totally justified booing of Robbie Cano’s return and still end with us leaving the Stadium without a W we should have had. It’ll still be raining today.
So I write in my diary.
I try out a new exercise my journaling coach game me: First, you draw a circle. And then you think about what’s inside the circle.
The circle represents your post-playing life. It’s empty right now because you’re still playing. Your life is still full of baseball. You could express this by drawing some seams across the circle and making it look like a baseball, but then the journaling coach would scold you, because that’s not how the exercise works. He’s always pretty strict about following the process because that’s what you’re paying him for, and he doesn’t want you to feel like he’s wasting your money. He just wants what I want: for me to be the best diary writer I can possibly be. You don’t get there by doodling baseballs on a non-baseball exercise. There have been plenty of baseball-doodling days already. I’ve gotten pretty good at it. My freehand seam-work is very intricate.
So then you fill the circle with what you see filling up your post-playing time. I immediately draw an interlocking “NY,” because I’m always going to be a Yankee. That never goes away; you’re always a part of the Pinstripe Infinity as long as you’re a True Yankee.
And then I draw a book. I’ll be busy with my new publishing company, redefining the world of books. A lot of people think publishing’s a dying industry. They’re wrong. It’s just been waiting for somebody with a passion for winning at books to come in and lead them to a championship, however they define that. The New York Times best-seller list, Nobel prizes, whatever. That’s something I’ll learn when I’m more fully engaged with the business. We’ll hand out rings to editors. There will be a culture of winning. That’s what you can bring to the table as the Captain of the imprint.
I draw a little stick figure, because my people-drawing skills are pretty far behind my baseball sketches. It’s just not something I’ve practiced much. And then I draw another little stick figure. Kids. So I draw a bigger stick figure with long hair and a skirt to go with them. They’re probably not faithful likenesses of my wife and children, but they’ll do for now. It’s a visualization. It’s the beginning of the idea of a family. I draw a third little stick figure, which surprises even me. I’ve always thought it would be two kids. But maybe it will be a triplet situation — you can’t know how an egg’s going to divide when you’re trying to build a family roster.
I cross one of the little stick figures out anyway. This is my visualization. Let’s keep it at two. Two’s a very special number.
I also draw a dog. The dog’s not bad. I might be a natural at drawing dogs.
Thursday, May 1: vs. Seattle Mariners
We’ve been playing a lot of shifts on defense this season. It’s a strategy that maybe you don’t agree with; there’s something about the shift that feels like a corruption of the game. A shortstop is meant to stand between third and second, to the left of his third baseman. He’s not meant to be swung around to short right field, or to stand directly behind second, or to cover the entire left side of the infield by himself, praying that a guy doesn’t drop a bunt and take the free hit. Why not let the pitcher throw from the front edge of the mound? Baseball is a game of rules and tradition. A shortstop in shallow right is chaos. You come to the ballpark for order. But if the manager has analytics that say it’s better to shift, then you shift. You can’t fight progress. You can only shrug at it as a weakly hit grounder rolls through the spot where a fielder should’ve been standing, then give a little wave to the manager in the dugout.
Friday, May 2: vs. Tampa Bay Rays
This was Joe Girardi’s 1,000th regular-season game as Yankees manager. That’s an incredible accomplishment — you have to tip your cap to him, because if he were managing in the ’80s, he might have been fired and rehired six times by now. Before the game, I give him a gold-plated binder. He’s retired the old one, because everything is on the iPad now, but I thought he’d appreciate the gesture. He does. He smiles as he flips through it. The first page says “Get no. 28.” And so does every other page. He needs to understand there’s an urgency to this; it’s my last chance to win a Series as a player.
The game does not go well. Extra innings. I take an 0-for-7 for the first time in my career, something a reporter I don’t recognize tells me in the locker room. You never want to dwell on something like that, but you can still stop to appreciate that, if you stay around this game long enough, you’ll eventually see everything. Like the seven red baseballs that were stacked in a neat pyramid in my locker. I tell a clubbie to take them away and he says, “What baseballs?” Just like that, they’re gone. He does find a crow feather. I let him keep it.
Saturday, May 3: vs. Tampa Bay Rays
We pull together a nice win behind Tanaka, but I get the day off because Girardi gives me a rest after last night’s oh-fer. On the one hand, you appreciate the consideration that your manager wants to give you a breather. On the other, you really need to be out there going 7-for-7 with three doubles and five RBIs to wash the taste of that last one out. Not today, though. The W is enough.
I get home in time to watch the Kentucky Derby with Alex, figuring he’d be excited. But he won’t come out of the wardrobe. He just stands inside it, arms crossed.
“That’s really insensitive, Jetes.”
“I just thought—”
“You just thought what, Jetes?”
“That you might like to watch it.”
“Right. Of course you did.”
“There’s even a horse named General A-Rod.”
“He’s not named for me, Jetes.”
“There’s only one A-Rod. And he’s standing here inside this wardrobe.”
“He’s not running free around Churchill Downs in a nice straw hat. He’s not running free anywhere.”
“I’m sorry, Alex.”
“I could win the Derby, Jetes. No jockey.”
“I think they require the jockey.”
“Those horses are inferior creatures. How could they possibly beat me?”
“I suppose we’ll never know.”
“I know. My legs are four unstoppable pistons.”
“Fine, maybe you’d win.”
“I take mighty strides, Jetes.”
“OK. I’m going to put on the race anyway.”
“Enjoy the inferiority, Jetes.”
I go to close the wardrobe and he hands me an empty pitcher.
“Would you mind filling that up?”
“Emperor A-Rod is fresh out of juleps.”
Sunday, May 4: vs. Tampa Bay Rays
My buddies Peyton and Eli Manning come to the game and sit in my suite. Peyton says he wants to see me play one last time. It’s flattering when a great champion like that wants to watch you, even if that champion is four championships behind. Even Eli’s got two, but he realizes that’s kind of a fluke of circumstance, like how Jim Leyritz got his. You have to admire the humble way the kid handles his incredible good fortune. There are a lot of guys on the Red Sox who could learn from him.
I ask Peyton if he’s retiring after the season too. Maybe if he wins another one, he says. I get where he’s coming from. When we win the Series and the Broncos win the Super Bowl, we can go out close together. With me still four ahead of him. If you adjust for the sport, it’s probably even more than that. Someone must have figured out the exact calculation. I just know that it definitely feels like more. You only have to play the equivalent of like two weeks of baseball in a football season. You have to account for that somehow.
Monday, May 5: at Anaheim Angels
My last trip to Anaheim. To be perfectly honest in my diary, I’m not going to miss it. We’ve never played well here. They basically gave Mike Scioscia a lifetime appointment based on his record against us, which seems a little shortsighted since they’re not in our division. You feel like they might want to consider somebody who’s a genius against Oakland and Texas instead. Anyway, it’s not your job to form an exploratory committee to pick their next manager, it’s your job to go out there for three road games a year against a team that might try to bunt against you 14 times a night just to get into your head.
And you can’t help but wonder if they got into some of our heads tonight. We walk six guys in the eighth inning and give away the game. The ump tosses Girardi for arguing a strike to Gardner that practically bounced in the dirt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him that angry. On one level, you know it’s just an unnecessary psychological technique to fire up a team of professionals already completely dedicated to winning, but on another level, you appreciate the gesture. The spittle and the dust cloud he kicks up are nice touches. The ump needs to towel off afterward.
Tuesday, May 6: at Anaheim Angels
I wake up in the morning to discover a Rally Monkey squatting at the foot of my hotel bed. He hands me a copy of the New York Post and a scroll tied off with a crow feather. The Post headline reads: “BENCH JETER? TOUGH CALL COMING FOR GIRARDI.”
I unfurl the scroll.
How long does a Two-Hundred-Fifty hitter
With neither Pop nor Range remain in the Line-up?
I know the Answer.
And soon so shall you.
Commissioner of the Base-Ball
Post Script: Please excuse this simple Monkey, his Manners are terrible.
I look down and notice that the Rally Monkey is masturbating.
He screeches as he finishes.