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 25: at Texas
Here’s the thing about Phil Hughes.
Phil Hughes really stinks right now. He didn’t make it out of the third. He’s a mess.
You hate to say that about a guy, but the truth is the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts. You hope it doesn’t hurt so much that a guy gets upset with you and gets all passive-aggressive about it. Like you run by on the way to the dugout and say, “Hey, rough inning, but we’ll pick you up,” and he goes, “I bet you will,” kind of under his breath, then you look over and he’s got that “Yeah, you heard me” look in his eyes. And then you’re like, “Just trying to help, man, relax.” You always hate that kind of thing. You never know if he’s just mad at himself for not getting the job done, or if he didn’t like it when you did that thing where you like whistle a long whistle and slowly twist your head as you follow the path of the home run he’s just given up. Some guys can be sensitive. Usually it’s because they’re too close to their moms. But whatever, let’s not analyze it like that, I have no idea what Hughesy’s relationship with his mom is like. It’s probably great.
But it’s my job as captain to try to help him get his head right. It’s always trial and error. With some guys it’s enough that you’re leading by the example of not sucking. Other guys, a little pat on the butt is enough, they get the message you’re all in this together and sort it out for themselves. But then maybe you try all this stuff with a struggling pitcher, and none of it seems to be working, so you maybe sneak into the clubhouse between innings and hang Andy Pettitte’s jersey in his locker, leave some printouts of how his comeback is going. You never know what’s going to spark with somebody. If they cry a little, they cry. Everyone has their process. Randy Johnson was a big crier — not a lot of people know that. Crazy childhood trauma. Let’s not talk about it; those are his demons to battle, not ours.
So we not-win 7-3. It’s games like this I wish Pauly O’Neill was still around to smash some shit. He’d be so fired up in the clubhouse after a minus-win like this, you’d just put a bunch of stuff on a stool and watch him take his hacks. I thought he killed Knoblauch that one time in ’98, but he just saw double a couple of days. The “How many fingers?” game was hilarious. You’d go, “How many fingers?” and hold up some fingers, and Knobby’d throw up for 10 minutes.
Looking forward to the off day. We need to regroup.
Thursday, April 26: Off Day
Even on your days off, if you really love the game, you’re still thinking about it, you’re watching highlights on TV, you’re texting your pals on other teams. There’s no “off” switch. I’ve got this room at my place in Manhattan with a giant three-by-three grid of flat-screens on the wall where I can watch other games. I’m not proud of it, but I watch some of the Red Sox/White Sox game. They beat around Philip Humber pretty good, right after he threw that perfect game. You don’t want to call it a fluke — it’s a great accomplishment — but you give up nine runs, people are going to start to say things like that. And have you seen Pedroia’s beard? He looks like Teen Wolf caught leukemia. I’m not a doctor, but Peddy should probably get a cancer MRI or whatever they do; the patchiness is concerning. Better safe than sorry.
Also, I see that Detroit released Brandon Inge. It’s always sad when a guy gets shown the door like that, but it’s a little weird how crazy everyone’s going about it. He’s batting like .100, and he didn’t have a position since Miggy Cabrera got moved to third. You’d think that with all these Moneyball types analyzing baseball someone might suggest Cabrera could try playing third with Inge on his shoulders; I don’t know a lot about the advanced metrics, but you’d have to believe it wouldn’t affect his range too much, and they’d get to a lot of high line drives. Think about it. It’s not too late to get him back.
Back at the Stadium for a six-game homestand tomorrow. Can’t wait. There’s only so many times you can wander into the Ring Room at your apartment, make sure all five are still there, then brush them off with a tiny feather duster. It gets boring and repetitive, and then suddenly you’re thinking about Pedroia’s beard again. It’s good to stay busy with games that count.
Friday, April 27: vs. Detroit
Any game where you can beat a Justin Verlander is a good game. That guy was Cy Young and MVP last year, which is a really impressive feat, even if a pitcher winning MVP is kind of a total joke. They have an award for you, it’s called the Cy Young, you already won it. Leave the MVP for the guys who aren’t hanging around in the dugout four out of every five games, spitting sunflower seeds into an empty Gatorade jug and occasionally excusing themselves to masturbate in the clubhouse. There’s nothing worse than going back there to look at some video and finding a pitcher sitting in his recliner, abusing himself while the rest of the team is trying to win a game. And that whole “What? It’s my side-session day” isn’t funny, either, even if you’re kind of aiming it to the side. I’m not saying Justin Verlander definitely does that, but he’s a pitcher. They’re always throwing side sessions, trust me.
Anyway, so we win on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth, which is usually a really fun way to do it, but Alex was at home waving me in and after I scored, he basically leaps into my arms to celebrate. I know things between us aren’t as cold as they used to be, but he always pushes it a little too far, even in the rush of a great late-inning W. You tell me. Is hugging me at the plate and whispering, “I’m a mighty centaur, ride me to victory” in my ear too much? He keeps a saddle in his locker. I should probably mention that before you decide.
I took an 0-for-4, but we won, and that’s all that matters. I tell the reporters in front of my locker, “You take your swings, sometimes you get hits, sometimes you don’t.” That’s not even a saying I have, I came up with it on the spot. The media gets on me sometimes for being a bland quote, never really saying anything, but come on, that’s a pretty good one. That’s like what a baseball Yoda would say, riding around on Luke Skywalker’s back while he takes extra BP. Maybe he’s wearing a tiny batting helmet. It’s not important. I don’t focus on myself, I focus on whatever I can do in a particular day to help us win.
Saturday, April 28 vs. Detroit
Remember all that stuff I said about Phil Hughes earlier? Well, multiply that by five with Freddy Garcia. There’s this look a guy gets when he knows he’s totally helpless out there. We used to call it the A.J. Stare, but then we traded Burnett to Pittsburgh for a rosin bag and a sick donkey. That probably seems like not a great deal, but all the scouts said the donkey would get better eventually and has an above-average donkey-kick tool. You have to make that move every time. Long story short, now we’re calling it the Freddy Stare, and this will probably be the last time he starts a game for awhile after he couldn’t get through two innings. You kind of miss the days when Mr. Steinbrenner would blast a guy in the paper after a game like this. But he’s probably up there in the sky calling whatever the Heaven version of the New York Post is and just like shouting crazy expletives at the beat angel, getting all red in the face, saying rude things about Freddy’s mother right now. That’s how he’d want to spend eternity, you know … maybe also firing Billy Martin every afternoon. It’s just a nice thing to think about. It takes the mind off a tough game like this one.
We’ll get ’em tomorrow.
Sunday, April 29: vs. Detroit
Now that’s more like it. CC was awesome, went eight innings, picked up the W, and really saved the bullpen. That’s a blessing and a curse, because you’ll pick up the bullpen phone in the seventh and ask what Boonie Logan’s up to, and the coach says, “He’s taken off his jersey, covered his torso in pine tar, and is playing Mr. Human Potato Head with the guys. Having the bullpen catcher stick eyes made of sunflower seeds on him, then an athletic-tape smile across his belly, that kind of thing.” I mean, that sounds fun and all, but we’re here to win games, not to be super weirdos. But on days where you get a big win like this, you let it slide and try not to think too much about the crap relievers stick to their chests when they’re bored. You pick your spots.
After the game, the media’s found a new silly thing to ask me about: Do I think I can catch Pete Rose? I mean, of course I can’t. First of all, Pete Rose played until he was 68. I definitely don’t plan on playing that long, unless the papers start writing stories about how I’d need to move off shortstop when I’m in my late 50s and I need to prove them wrong about that. Second of all, everyone knows my quest for 15 rings supersedes any meaningless personal goal. If I could help the team win 10 more World Series, and the hit record came along with that, OK, maybe now you’re talking. But stop asking me about any impossible milestones I’ll never admit to secretly coveting. My 3,000th hit ball (it was a home run, by the way, you can look it up if you don’t remember how I went 5-for-5 that day) is in a garbage bag in Trophy Annex Three; I can hardly look at it.
Monday, April 30: vs. Baltimore
We take it, 2-1, Hiroki throws a great game. A good, old-fashioned pitching duel. As a player, you always love those, the game really moves and you’re on your toes the entire time. Maybe you get to that ball in the hole you normally don’t get to because you’re more involved in every pitch, and because you’re a little sick of reading blogs about how your UZR is always in the bottom three of the league, you should melt down your Gold Gloves to make a fielding robot who can actually go to his right. I don’t read those blogs, they’re just negativity disguised as indisputable math, but sometimes Alex “accidentally” leaves them up on his laptop in the clubhouse. And one time we were playing Draw Something on the plane and he actually bought the palette with gold in it and sketched a short-bot wearing my number. The clue was “sunrise” — that’s not even close. At least give yourself the plausible denial if you’re gonna be a dick.
Tuesday, May 1: vs. Baltimore
No idea how this happened (well, I do: Phil Hughes happened), but not only did we not get the W, this was a pretty embarrassing minus-win. It never feels good to let Baltimore beat you, that’s like not-winning to a Triple-A team that has like one good major leaguer playing on a rehab assignment and the crowd’s really fired up because it’s 5-Hour Energy Drink Night. And please don’t point out that the Orioles are ahead of us in the division. Everyone knows the standings are completely made up until early June. Come six weeks from now, they’ll wipe them all clean, add up the real numbers, and we’ll be right at the top, don’t worry. (This doesn’t apply to Boston; their standings are real.)
If there’s one thing to feel OK about — and I don’t, but I mean theoretically — it’s that Nick Johnson got a hit. Before this season, he hadn’t played a game since 2003, and he was 0-for-29 coming in. You gotta root for a guy like Nicky; he keeps running out there despite having that weird glass-bone disease like Samuel L. Jackson. It’s inspiring. But I’m afraid that he’s going to try to kill Cal Ripken one day. Let’s all keep an eye on him, just in case.