Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling
There was a time, not too long ago, when the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.
Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment -- or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment -- the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero":
How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:
Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.
In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.
This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
Times, however, have changed.
Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.
I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.
In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.
On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:
The Marlins are executing major franchise-changing deals, including the swap of their best player, and the head of baseball operations -- Derek Jeter -- should be at the winter meetings to explain the moves; it's a responsibility that comes with the title. He is not here.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 11, 2017
Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:
Jeter doesn't seem thrilled with the coverage of the Stanton trade talks.— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) December 11, 2017
Jeter also seemed taken aback when asked why he got so little in the deal.— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) December 11, 2017
They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:
Derek Jeter, asked why the Marlins didn't take on more of Stanton's money for better players, deferred to Michael Hill.— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) December 11, 2017
Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out of criticism again. It all happened at a football game:
So looks like Derek Jeter is at the MNF game tonight rather than answering the many Marlins questions reporters have at the winter meetings.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) December 12, 2017
ESPN just showed Derek Jeter watching from a suite at the Patriots-Dolphins game. It’s not like the Winter Meetings started today.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) December 12, 2017
To sum up:
- Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
- Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
- Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.
What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.
All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.
I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.
Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.
Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.