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.
Thursday, July 31: off day, trade deadline
An organization can’t get too comfortable. By the trade deadline, it should know what team it has and what team it needs to have, and then make whatever moves will keep it competitive and moving toward the postseason. The game is about winning. The game is about making it to the World Series, and then winning the championship. Everything else is failure.
So you can’t afford to stand pat at the deadline. Your GM has to make moves. More important, your GM has to make the right moves. Which aren’t always the splashy moves. But sometimes they are.
When you see a David Price going to Detroit and a Jon Lester wind up in Oakland — you see two teams really pushing all their chips into the middle — you wonder what Brian Cashman is going to do to counter. Tulowitzki? Giancarlo Stanton? Cole Hamels? A four-team deal that brings in Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, and Jose Abreu? Maybe that sounds crazy, but you have to dream big to trade big. No one’s going to suddenly give up their best players if you don’t at least make the unrealistic request. The Yankees have always been in the business of making fantasy into reality. We never would’ve gotten Babe Ruth for a brothel gift certificate and a sack of stolen wristwatches if nobody asked. But somebody did ask, and the rest is 27 championships’ worth of history.
So you spend all day watching the news and you finally find out who your new teammates are going to be. And they’re Stephen Drew and Martin Prado. You wouldn’t necessarily describe those as splashy moves. They’re both solid players, sure, even if one of them couldn’t find a job until a month ago. And that doesn’t even take into account that he came over from the Red Sox, so you half-expect that he’s going to show up in the clubhouse tomorrow with a nervous look in his eye and a hollow tooth full of Ebola. You just hope you see him trying to bite down on it to release the virus before it’s too late. We were lucky with Youkilis last year; we were able to knock out all his teeth, zip him up in an Easton hazmat bag, and ship him down to Tampa for decontamination. But it was a closer call than you’d like, especially since he passed through another team and free agency before he got to us.
We’ll locker Drew between Frankie Cervelli and a lefty reliever and hope for the best. If he tries anything, you can at least limit the damage that way. Backup catchers and one-out bullpen guys are replaceable.
But this is probably our team for the stretch run. All you can do is hope it’s enough. And be vigilant about suspicious activity. There’s no way you’re going out with your guts melted by a killer plague. That’s not how this whole thing is ending.
Friday, August 1: at Boston Red Sox
It’s just coincidence that we trade for Drew and then immediately head up to Boston, but it makes for a tense first meeting in the visitors’ clubhouse when you’re welcoming your new second baseman and trying to read his eyes for any signs he’s been compromised. You wonder if a similar thing is going on in the Red Sox locker room when Kelly Johnson arrives, but probably not. They’ve already blown up their team. They’ve gotta be hoping someone’s coming to finish the job, maybe so they can collect the insurance money to try to get Lester back in the offseason.
Still, it’s sad to see your biggest rivals surrender a season the way Boston has. They traded away four out of five of their starters. We lost four out of five of our starters to injury. They’re looking to next year. We’re looking to October. You wonder what it’s like to play for a franchise that will quit on you like that. But it’s so far from your personal experience that it’s too hard to even imagine. You’ve been blessed to be a part of an organization that will always sacrifice the future before ever giving up on the present.
So we say our hellos and take the field at Fenway with our new teammates.
The Sox start a rookie against us who grew up a Yankees fan in New Jersey. It’s his first game, and it’s against his childhood heroes. For a team that quit.
Your heart goes out to the kid. You hate to see someone’s dreams die right in front of you like that.
Saturday, August 2: at Boston Red Sox
I don’t know what to do about all these voice mails from Brian Roberts. On the one hand, you feel bad for him because things didn’t work out for him in New York, and he may have just finished up his career DFA’d after we gave his job at second to a converted shortstop. On the other hand, you don’t want to return the calls and have an awkward conversation in which you have to explain that you’re all out of your Final Season farewell gift baskets because demand has been so high. You signed a limited amount of memorabilia. You can’t just keep signing things and devaluing everybody else’s baskets. That’s the whole point about collectors’ items. You have to maintain some scarcity.
These aren’t like World Series shares. You’re not giving them out to people who played with you only through July just to be nice. You’ve got to save them for the full-season guys.
Sunday, August 3: at Boston Red Sox
It’s almost too hard to talk about. In the fifth inning, Clay Buchholz finally breaks. It might be the sadness of being the last starter left from Opening Day. It might be the pressure of a disappointing, lost season. It might be the seven runs he gives up. But when John Farrell comes out to get him, Buchholz frisbees his hat into right field, sits down on the pitching rubber, and starts playing games of tic-tac-toe against himself in the mound dirt.
At least he wins every game. You’re happy for him on that level, even though you notice he’s cheating by using all X’s.
Monday, August 4: vs. Detroit Tigers
Every game is important now, but this is a stretch that looks as tough as any we’ve had so far. We’re facing the last three American League Cy Young winners in a row because of the David Price trade. You hate to think that the Commissioner would play a part in delivering him to Detroit, but when you look at how little they gave up to get him, it makes you wonder. The ring of crows surrounding Price during warm-ups also seems suspicious. Especially the way they all turn at the same time and caw when they see me in the dugout. You’re not a bird scientist, but you feel like crows are usually not that coordinated in their behavior unless they’re being controlled by some kind of dark power that’s on a season-long mission to destroy you.
I toss a signed ball toward the ring around Price. A crow immediately spears it with his beak and flies off.
You better send five Cy Youngs next time. —DJ2 Final Season
Tuesday, August 5: vs. Detroit Tigers
The first thing I notice when I open the door to my apartment is the bottles.
Empty bottles of Gatorade. Dozens of them. Maybe hundreds. Scattered across the floor of the foyer, the kitchen, the dining room. Everywhere.
I find A-Rod in the living room, chugging down a bottle of Pinstripe Fuel. He looks me in the eye, wipes some drops from his chin, and lobs the bottle over his shoulder, kicking it toward the wall with his hoof. He does it in an easy way that suggests a lot of practice.
“I’m not sorry, Jetes.”
“This place is a disaster. What are you doing?”
“They took Cousin Yuri.”
“They took who?”
“The feds. Selig. Obama. Who knows for sure?”
He drains another bottle.
“I don’t understand. What did he do?”
“He didn’t do anything! He just wanted to help me.”
“Help you what?”
“He helped me become. How can they arrest him for that?”
“I can’t answer that.”
“Look at me. I’m a miracle. I am not a crime.”
He kicks the empty across the room.
“Can you maybe stop doing that?”
“He’s simple folk, Jetes. He’ll never last in prison.”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine. Your lawyers will take care of him.”
“You have to break him out for me.”
“There is no way I’m getting involved in that.”
“Will you at least call a press conference? You are the most respected person in all of New York. Maybe the entire outer-drobe. Your word has heft, Jetes.”
“And what would I say at this press conference?”
“You would say that Cousin Yuri’s arrest is a terrible mistake. He merely provided the key that unlocked my inner perfection. And they should release him and immediately cease all false-flag operations targeting him.”
“I’m sorry. I’m not going to say that.”
“You’re his only hope.”
“Call your lawyer.”
“We have no need for lawyers inside the wardrobe. Our disputes are settled in galloping displays. And I’m undefeated.”
“Well, your cousin is in a world where there are lawyers.”
“My retainer may have lapsed.”
“Then I don’t know what to tell you.”
“This is highly disappointing, Jetes. I would do it for you.”
“If my cousin is ever arrested, I promise to handle it myself.”
“Very well. I see that you value family as much as you do friendship.”
“Will you clean this up now?”
He unscrews a fresh Gatorade, chugs it, and tosses the bottle into the pile of other empties in front of me.
“Whoops. Messy, messy, Jetes.”
He turns and clops over to the wardrobe. He steps inside without looking back, slamming the door behind him.
The bottles on the floor rattle at the impact.
I grab a trash bag and begin picking them up.
It’ll be easier than explaining it all to the cleaning lady.
Wednesday, August 6: vs. Detroit Tigers
We beat two out of three Cy Youngs. You really want the Cy sweep, but you’ll take it.
In the bottom of the eighth, Teixeira slides into home and smashes his little finger on the catcher’s cleat. He leaves the game grabbing his hand in pain.
As we’re walking off the field after the game, a crow swoops low, buzzing by my head.
It drops something at my feet. I pick it up.
It’s a bloody pinky.
I make a mental note to count Tex’s fingers when I get back to the locker room.