Derek Jeter and Steroids: He Just Says No? He's Not Trying Hard Enough

Robert LipsyteGuest ColumnistApril 11, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02: Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees runs up the first base line on an infield single against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium on April 2, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

I tell you I would have drafted Derek Jeter in a fantasy minute if I was sure he would follow a responsible steroids regime. But he’s an icon with a sense of righteousness, a determination to be a role model. I’d worry that Jeter might just say no.

He’s off to a predictably lousy start and it’s his own fault. He’s a 37-year-old who hit .270 last year, 64 points lower than he hit in 2009 and 44 points below his career .314 average. He was never as consistently good at shortstop as his press clippings, and he’s slipping a few steps more.

No question, he should be thinking seriously about HGH, steroids, EPO, whatever’s working these days, not to mention the designer protocols and their masking agents that very expensive chemist/doctors can concoct for very expensive players.

Jeter can afford it. While he took a deserved $7.6 million cut from last year to a reported $15 million this year, that’s still enough to afford the very best.

And we fans deserve the very best from our heroes, that fire in the belly to perform well and win that includes staying in shape, giving up the high life during the season and using every enhancement available.

As far as I’m concerned, Jeter doesn’t have to sign autographs for snotty kids fronting for collectible dealers or give good quotes to every tool with a digital recorder. He just needs to do whatever is necessary.

Let me say here that I like Derek Jeter, and would prefer my kids to grow up like him rather than jerks like Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. However, Roger, Mark and Barry did whatever was necessary, and I appreciate it. They gave me some high times.

Unfortunately, they got caught in a witch hunt that someday will be compared to Salem. That’s mostly because they are surly guys who were no longer important to owners and their media lapdogs.

(Full disclosure: Like many tools with digital recorders, I covered Barry Bonds and despised him. Once, on deadline, I appealed to his dad, Bobby Bonds, who I knew from his brief Yankee tenure. Bobby shrugged; the kid’s always been an asshole, he implied.)

Meanwhile, Saint Derek is still the poster boy for the clean-living, polite, hard-working “captain,” whose mere presence puts true grit in his teammates and backsides in the seats. I’m not sure about all that. There are little cracks in that bland façade that lead me to believe there is more there than MLB wants me to know.

Consider just three points:

1. In 2004, when Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best shortstop in the league, became a Yankee, Jeter hung on to his position. A real team guy would have moved to third base. Jeter is a diva. Divas always need to be “in the warm,” that comforting beam of attention. And he’ll be getting there this season as he approaches 3,000 hits. 

2. Last September, in a game that counted, Jeter clutched his elbow and pretended he was in pain after a Tampa Bay pitch hit the end of his bat. The Rays manager was ejected for arguing. Gamesmanship? Cheating? Jeter had done this before. Jeter doesn’t play fair. So how many dots have to be connected from pretending to be hit to the juice?

3. Minka Kelly. His girlfriend? Who knows. We know as much about Jeter’s personal life as we did about the personal lives of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods before we knew too much. Jeter is an unknown quantity. Jeter could be going to Tea Party meetings in drag. He could be going to a lab overnight to be finely tuned by alien scientists.

So what’s my point? I’m glad you asked. I happen to think Jeter is pretty cool and a great player, but I would hope he’s doing what I think most MLB stars are doing—the best stuff they can get that can be masked (Manny Ramirez is such a dummy, he doesn’t count).

Meanwhile, the government is in the midst of a civil war over truly important issues that hurt my head to think about and taxpayer money is being wasted on proving that Barry Bonds lied about steroid use (not that he used steroids, remember, but that he lied about it—one of the basic male lies). Roger Clemens is in the legal on-deck circle.

The hero of this story is Greg Anderson—we should all have such good buds—and the villain is Jeff Novitzky, the former IRS agent who joined the Food and Drug Administration so he could continue his Inspector Javert-like investigation of steroid use. I can understand leaving the IRS if you can’t bust major corporations who evade taxes, but how can you work for the FDA unless you’re busting those corporations for poisoning us?

But I digress. This is about Derek Jeter and doing the right thing. Fuller disclosure: I did draft him, another example of sentiment over sense (talk to my stockbroker, my divorce attorney) and I want, I demand, that Derek be the best he can be.

Longtime New York Times columnist Robert Lipsyte is the author of
 An Accidental Sportswriter: A memoir, due in May from Ecco.