Wally Mathews tugs on Superman’s cape, spits into the wind, pulls the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and talks about Derek Jeter’s lousy 2010 season:
But the hard truth is Derek Jeter is no longer the player he once was, which is perfectly understandable at 36. And sometimes, Derek Jeter actually hurts the Yankees — something that a year ago would have seemed perfectly unthinkable.
Derek Jeter was not the only reason the Yankees lost to the Detroit Tigers on Monday night — a 3-1 defeat that came within two outs of being the second night in a row they were shut out by an inferior team — he was only the most obvious, being responsible as he was for those final two outs nipping a burgeoning rally right in the bud.
And he did it on a play that threatens to become one of his trademarks — as much as the jump throw, the shovel pass or the face-plant into the front row seats.
He did it with a double play — an ignominious accomplishment that is rapidly becoming his alone, the way Reggie Jackson owns the strikeout and Vinny Testaverde the pick.
Monday night, he rapped into two of them, including the one that ended the game.
And just like that, a night that looked as though it might have climaxed with a pie in some Yankees’ face instead ended with egg all over Jeter’s.
Anyone can hit into a double play at any time, but few hit into as many as Jeter does. In fact, only two players currently active in the American League — Pudge Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez — have hit into more of them in their careers than Jeter.
And with two on Monday night, Jeter has pulled within two of Ordonez, who has 232 for his career. (He still trails Pudge by a healthy 45, but Pudge is in his 20th season).
And it’s not just double play balls that are killing Jeter and the Yankees, it is ground balls. Jeter hits more of them, far more, than any hitter in baseball. Two-thirds of his contacts this season have been on the ground. His next nearest competitor, Juan Pierre, hits more than half his balls on the ground.
Jeter is certainly not trying to, but he hits the ball to the shortstop so often you sometimes think his jersey number should be 63.
In some ways, Jeter’s 2010 is starting to look like Steve Garvey’s 1985 or Cal Ripken’s 1998 or Craig Biggio’s 2002. And, that’s not good news for him or the Yankees.