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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

DEREK JETER: TOUGHNESS AND THE TEST OF TIME

I  came across an absolutely great article on Derek Jeter written by Joel Sherman for the New York Post.  It is possibly the best thing I've read about Jeter and some of the reasons he been so consistently successful.  I've written before but to me, the true test of greatness comes with the test of time.  There are many that are good, even great for a short period of time but it is the long haul that truly show us greatness.

I strongly suggest you take the time to read the entire article here -- until, here are some great excerpts:

On Friday night, Jeter started his 2,610th game at shortstop. That moved him past Omar Vizquel for the most in major league history. It might not be Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken stuff, and it came and went without confetti and fanfare. But you do not start that many games in the middle infield — all those double-play pivots, etc. — without a sense of responsibility, a reservoir of pride and a steely constitution. The day-after-day mental and physical grind ultimately defeats every athlete. But some endure better than others. And Jeter is at the top 1 percent.

“We all consider rolling over and shutting the alarm clock off,” Joe Torre said by phone. “Jeter never rolls over. He gets out of bed. It is never a consideration to take a day off. It is a sense of responsibility to his team and to himself.”

I remember a conversation long ago with Gene Michael when he was still the Yankees general manager. We were discussing the traditional five tools — hitting, hitting for power, running, fielding and throwing.

That day I disagreed with the confines of the five tools. I suggested there were so many more than five tools. Aptitude was vital. You could have five tools, but if you couldn’t apply them, what was the use? Victor Martinez might only have two tools, but he has pretty much maximized them. That is so much more valuable than having five that excite scouts but never come out in games with consistency.

Grace under pressure is a tool. Again, you could have the physical stuff down, but if you can’t do it with 40,000 people in attendance or in October, what is the point?

Discipline is a tool. Are you going to keep working out, avoid perks that could drain your energy and skill?

And durability is a tool. Danny Tartabull used to tell me to project his stats over a full season and I finally told him, “Why? You never play a full season.” Mark Buehrle might not be blessed with the stuff that makes scouts drool, but wind him up and he gives you 200 innings. Every year. Year after year.

Because I believe it is in all these areas beyond the traditional tools that Jeter was an A-plus and took very good traditional tools to a Hall-of-Fame level.

His aptitude, his grace under pressure, his discipline and — for me — especially his toughness.

Chili Davis Code: If I am playing, I am healthy enough to play. He never played the “I am 80 percent” game to provide an alibi. Never told you off the record how he was really feeling, again, as a way to set up the excuse. “I’m all right.” That he what he told managers and media.

Jeter felt a responsibility to play, that the team was best when he did. Torre and Joe Girardi have known they could write his name into the lineup game after game, season after season. Do you know how much easier that makes the managing job?

“There was a playoff series in which he had pretty much a broken hand, got shot up for Game 1, couldn’t feel his hand and said he would rather just play with the pain,” Torre said. “There was never a consideration that he wouldn’t play. He came to the ballpark to play. It certainly made my job a whole lot easier. You talk about a guy who is a leader. You have someone who wants to rest, they look across the locker room and see him. He forced other people to play, not literally, but by example.”