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, May 30: at Anaheim
Whew. We avoided a sweep. No one likes to get swept. It’s the baseball equivalent of that thing barbarians do when they raid a town and impregnate all the women before burning the place down. You definitely want to be the ones doing the impregnating, not the ones who have to lug around bastard barbarians your whole life. So it felt really important for us to take this one and avoid that kind of unpleasant pregnancy scenario. You definitely want to have kids on your own terms, when you’re ready, after retirement. I really need to stop talking about this. We won. That’s what matters. The invasion thing doesn’t really hold up when the home team wins anyway.
I know I mentioned this a little bit last time, but Anaheim’s always a tough place to play. You’re on a West Coast swing, usually in the middle of a long and exhausting road trip, and historically we’ve had some trouble there. Between the Rally Monkey and the Thunder Sticks and the Night of 50,000 Rusty Tambourines — which always seems to coincide with our series, by the way, not that I’m accusing anyone of rigging the tambourine giveaway — the place starts to feel like a really well-funded minor league park. I don’t intend that in an insulting way, the stadium is pretty nice, I just mean all the cute bush league stuff that helps the fans get engaged with the game, which must be a tricky thing, because like half of them wound up there because they thought it was the Scrooge McDuck parking lot at Disneyland. You see a lot of mouse ears in the crowd. That’s not a coincidence. In fact, Mickey Mouse used to own the Angels, before this Arte Moreno guy bought them and thought he’d trick an entire city into believing it was part of Los Angeles. Mr. Mouse seemed pretty happy being a part of Anaheim. I’m not sure why the new guy wants to make the locals feel that kind of geographical shame. For years Mr. Steinbrenner threatened to move us to New Jersey and play that same kind of name game, but everyone knew it was just a giant bluff to eventually get a better stadium. And yeah, it worked, but it took about 25 years and five more championships for the extortion to really stick. You’ve got to back up your insane threats with rings. You can’t just tack a new city name onto your team and pay Albert Pujols $400 million or whatever and expect the proud Disney-Anaheimians to just erase their identity. You have to win first. Winning forgives all.
Oh, before I forget: I’ve been asked to clarify my comments on the Rally Monkey from last week, even though I’m only doing so in my private journal. I have no concrete proof that used-up Rally Monkeys are sent off to die in cosmetics factories. It’s just something I heard, it’s not like PETA and I launched a joint investigation into the allegations.
As far as I know, once these “proud creatures” (my reps suggested I refer to them this way) have served the Angels organization, they’re retired to a giant ranch in Arizona to live out the rest of their days in comparative simian luxury. I can’t speak to whether these ranches have facilities where the monkeys have the option to eat high-end lipstick until they explode. I haven’t been there. It’s not my place to speculate.
Thursday May 31: Off Day
This big trip through Oakland, Los Anaheim, and now onto Detroit has me pretty beat, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time doing this tonight. It’s a healthy outlet only as long as you’re able to put it aside when you need to. “If you write long in the diary, the diary also writes in you,” my journaling coach always says. Yeah, I realize it’s stolen from Nietzsche, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Wisdom is wisdom. And there are definitely nights where you can feel the diary writing its secrets in you. And trust me, you want no part of that. It has some pretty upsetting stuff to work through.
Before I go to bed tonight, I’m going to pray that Troy Tulowitzki has a speedy recovery from the groin injury that landed him on the DL. Maybe with the perspective that time off brings he’ll realize it’s time to change his number before God decides the next punishment should be more of a season-ender.
Friday, June 1: at Detroit
The guys got me a big W today for my 20th Jeterversary. Twenty years ago on this day, the Yankees took me with the sixth overall pick in the draft, and in that moment I dedicated myself to eventually destroying the five teams who passed on me. Yes, I’d always dreamed of being a Yankee and had no desire whatsoever to play for anyone else, but when you’re a competitor, it’s all about the principal of the thing. You can’t be selective about your burning desire to punish those who didn’t believe in you. Let’s take a quick look at how those teams have fared since 1992:
Houston: Played in only one World Series in 20 years, and have been so bad since then that they’re being thrown out of the National League. Replaced their famous stadium with one named for a second-tier orange juice.
Cleveland: Lost World Series to the Braves and Marlins in ’95 and ’97, then lost its city charter to Akron in a poker game in 2007.
Montreal: Lost its team to Washington. Sold Youppi to a hockey team for $58. They feed him nothing but ice shavings and blood. He’s not having a great time.
Baltimore: Jeffrey Maier.
Cincinnati: Marge Schott stayed alive until 2004.
We can probably all agree not taking me in the draft was a tragic mistake none of these organizations will ever recover from, even if Major League Baseball exists a thousand years from now. You don’t want people calling it the Curse of the Jete, because it’s not great for the brand to be associated with something negative like that, but it wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate if they did.
On a more positive note, Johan Santana threw a no-hitter tonight. It’s the first one the Mets have ever had, so it’s pretty historic for them. Personally, I don’t see why anyone would get so carried away over a game where a pitcher walks five guys and benefits from a pretty obvious blown call, but I guess every team needs something to get excited about. You’re just thankful that you were fortunate enough to play in two perfect games, where your pitchers walked zero guys. If you’re going to give up that many walks in a no-no, at least have a good excuse, right?
Saturday, June 2: at Detroit
We never seem to get enough runs for Kuroda. Run support’s a funny thing. We score like crazy for a guy like Ivan Nova almost every time out, but then Hiroki’s on the mound and suddenly we’re scraping to get on the board. It would be kind of hilarious if we were doing it to him on purpose, especially for a guy on a one-year contract. “Sorry, Hiro, me and the guys decided we’re only giving you two tonight. Make ’em count.” But it just doesn’t work like that. Baseball’s a mysterious game that way. It’s the sphinx of sports, I’m always saying that, even if it results in a half-hour fight with Boonie about how it’s more of a yeti thing. He’s got a whole theory. Don’t let him corner you and explain it.
That being said, I believe that clutch exists. The stats guys are always trying to tell you there’s no such thing as clutch, that there’s no special skill to it, it’s all probabilities and math. Look: I also know that math exists. I’ve taken math classes, I’ve seen numbers be added and subtracted in front of my very eyes. Those symbols on the back of baseball cards mean something real. But you can’t tell me that there’s not some magic ability some players have that makes them rise to the occasion when it counts most. I’ve seen Alex Rodriguez fail in huge situations too many times not to believe what I have is special. You look him in the eye after he strikes out to end a game and then tell me I’m wrong. You can’t. Mostly because his eyes start to quiver with tears a tiny little bit in the corners and it’s the most heartbreaking thing you’ve ever seen. It’s like Bambi suddenly realizing he’s being eaten by a tiger. Alex probably has a painting of that. He’s huge into memorializing his own suffering with art. Guys with $300 million tend to spend it on that stuff.
Sunday, June 3: at Detroit
Phil Hughes pitched a complete game.
Against Justin Verlander.
Sorry if that sounded a little too shocked, but it’s a lot to process. One guy won the MVP last year (though, in fairness, giving a pitcher the MVP is an indefensible crime against logic) and the other guy is Phil Hughes. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on him — he’s been pitching pretty well lately, especially if you discount that terrible start in Anaheim, which I don’t because it happened. But beating a Justin Verlander is a great confidence-builder, especially for someone who spends a lot of time looking angry about a three-run homer. Let’s all nod in appreciation together for a job well done. But then we have to get right back to work, because we don’t celebrate on June 3, we celebrate only on occasions involving limousines and Rudy Giuliani riding along in the limousine for some reason — that guy hasn’t been mayor in a decade.
Monday, June 4: Off Day
The no. 1 pick in the draft was a shortstop from Puerto Rico. It’s always nice when a shortstop gets picked first, because everyone knows it’s the most important position on the field, even if the person playing that position occasionally has some problems getting to balls to his left. He seems like a really nice kid, his head’s on straight, and he said I was his role model. You always like to hear that, even if it’s unfortunate he was picked by Houston. All you can do is hope he plays out the time he’s contractually bound to a cursed team and eventually moves on to a place that didn’t have its future destroyed by not selecting me when it had the chance.
Tuesday, June 5: vs. Tampa Bay
That Joe Maddon seems like a fun guy. I’m not going to name names, but some managers are a little more uptight and control-freaky, and they do everything by what’s in their binders. You get the feeling Joe Maddon carries around a Trapper Keeper decorated with a bunch of really cool stickers, like those glittery ones with race cars and unicorns, and that every so often he throws the Trapper Keeper aside and says, “You know what? Fuck it. The second baseman is pitching today, I’ve got a gut feeling that’s the move.” And then he takes a sip right from the bottle of a really complex Malbec, laughs at the Wizard of Oz outfits he’s making the team wear in warm-ups, and writes out his lineup card. You’d probably go crazy living like that day after day, but from the outside, it seems like a pretty good time.
Tampa’s built itself a nice little team. Super-annoying in how good the Rays have managed to be given their $15 payroll and a stadium with more ridiculous ground rules than a Pitch ‘n’ Putt course after a devastating earthquake, but a nice team nonetheless. Maybe I’m feeling charitable because Pettitte only allowed 2 hits in 7⅓ shutout innings, but there’s definitely a grudging respect there. And Andy had 10 strikeouts! He’s pitching like someone who’ll do anything not to sit through another one of his kids’ high school games. The minute he gets away from them he turns into the second coming of Ron Guidry. You gotta admire that kind of dedication to not being there for whatever’s left of their formative years.
Two more against the Rays. Bring it. Let’s see what else is in the Trapper Keeper.