By now everyone has had the chance to see Derek Jeter's September 15th at-bat against Chad Qualls where the Yankee Capitan faked being hit by a pitch to get on first base.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Rays reliever Chad Qualls appeared to hit Jeter in the elbow. The Yankee shortstop grabbed his elbow and acted like he was in pain. However, the replay showed the ball clearly hit the end of the bat. Later than inning Curtis Granderson hit a two-run homer driving in Jeter, though the Yankees would eventually lose to the Rays 3-2.
Let's call it as it is, if someone like A-Rod who is let's just say, "is not as pure in the eye's of many" had done the same thing, people would have been calling for a suspension or some kind of disciplinary action. However, since it was the infallible Jeter, anyone who complains about it is almost made to feel guilty as if the immortal shortstop is above morality itself.
For the most part, all has been forgotten because the Rays won the game, however, had the Rays lost the game and the pennant by that one game, this would have been a kin to the "shoe polish play" in the 1969 World Series which followed by Donn Clendenon's home run.
As the days have gone by, this incident has bugged me more than it should. Many people will tell you that this was no different than a catcher "selling a pitch" by moving his glove, a fielder quickly holding a the ball up as if he caught it in the fly when he knew he trapped it, or a tag play at a base where the fielder acts as if the tag was applied and the runner is assumed out when he knows he missed the tag. All of these things are acts to done to deceive the umpire and seem to be acceptable acts on the baseball diamond.
But when is cheating over the line? To me, once Jeter had the Yankees trainer come out and pretend to be injured, that was enough to cross the line. It made a mockery of the game. It's one thing to try to "act" in order to get an umpire to call something your way, it's another thing to fake being injured, stopping the game and having the medical staff provide fake medical attention to you.
To me, "selling a call" from either an offensive or defensive standpoint is not cheating, it's gamesmanship. However, corking a bat, throwing a spit ball, or altering the integrity of the game by doing something not in the ordinary act of play is cheating.
Think about it, Jeter jumped up in down in fake agony in order to get the call. This resulted in the Rays Manager being thrown out of the game (for telling the truth) and then we had to watch Yankees longtime head trainer, Gene Monahan come out of the dugout out for what is supposed to be a serious matter, a player injury, and make a fake diagnosis as Jeter pretended to be in pain.
Jeter openly admitted the cheat, saying "It's part of the game. My job is to get on base. Fortunately for us it paid off at the time, but I'm sure it would have been a bigger story if we would have won that game".
Do people really feel good winning at all costs in sports by acting out a lie? It happens all the time in sports. In basketball guys you see players flop to draw fouls, in football punters flop to draw roughing the kicker calls, in hockey players flop to draw fouls, etc. You can come up with many instances in sports where lying seems to be acceptable on the field of play.
Suppose that Derek Jeter's play resulted in a player being forced in from third base to win the World Series. Are players and fans really ok with that? Would you wear your new 26th Worlds Series Championship hat proudly? For those of you that do, is that where you draw the line? For those of you who are my age, how do you explain this concept to your children? How do you explain to them that it's ok to lie on the field but not at home to your family, at school and at work?
I coached a 12 year old tournament baseball team this summer and one of our players tried to stretch a double into a triple. He was clearly tagged out sliding into third base however the umpire blew the call. Not paying attention to the umpire's call and just assuming he was out (because he was) the player wandered off the bag and started to trot across the diamond to the 1st base dugout. The third basemen proceeded to track him down and tag him out. When I asked the 12 year old why he did that, the kid told me, "I was out." As the head coach, was I supposed to yell at someone else's child for telling the truth?
It's an awful thing if sports are going to have different rules from the rest of society. We often wonder how it is that some pro athletes get in legal or ethical trouble in society, almost giving the appearance that they don't have to conform to the rules of society. When you consider that they are taught "as long as you don't get caught, it's not lying or cheating" or "try anything you can to win, even if you have to cheat... it's worth a shot," it's not so hard to see how that happens.
Does what Jeter did make him a "cheater?" Sure it does, but it's nothing that everyone else in the world except that kid I coached wouldn't do. Wouldn't it be something if that kid became a politician?
Jeter's initial fake of agony was actually pretty good. Perhaps a Hollywood stunt job awaits him if he can't catch Pete Rose. I'm not so sure though that everyone else would have continued the charade after the initial faking of agony though. Having a member of the medical staff tend to you with millions of people watching on TV when everyone watching knew you weren't hurt was a bit much. - Mike Cardano
Mike is the founder of Around the Horn Baseball & Xtra Point Football.
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