On Feb. 24, I previewed third basemen. Now, let’s discuss the shortstop position.
Which shortstop should go off the board first?
Troy Tulowitzki (COL) – When he is playing, Tulowitzki is one of the most valuable fantasy players at any position. However, that’s only when he’s healthy enough to play. The Rockies shortstop has played in 130 games just twice in the past six seasons and has found himself on the disabled list five times in the past seven years. It’s hard to not want to pick him, though, because of his high ceiling and successful history. It’s a toss-up as to who the number one shortstop is right now and will be at the end of the season, but I like Tulowitzki – he plays in a hitter-friendly ballpark and is surrounded by talent.
Who is making a comeback from a disappointing 2013 season?
Starlin Castro (CHI) – Saying Castro underperformed last season is an understatement. The Cubs shortstop was a complete bust. He hit just .245, stole only nine bases and had 44 runs batted in. His numbers in 2013 were significantly worse than they were in 2012, and he had 20 more at-bats. Castro will earn his keep this year and return to all-star form. He has potential to be a top-five shortstop.
Don’t sleep on this guy
Derek Jeter (NYY) – This may seem cliché, but did you see the year Mariano Rivera had in his last season upon announcing his retirement? Expect Jeter to perform the same way, especially since he is a guy that wants to finish on top. In 2012, the Yankees legend hit .316 and scored 99 runs for fantasy owners who were pleased with that type of production out of the then 38-year-old. Jeter is now 40, but he is healthy after playing just 17 games last year. That rest and healing time makes him a very good candidate to be a sleeper in 2013.
Bound to bust
Jose Reyes (TOR) – Reyes is ranked high every single year, and people who draft him always end up having to watch the waiver wire upon Reyes’ trip to the DL. Reyes is a special talent and a tough out. He is one of the fastest players in the majors, and he usually hits for a very high average while scoring plenty of runs. I just think injuries will hold him back once again, making him a bust.
My Preseason Rankings: Shortstop
Troy Tulowitzki (COL)
Hanley Ramirez (LAD)
Jean Segura (MIL)
Ian Desmond (WAS)
Jose Reyes (TOR)
Elvis Andrus (TEX)
Starlin Castro (CHC)
Ben Zobrist (TB)
Everth Cabrera (SD)
J.J. Hardy (BAL)
Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE)
Andrelton Simmons (ATL)
Xander Bogaerts (BOS)
Jonathan Villar (HOU)
Derek Jeter (NYY)
Alexei Ramirez (CWS)
Jurickson Profar (TEX)
Jed Lowrie (OAK)
Jhonny Peralta (STL)
Erick Aybar (LAA)
I’ll leave you with this...
Shortstops don’t offer much of anything as far as elite players go, and this might be the most risky position to draft this season considering that three out of the top five (Tulowitzki, Ramirez and Reyes) tend to get hurt almost every year. There is also uncertainty if Segura will perform like he did in 2013, if Castro is capable of bouncing back, if Villar can put together a nice season that most people are counting on and so much more.
Each week, Adam will give his two cents about the players at each position, naming a clear-cut number one, a comeback player, a sleeper/breakout, a bust, his full rankings and a little advice as to what to do in your draft and throughout the season.
The National League beat the American League 5-1 in the 2011 MLB All-Star game, and that is about as much as some are willing to remember.
“What a waste of two hours and some odd minutes of my life,” said broadcast journalism senior Derek Lewis.
Like many sports fanatics, Lewis decided to watch the All-Star game on Tuesday, but was disappointed by the lack pomp and circumstance. Some of these fans said that this year’s watered-down cast of All-Stars and boring broadcast was not appealing.
“It had three big plays,” Lewis said. “The rest was all fairly boring, undominating pitching that was just good enough to get outs for the National League and some poor defensive efforts that made the game into Keystone Cops at certain points. Plus, several big American League pitchers were out. Several big name players overall were out. Not a good showing from baseball.”
In the American League two players chosen to by the fans — Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez — and four pitchers selected by the players (including three more Yankees), skipped for medical reasons. Jeter, who recently recorded his 3,000th career hit, cited mental and physical exhaustion as the reason for his absence. Rodriguez is currently in on the DL.
In the National League, only one voted starter — Jose Reyes — didn’t suit up Tuesday in Phoenix, but Shane Victorino, who won the final vote over Washington Nationals first baseman Michael Morse, was also out injured.
Though this year’s numbers have not been released, the MLB All-Star game’s ratings have declined consistently over the past decade, with last year’s mid-summer classic boasting the worst ratings ever. Fans who watched but didn’t enjoy this year’s game said the MLB isn’t doing enough to keep the very people that drive the game interested — the fans.
“It was like any other baseball game, which is sad because it’s the All-star game,” said baseball fan Sarang Patel. “A lot of it may be Fox's fault. There was no "fun" appeal. The highlight was Justin Timberlake with his beer near a pool with girls. The NBA All-Star game has all these in-game microphones, celebrity interviews, jokesters, etc. The MLB and Fox couldn't even utilize Brian Wilson correctly.”
Other fans echoed Patel’s sentiment that the MLB has gotten lazy in keeping fans interested, and say other sports offer more exciting draws in the summer sports lull.
“They [MLB] really aren't trying to fight Soccer for this summer market while the NBA and NFL take vacations,” Lewis said.
It may not be fair to compare the two sports’ All-star games, but in terms of ratings, the NBA knows what it’s doing. It puts the game on a weekend and spends an entire week building the event up with funny promotions; Usher crooning about it, and with players who actually want to play in the game. The 2011 NBA All-Star game boasted its highest ratings since 2003, bringing in over 12 million viewers.
Some regular sports fans didn’t even realize the All-Star game was even scheduled for Tuesday night.
“I didn’t even know it happened,” said business senior Saagar Grover, adding that he didn’t mind missing it.
Obviously these dissenting voices don’t represent the voice of every sport and baseball fan. The fact of the matter is that baseball is slowly losing younger viewers to the glitz and glamour of the NBA and NFL. Both those leagues are able to draw viewers to games in which a fan may not even have a vested interested beyond the desire to be entertained. One would have thought that with the other leagues wrapped up in lockouts, baseball would do everything it could to retain and even gain viewers who have nothing else to follow right now. If I were Bud Selig, I would have put in a call into Usher, or maybe Ke$ha.
Not every baseball fan had a bad time. History junior Eli Perez said he preferred the low-key nature of the game, as well as getting the opportunity to see some fresh talent.
“It was exciting to see the next crop of super stars like Starlin Castro and Rickie Weeks come up and playing in the game, but it was really disappointing to not see Derek Jeter out there," Perez said. “Overall it was a fun game to just sit back and relax to. Not every game is going to have hundreds of runs scored. Sometimes they are just a grind which can be equally as enjoyable to watch.”
He may be right. That type of game does appeal to some people, and I certainly tuned in for 90 percent of it. But it wasn’t exciting enough to keep me from flipping back and forth between Fuse’s 100 Sexiest Videos of All-time, and ESPN U’s rerun of last year’s Texas vs. Nebraska football game.
“Perfect” — the most overused and inappropriate of all the sports hyperbole. Rarely is anything ever “without error, flaw, or fault, or excellent and ideal in every way” (Merriam Webster’s). Hardly is any sports feat truly perfect.
When perfection does happen, it’s immortalized — there have been 20 perfect games thrown in baseball, and each of those pitchers is labeled as the “man who threw the perfect game.” It’s remembered — unlike an all-time hits list, nobody who has thrown a perfect game will ever be bumped off. Perfection is perfection is perfection, and it can never be topped.
Or can it?
You can make the case that Derek Jeter’s day on July 9 of 2011 was better than perfect, and here’s how.
To start, topping perfection can only happen if the moment is bigger than the box score. If it’s September (or August) and the Astros are officially out of the playoff race and, say, Hunter Pence goes 4-for-4 with four home runs and 16 runs batted in, then that’s perfect. But it’s not better than perfect, because it really means nothing on a larger scale.
So the stage was set, before he ever stepped into the batters box, for Jeter’s Saturday in the Bronx to be perfect. The chase for 3,000 hits was still on, the Yankees only had two games left before the All-Star break, which would be followed by eight consecutive away games. So the pressure was on for Jeter to get hits No. 2,999 and 3,000 in front of the fans he grew up playing in front of. Those circumstances are grand enough.
Jeter needed two hits. He got five.
Before Saturday, he had hit 236 home runs — with just two this season, both coming on the same day earlier this year against Texas. So, in the middle of season No. 17 in the bigs, Jeter has averaged just under 14 long balls a year. It’s likely that he won’t get 10 this season.
That’s necessary information to know when looking at Jeter’s career. As almost anybody can tell just by watching him and by looking at statistics, he is the farthest thing from a power hitter. The single is his thing, an inside-outside swing with which he drives balls barreling toward him right back to right field. Before July 9, only 778 of Jeter’s hits were for extra bases. He doesn’t reach on triples very much, because he has played his whole career in Yankee Stadium — the new one has the same dimensions as the old one — which lacks the sort of gap capabilities triples require. He had 480 doubles, which seems like a lot, but nothing compared to 2,220 singles. Jeter has mastered the art of the single.
Hit No. 2,999 was a single; a slow roller through the third baseman and the shortstop. As he has gotten older and his skills have decreased, many of his hits of been weak rollers, finding some small hole in the infield.
Then Jeter turned back the clock 10 years and did something that you see only in movies: He belted a home run for his 3,000th hit, the second player ever to accomplish that feat. The pitch from lefthander David Price was a curveball on a 3-2 count. In his Yankee life, Jeter had hit just 6 percent of his home runs on a full count.
More hits were to come — a double, a single, and then the game-winning RBI in the eighth inning. The Yankees beat the Rays 5-4.
In his career, Jeter has gone long in every 40 at-bats. This season, he has hit a home run in every 95 at-bats.
Those numbers equate to some ridiculously low probabilities that Jeter’s 3,000th hit would be a home run on a 3-2 count off a curveball, when he was surely looking for a fastball.
Unlike most other historic Yankees, Jeter doesn’t have a true nickname — ‘Captain’ is more of a title, not really a moniker.
The Yankee Clipper is a nickname; The Iron Horse is a nickname. Mr. October is one, The Commerce Comet is one, Sultan of Swat is one. He is not known affectionately by just a single name, like Yogi, Whitey, and Billy.
He is not The Derek, or The Jeter — unlike The Babe or The Mick. He is just Derek Jeter, No. 2, shortstop, captain of the New York Yankees.
Except for that one night when, for a fleeting moment, he was Mr. November.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 delayed the start of that year’s baseball postseason, which meant the New York Yankees would play Game 4 of the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Halloween night, October 31.
A 3-3 tie took the game into extra innings, past midnight, and the scoreboard at old Yankee Stadium read: “Attention Fans, Welcome to NOVEMBER BASEBALL.”
In the bottom of the 10th, at 12:03 a.m., Derek Jeter hit a walk-off home run to right field off Byung-Hyun Kim on — wait for the kicker — a 3-2 count.
It was the first non-exhibition November game in MLB history, and it made Jeter, for a night at least, Mr. November — a spin-off of Reggie Jackson’s Mr. October, which was given to him when he torched the Dodgers with three home runs in the deciding game of the 1977 World Series.
Taking Kim deep remains one of the most iconic memories of Jeter’s career. So, for a player not known for power, 3-2 count home runs were linked on Jeter’s 3,000th hit.
The 5-for-5 day Jeter turned in against the Rays Saturday was technically a perfect hitter’s box score. For every time he came up, he successfully came through.
So that makes him perfect, but not anything more.
What does make him better than perfection is this: His team won.
Jeter is not the best winner ever — Yogi Berra is. And he’s not the best Yankee ever. Even crazier, he’s not the best modern-day Yankee — that’s Mariano Rivera.
He’s not some once-in-a-lifetime talent. Honestly, he’s not. When you have almost 10,000 at-bats in your career, and if you remain healthy, you will most likely reach 3,000 hits. Just ask Craig Biggio. What he is a once-in-a-lifetime professional. He plays the game the right way. He handles the notorious New York media. He has handled all the criticism this season that comes with a nasty off-season contract dispute, and has for years listened to people call him “overrated.”
Given how much coverage he is given — it seems like if Derek Jeter wakes up in the morning and eats Cheerios instead of his usual Wheaties, it makes Sportscenter — he probably is overrated.
But he wins. He has enough rings to fill a hand and he will be in contention for more. He has been a part of 1,513 wins since 1996.
Winning, above all else, is what Jeter does.
Getting hit No. 3,000 made his day perfect. That it came off another unlikely 3-2 pitch did too. Going 5-for-5 made it perfect as well.
But winning the game, as usual, made Derek Jeter’s day better than perfect.
American League's Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees hits during the first round of the MLB Home Run Derby on Monday in Phoenix. (Photo cre
It's good to be a Yankees middle infielder these days.
Two days after shortstop Derek Jeter picked up his 3,000th hit, his teammate Robinson Cano won the Home Run Derby, and he followed Jeter’s lead to make a dramatic finish.
While Jeter made hit No. 3,000 a game-tying blast into the left field seats, Cano faced an uphill battle in the final round as he squared off against Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
Like any great Red Sox-Yankees battle, the stakes were high, records were broken and the finish was thrilling. Gonzalez led off the third and final round, belting a record-tying 11 long balls. Bobby Abreu set that record in 2005 and Ortiz matched it in 2010. Both went on to capture the Home Run Derby title, but 11 would not be enough for Gonzalez to win.
With his father — former major league pitcher Jose Cano — throwing to him, Cano deposited 12 baseballs over the fence, breaking the final-round record with four outs to spare and sharing the father-son embrace of a lifetime following the Derby-winning blow.
The Home Run Derby had lost much of its luster recently with many fans losing interest after a lack of excitement since Josh Hamilton's record-setting display in 2008 at the old Yankee Stadium. But this year's Derby went a long way toward making it relevant again. The showdown between Cano and Gonzalez was remarkable and riveting, exciting as any game this season.
The way the Derby started didn't suggest it would be as spectacular as it eventually was. Jose Bautista, whose 31 home runs and 7.45 million All-Star Game votes are tops in the majors, managed only four home runs in a Round 1 that included nine consecutive outs. The National League, led by Prince Fielder, was just as disappointing, mustering only 15 long balls between their four representatives. Fielder was the only one of the four to advance to the second round and did so only after a swing-off.
Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, is not the best venue for a home run contest. But it didn't seem to be a problem for Gonzalez, who is familiar with pitcher's parks as he's spent most of his career playing in PETCO Park in San Diego. The AL's leading hitter at .354 also proved he can hit for power, scattering nine home runs to take the first round lead.
Cano's eight homeruns was plenty to get him into the second round, but a three-way swing-off was needed to decide the other two second-round participants. Matt Holliday, AL captain Ortiz and Fielder each got five swings. Holliday got home runs on two of them, Ortiz hit four bombs, and Fielder was a perfect five-for-five as both captains joined Cano and Gonzalez in the next round. But the captains were eliminated in that round as Cano's 12 dingers and Gonzalez' 11 bombs, including seven in a row at one point, brought their respective totals to 20 and brought them to the Derby's final round.
This Derby was the first with captains and the first that saw the AL and NL compete against each other. Both captains were allowed to pick three players from their league to join them. Both Fielder and Ortiz ensured they brought a teammate to the Derby with Rickie Weeks joining Fielder and Ortiz bringing Gonzalez. The AL demolished the NL, 76-19, as both Cano and Gonzalez hit more home runs (20) in the first two rounds than the NL in the entire contest (19).
In the final round, Gonzalez matched his second round total by sprinkling 11 baseballs into the right field seats, but Cano caught fire when it mattered most. Of Cano’s first seven swings, five were home runs and two died at the warning track. Seven of his last nine swings, including the last four, resulted in home runs. With Cano on such a roll, it would have been interesting to see how many more he had left because he ended the round with only six outs.
Let's hope the Red Sox and Yankees can make October as exhilarating as Cano and Gonzalez made the Home Run Derby.