Via Andrew Marchand -
It was early September in Tampa and the Yankees were falling apart.
They had been alone in first place for 84 days. On July 18, their lead had been 10 games.
Six weeks later, they were tied with the Orioles. Infamy stared them in the face. If the trend continued, they would go down as the Yankees team with the largest blown lead in franchise history.
So, at a 20-minute meeting at Tropicana Field on Sept. 5, players you would expect to talk stood up and addressed their teammates, led by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Others who you might not think would speak up at such a meeting did as well, most interestingly Rafael Soriano.
They all, though, took their cue from the Captain.
A Yankee, who was in that road clubhouse on Sept. 5, told ESPNNewYork.com that Jeter’s message was simple: “We have been here before. We know know we can do it. It is just time go out there and perform.”
“Jete was the textbook leader that he is, keeping it simple, giving us confidence that we can do it,” Russell Martin told us. “The thing about Jete is that he doesn’t talk that much to the team, generally, throughout the year. He did it a couple of times this year, but when he does say something you open your ears and you listen to what he has to say because he probably has the best mentality in being a competitor and what it is all about. This guy is tremendous. There is a reason he has so many at-bats in a year because he never gives up any at-bats. He is the type of guy, no matter what the situation or what the score is, he is going to give you his best effort and, to me, that is remarkable.”
The impact of such meetings is debatable. In hindsight, it is easy to point to team meetings when a club turns its play around following a get-together. From Sept. 5 on, the Yankees went 18-8 to finish with the best record in the American League. Martin confirmed that Jeter, Rodriguez and the unlikely veteran, Soriano, spoke.
“Jete talked, Al talked and Soriano talked,” Martin said.
Soriano can talk? Really? Wow.