Gold Glover, MVP, Captain, All-Star, Potential Hall-of-Famer are all phrases that can describe Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Now people are adding one more. Cheater. On September 15th, in the top half of the 7th inning, trailing the Rays 2-1, Jeter took a Chad Qualls pitch off his hand and bended over, wincing in pain as Yankee trainer Gene Monahan rushed by his side to make sure he was ok, and home plate umpire Lance Barksdale awarded him first base. However, take a look at the replay and the ball didn’t even hit him, it hit the bat. Instead of an a no ball, one strike count, Jeter’s on first base. Six pitches later, Curtis Granderson deposited a Qualls pitch into the right field seats giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead.
Now the question is Jeter’s action a form of cheating or gamesmanship? One can argue that Jeter should not have put on an Oscar-worthy performance in which he bent over yelling in pain when in fact he should have been taking practice swings getting ready to take an 0-1 pitch from Qualls. Yet, on the other hand, what Major League player wouldn’t do the same?
The public opinion seems to be that Jeter was wrong for what he did and is being viewed as a cheater. ESPN’s Sports Nation ran a poll asking fans whether or not they had a problem with Jeter’s actions, in which 45% of the responders voted yes, as the topic dominated ESPN’s morning sports coverage the following day. However, Jeter didn’t even deny it. “It hit the bat,” Jeter said when asked whether or not the ball hit him after the game. "He told me to go to first. I'm not going to tell him, 'I'm not going to go to first,' you know? My job is to get on base." Even Rays manager Joe Maddon didn’t reprimand Jeter for his actions, "I thought Derek did a great job, and I applaud it, because I wish our guys would do the same thing," he said after arguing the call and was ejected as a result.
So if the opposing manager doesn’t have an issue with Jeter’s action, and as a matter of fact lauds it, why the public outcry? Do fans really expect a player to deny a free pass to first base in a crutial game with playoff implications? Should Indians shortstop Jason Donald have told first base umpire Jim Joyce, “Hey, I knew you called me safe, but really I was out,” and give Armando Galarraga his perfect game? If anything this issue shows that Major League Baseball still has a major issue on their hands and can be solved with one simple solution. Instant Replay. Joe Mauer’s foul ball double in Game 2 of last year’s ALDS, to Armando Galarraga’s 28-out perfect game, and now Jeter’s “hit-by-pitch” are all prime examples of baseball’s need to enter the 21st century.
Albeit Jeter’s acting job didn’t completely affect the outcome, as the Yankees ended up losing 4-3, as a result of two Dan Johnson two-run homers, he doesn’t deserve the blame for what happened that night. Blame the home plate umpire for blowing the call and awarding Jeter first base or blame Major League Baseball for not adding instant replay to their repertoire so we can avoid situations like these in the future.