Archives for posts with tag: Tom Verducci

I wrote this piece in 2014 during Derek Jeter’s last season and thought it was worth sharing again this weekend with the Yankees not surprisingly retiring his #2.

 

It’s been twenty long years that seem to have gone by in a wink. Derek Jeter’s career is coming to an end and as proved by Thursday night’s heroics he still has a little magic left. He is not going out at the top of his game or in the midst of another pennant run but 2014 does feel like the right time to walk away. This final season has been a mix of nostalgia, gratitude, harsh reality, speculation, evaluation, criticism, and old-fashioned baseball drama. And now is a good time to remember what we should we remember and what we have been honored to experience with #2 in pinstripes.

Derek Jeter is class. He has spent the last twenty seasons playing for the most storied baseball franchise in the biggest media market and has handled every moment with dignity and resolve. Just imagine how you would handle the pressure of such a task while dealing with the 24-7 news cycle and droves of reporters second guessing your every move. Now marvel at how Derek Jeter has not only played but carried himself. He realized very early that everyone is watching and has been a true ambassador for the Yankees and the game of baseball.

Derek Jeter is humble. In this exploding era of social media where most athletes crave attention like Gollum craves the precious ring, Derek Jeter has shined in the spotlight and done everything in his power to not bathe in it. Derek is the anti-Reggie, always ready to laud his team’s accomplishments and avoid any urge to pat himself on the back. He has taken his share of curtain calls, and even turned a few down, but even when he does step of the dugout to the delight of thousands he acts as if to say, “Not a big deal, just doing my job.”

Derek Jeter is respectful. The past few months has been a never ending barrage of athletes behaving badly. With the retirement of Derek Jeter comes the absence of a special individual who treated the game and his profession as a privilege, not a right. You have never heard Derek Jeter’s name uttered in the same sentence as the following words: drugs, DUI, armed, battery, assault, arrest. There is that slight possibility that Mr. Jeter has Olivia Pope on his payroll but I and many others will always be willing to believe the best having never seen Jeter’s worst, if such a concept exists.

Derek Jeter is hustle. We know the plays and they have been replayed in a continuous loop the last few weeks. Derek Jeter has played his entire career not only with a first-rate skill set but with keen instincts and a burning desire to win. When I think of Derek Jeter I think of the player who is busting his ass to 1B on a routine grounder while down five runs in the eighth inning. That’s Derek Jeter.

Derek Jeter is a Yankee. From day one, Derek Jeter understood the pride, passion, and history that comes with wearing the pinstripes. He has been aware of the expectations and never backed down from a challenge. The Yankees may be seen as the Evil Empire but Derek Jeter has always been the bright beacon of hope and all that can be good about the Yankees and baseball. Tom Verducci said it best when he said, “If you don’t like Derek Jeter, you don’t like baseball.”

In the end, Derek Jeter is not the greatest Yankee of all-time. But he is the greatest Yankee of my lifetime, and that’s all that matters and he will be missed. Thanks, Captain.

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It’s been twenty long years that seem to have gone by in a wink. Derek Jeter’s career is coming to an end and as proved by Thursday night’s heroics he still has a little magic left. He is not going out at the top of his game or in the midst of another pennant run but 2014 does feel like the right time to walk away. This final season has been a mix of nostalgia, gratitude, harsh reality, speculation, evaluation, criticism, and old-fashioned baseball drama. And now is a good time to remember what we should we remember and what we have been honored to experience with #2 in pinstripes.

Derek Jeter is class. He has spent the last twenty seasons playing for the most storied baseball franchise in the biggest media market and has handled every moment with dignity and resolve. Just imagine how you would handle the pressure of such a task while dealing with the 24-7 news cycle and droves of reporters second guessing your every move. Now marvel at how Derek Jeter has not only played but carried himself. He realized very early that everyone is watching and has been a true ambassador for the Yankees and the game of baseball.

Derek Jeter is humble. In this exploding era of social media where most athletes crave attention like Gollum craves the precious ring, Derek Jeter has shined in the spotlight and done everything in his power to not bath in it. Derek is the anti-Reggie, always ready to laud his team’s accomplishments and avoid any urge to pat himself on the back. He has taken his share of curtain calls, and even turned a few down, but even when he does step of the dugout to the delight of thousands he acts as if to say, “Not a big deal, just doing my job.”

Derek Jeter is respectful. The past few months has been a never ending barrage of athletes behaving badly. With the retirement of Derek Jeter comes the absence of a special individual who treated the game and his profession as a privilege, not a right. You have never heard Derek Jeter’s name uttered in the same sentence as the following words: drugs, DUI, armed, battery, assault, arrest. There is that slight possibility that Mr. Jeter has Olivia Pope on his payroll but I and many others will always be willing to believe the best having never seen Jeter’s worst, if such a concept exists.

Derek Jeter is hustle. We know the plays and they have been replayed in a continuous loop the last few weeks. Derek Jeter has played his entire career not only with a first-rate skill set but with keen instincts and a burning desire to win. When I think of Derek Jeter I think of the player who is busting his ass to 1B on a routine grounder while down five runs in the eighth inning. That’s Derek Jeter.

Derek Jeter is a Yankee. From day one, Derek Jeter understood the pride, passion, and history that comes with wearing the pinstripes. He has been aware of the expectations and never backed down from a challenge. The Yankees may be seen as the Evil Empire but Derek Jeter has always been the bright beacon of hope and all that can be good about the Yankees and baseball. Tom Verducci said it best when he said, “If you don’t like Derek Jeter, you don’t like baseball.”

In the end, Derek Jeter is not the greatest Yankee of all-time. But he is the greatest Yankee of my lifetime, and that’s all that matters and he will be missed. Thanks, Captain.

In the world that is the Yanks/Sawx rivalry there are basically two reactions to reading Francona: The Red Sox Years by Dan Shaughnessy and Terry Francona. Red Sox fans will shake their heads and continue to be disgusted by the equal parts of apathy and incompetence that led to the Red Sox historic collapse in 2011. Yankee fans will say, “Wow, and we thought Joe Torre got screwed.”

One of the reasons I have found it difficult to truly hate the Red Sox over the past decade is very simple: Terry Francona. From day one he has treated his players, fans, and opponents with respect and dignity. Any fan of baseball can easily see that he was the right man in the right job at the right time and the success of the Red Sox during his tenure is due in no small part to his steady leadership as well as his fruitful rapport with baseball wunderkind, Theo Epstein. It really is hard to hate your enemies when they are so competent and logical.

Now, just like The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, this new book sheds plenty of light on a prosperous era followed by a very ugly, very public divorce. Dan Shaughnessy’s writing is taut and his investigating skills exhaustive in relaying the story of Terry Francona’s time in Red Sox Nation. While Terry Francona is on hand to share his point of view, all viewpoints are represented by countless interviews with all involved parties, with the notably expection of principal owner John Henry, who ignored any attempt to partcipate (another in a series of tasteless slights of Terry Francona).

While the main focal point for many reading may be the inside look at what really happened in 2011, the heart of the book is Terry Francona’s baseball life. Starting as the son a major leaguer, followed by his “journeyman” career hampered by injuries, Terry Francona developed a love and IQ for the game both off the charts. He is the epitome of a player’s manager, doing all he can to let players do their job and having their back whenever possible: the anti-Bobby Valentine. More importantly, while he did get understandably frustrated at times he knew the game. Having read the book I can reasonably state that during his Boston tenure he had to wade through as much crap as Tim Robbins in Shawshank. And like Andy DuFresne, Terry Francona has been able to escape, properly cleansed.

Some of the more interesting stories and observations:

– The main reason Terry Francona never disciplined Manny Ramirez was based on the input of his trusted players. Francona had a rotating “brain trust” of veterans that included the likes of Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, Gabe Kapler, and so on. The general consensus was that Manny was a huge pain in the ass, but they lived with him because of his home runs and RBIs.

– Terry Francona is a renown card player. He specialized in taking his players money in both poker and cribbage. He also notes that being a good card player helped him as a manager in knowing when to play the odds and when to play his gut.

– The success of the Red Sox became known as “The Monster.” Much like the hated Yankees, winning in Boston became addictive with any outcome less than the title seen as unacceptable. This led to poorly thought decisions. Two words: Carl Crawford.

– In a truly surreal scene, Francona was asked to take a meeting with representatives from NESN (the Sox channel) to discuss falling ratings between 2007 and 2010. The number one complaint was that the Red Sox weren’t “winning games in an exciting fashion.” Just as Francona was about to storm out, he was coaxed by Theo Epstein to stay. The report also relayed that they needed “sexier” players to attract female viewers.

– The collapse of the 2011 Red Sox came down to one thing, or lack of it: starting pitching. The Sox scored plenty of runs in September, but the trio of Beckett, Lackey, and Lester went 2-7 with and ERA over 6.00. End of story.

– To compound the pitching problems, Francona noted that the 2011 Red Sox had no cohesion like previous years and everyone was just out for themselves. This is best summed up by an unfortunate tirade where David Ortiz caused a scene at a Francona press conference because he did not get credited with an RBI from the previous night. Never mind that it was the game winning hit, Papi was pissed and wanted his RBI.

– The book doesn’t make out Francona to be a saint. During the 2011 collapse there was an incident where Francona was approached by a stranger in a hotel who said “You must win today.” Francona started yelling at the gentleman only to find out that he was a well meaning diplomat from South America who meant no harm. This is one of a handful of incidents where Francona lost his cool. He is human after all.

– Francona had no problem with walking away after 2011, but what hurt was the release of the information regarding his pain medication. Before the 2011 season Francona entered a rehab program to manage his pain when it was discovered that he had a stash of percocet, an unused stash of percocet. Under the guidelines of MLB regarding drug treatment said treatment is supposed to remain confidential. The only reason Francona turned down his initial invite to the Fenway 100 year celebration is that his drug situation was both publicized and no one was willing to admit to leaking the story. Francona eventually was the bigger person and attended.

In the end, Terry Francona walks away from Boston with two World Series rings, league-wide respect, and a clear conscience. He has few regrets about his time in Boston, with the exception of his marriage ending. He was what the Red Sox needed at the time and better than what they deserved. Enter Bobby Valentine and karma’s a bitch.