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View from New York: Jeter in the spotlight for better or worse

The Yankees short-stop skippered his side to a win thanks to a record-breaking at-bat.. and then just skipped the All-Star game.

Derek Jeter rounds third base after he hit a solo home run, his 3,000th career hit off against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Derek Jeter rounds third base after he hit a solo home run, his 3,000th career hit off against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Image: Kathy Kmonicek/AP/Press Association Images

IT DIDN’T TAKE long for the rest of baseball to scurry away from the glorification of Derek Jeter.

The least-hated New York Yankee for fans of other teams around the Majors momentarily had everyone in the palm of his hand on Saturday afternoon, just after 2pm ET when he homered to left field, thus becoming just the 28th player to make 3,000 regular season hits.

And in subsequently hitting five times out of five, the fifth of which gave his team a lead they wouldn’t lose against Tampa Bay, his astonishing achievement became an unbelievably poetic way to own the stage for possibly the last time in his career.

Because as soon as the nation was done collectively sneering at lifelong Yankee fan Christian Lopez’s (reportedly costly) decision to give the home run ball back to the club in order to meet the Captain, the attention finally shifted to Jeter’s decision to forego the All-Star game in Arizona last night.

He needed a rest, not to travel to the desert. Understandable.

And even though sane-thinking analysts criticised the motivation behind the public vote – Jeter is far from the best shortstop in what is a fairly dismal band of American League shortstops – the fact that he turned down the honour was inexcusable.

Even his former team mate, Lance Berkman, had a pop off him yesterday afternoon during the interminable build-up to the game which was won by the National League, thus ensuring their champions home advantage in the World Series.

“I don’t think it’s my place to speak for others,” Berkman said. “But for me, personally, if you get selected to be here you have an obligation. You gotta be here. If you can go, you gotta go.”

But MLB commissioner Bud Selig was of a more diplomatic mindset, aligning himself with the What Would Jeter Do mindset.

“I have no problem with Derek Jeter,” Selig said.

“I’ve known him for 15 years. He’s already done the right thing. I completely understand the situation. And to tell you the truth, I probably would have done the same thing myself.”

Despite his recent good form, there probably wasn’t much he could have done against the big-hitting National League whose captain for the evening, Milwaukee’s lovable Prince Fielder, hit a massive home run in the fourth to bring in two other runners and open up a 3-1 lead.

With the most at stake of all the All-Star games in American sport (NL champions, the San Francisco Giants, went on to make the most out of last year’s NL victory, the first in six years, when they went onto to take the World Series), baseball has still managed to render their mid-season celebration a hollow joke.

It really didn’t help that its hero du jour (as well as a lengthy list of other top stars) ignored the festivities completely.

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But when the real action gets going again tomorrow as we round second on the way home to what could be an exciting post-season, the sense of relief around baseball will be palpable.

For what it’s worth, during the ad break last night, Fox played the official trailer for the movie version of the Michael Lewis book about the Oakland As, Moneyball. It lands in cinemas here on September 23, the last weekend of the regular season.

Clever marketing. Because, at first glance, it looks woeful.

John Riordan writes a column for the Irish Examiner. He works as a freelance journalist in New York; check out his blog here.

Read more of his columns for TheScore here>

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