Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jeter Admits to Tarnishing the Record Books by Having Lousy Range

It's not that I mean to imply any particular reason to doubt that Derek Jeter was "clean." He insists he never used PED's, and I see no reason to assume that he, like Rodriguez, is lying; I just see plenty of reasons to assume he could be lying, which is the whole point.
“One thing that’s irritating and really upsets me a lot is when you hear people say that everybody did it,” Jeter said. “Everybody wasn’t doing it.”
I mean, fine, I certainly have never thought that "Everybody did it." But a lot of people had reasons to assume Rodriguez was steroid-free, and I don't know that there is some obvious reason why Jeter is more clear of suspicion than Rodriguez. Sure, Jeter was not a power hitter, but it's not as if we've been given a clear enough view of the scope of PED use to lead us to believe that they were only used by the homer-hungry.

The point is, while "Everybody did it" is obviously wrong, "Anybody could have done it" is obviously right. Not that Jeter isn't entitled to blow off some steam or whatever, but I hope he can just STFU and move on.

Because really, if you are talking about how players are remembered in the long-term, then loafing it on defense has probably been a substantial taint on the record books (since evidently "record books" has come to mean not the actual records kept of play on the field but rather some hodgepodge of conventionally well-known numbers devoid of context) for at least a few major stars in baseball history. And while PED use is bad in that it artificially raises the bar for everyone else in the league, bad fielding hurts the team's chances of winning, which, it can certainly be argued, is the bigger baseball sin.

I am not saying that Jeter loafed it on defense at any point in his career; the title of this post is for amusement purposes solely. But he certainly could have done so. Whether it was a calculated effort to help his team by keeping himself healthy or a calculated effort to help himself by cheating the team is like asking whether or not a steroid user took 'em to help himself or the team: sure, we can always use our opinion of the player to guide our own opinion, but we're just speculating.

I guess what I am really trying to get at here is that Jeter's argument - "Trust me, it was not everyone!" - reads like just another way of saying, "I am better than (some of) my fellow players," which is what PED use is all about in the first place. I just don't like any system that is based on the players jockeying for recognition among themselves. And Jeter is still playing the media/MLB game, hyping any star that has not fallen.
“I understand people have questions,” Jeter said. “I understand there are a lot of big names coming out. But that’s not everybody. You know what I mean? That’s the point I’m trying to make.”
Right, but there were a lot of clean players who weren't very good in the majors or who couldn't crack them; though it could be because we're getting the media filter, it sure as heck seems like Jeter is arguing that there were HOF-level STARS who were clean. Sure reads a lot more like Jeter's capitalizing on the scandal than that he is legitimately upset about it.

I don't want to make Jeter out to be a villain - he's just the other side of the coin. Sluggers and power aces are vilified in the mainstream for varying degrees of apparent culpability in PED use, and Jeter is vilified in the saberstream for not measuring up defensively. If Jeter wants credit for not taking PED's, when we know that anyone COULD have taken them and subsequently lied about it, why should I believe him when his assessments of his own fielding skills lead me to believe that he is less than honest about his performance?

Hell, maybe all the other SS WERE taking PED's and that's why Jeter's defense has fared so poorly over the years in contrast. (Hey, we already know that the best and worst hitters in the "better defensive SS than Jeter" group tested positive.) The point is, Jeter's not basing the credibility of his "I never did PED's and no one ever even suggested it because it's just that obvious they wouldn't help ME of all people" line on establishing honesty in his assessments. He is skating a fine line where he is trying to get credit for being too good (of a person) to take steroids on the basis of being too good (of a player) to need them. And that - well, how credible was the same defense from Alex Rodriguez?

The evidence available to me that Derek Jeter has been a poor defensive SS over the course of his career - and one certainly not deserving of any Gold Glove recognition - is stronger than the evidence available to me that he didn't take PED use. For me personally, we'll need him to comment honestly and intelligently about the reality that "he gets far more girls than his fielding talents should allow" before I choose to assume any degree of honesty or intelligence in his claims not to have used PED's.

While in all earnestness I do not think it likely that Jeter used PED's, all he's doing now is lounging in his stone house throwing glass bottles out the window. Put down the bottles and come outside if you want me to take you seriously (though you very likely do not).


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