If you missed the highlights from last night's pivotal Yankees-Rays finale, Derek Jeter fooled home plate umpire Lance Barksdale into thinking that a ball that clearly hit the heel of his bat actually hit him. You can see Jeter's antics here. Barksdale awarded Jeter first base, Rays manager Joe Maddon was ejected for arguing a call the he knew was wrong, and Curtis Granderson promptly hit a two-run home run that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning. Jeter did not hesitate to confirm after the game that the ball had hit the bat. He also claimed that what he did was right.
"It's part of the game. My job is to get on base."
"If our guys had did it, I would have applauded that. It's a great peformance on his part," he said. "Several players are very good at that. And again, I'm not denigrating it. If our guy does it, I'm very happy with that if we end up getting the call. ... Fortunately it didn't cost us."
Driving into work this morning, I listen to Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic and Tim Kurkjian attempt to one-up each other with praise for the display. Kurkjian used words like genius and brilliant. Greenberg only added that, unlike Kurkjian and Golic, he didn't even think that the action should be considered cheating.
Has the whole world gone mad?
I expect no different from Greenberg or Golic. The next piece of critical thought from Greenberg will be his first, and Golic played for Buddy Ryan's Eagles, a group that saw no issue with targeting certain opposing kickers and quarterbacks to injure.
Kurkjian is fairly consistent in his attitude that players will do what they need to to gain and edge, and we should expect nothing else from them. His stance on steroids is not dissimilar.
Let's reorient ourselves with reality.
First, the move was not brilliant. I understand that anything Jeter does will be called brilliant by some. This little show was the same instinct that five year olds have when they first attempt to cheat at card and board games with their siblings. Faking injury is among the easiest, most natural of human instincts for children to master. They use it to manipulate, just as Jeter did. He put on a pathetic, childish display, nothing more. He's far from the first, and that makes it no more impressive and no less dispicable.
Second, Jeter cheated. He wasn't a simple benefactor of a blown call, as he suggested. He didn't embellish a minor or partial foul, as in examples by Kurkjian and Golic. He created soemthing that had no basis and attempted to deceive to gain a call that he knew was 100% incorrect.
What he did was worse than Karl Malone flopping on minor contact, worse than Ronaldo doing five somersaults after a nick to his calf, worse than Bill Romanowski pushing the limits of legal contact - and we despise all of these characters for these actions.
What Jeter did was in line with corking his bat. He picked up his golf ball and moved it a few feet to improve its lie. He planted a deflated football for the opposing team's game winning field goal. What he did broke the two cardinal rules of sport - he cheated the competition, and he cheated fans. It was positively dispicable, and I find it disgusting that so many seem to be fine with it.