Derek Jeter is closing in on the ninth All-Star Game start of his career and, as the votes have been tallied in recent weeks, some of his un-Jeter-like numbers this season have garnered plenty of attention.
But don't bring them up to David Ortiz. He's the Red Sox player whom Yankees fans love to hate more than any other, but he's an ally when it comes to all things Jeter, whom he at one point characterized as an "almost perfect'' professional athlete.
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"Of course!'' Ortiz amiably blurted out last weekend, cutting short a question about Jeter and the All-Star Game. "I want to see him in the All-Star Game play shortstop. What do you think? Seriously, we're talking about one of the greatest. No question .''
Speaking in the Red Sox dugout before the June 28 game against the Yankees at the Stadium, Ortiz spoke about his admiration for Jeter, whom he's seen nearly 20 times a season since joining Boston in 2003.
"It will be hard to see someone like that again, a 20-year career and just do it so perfect like that,'' Ortiz said. "Jeter is one of the most perfect athletes I've seen in any sport. The guy's not ever involved in any distractions, the guy comes in gets his job done, is a very likable guy. He's almost perfect. And he's a winner.''
Ortiz said that is why Jeter is spoken of by opposing players in sometimes reverential tones. "Winning takes him to another level. He's a winner, plus he's a really good human being. Everybody likes him . . . He's one of the guys in the game that I'm going to miss. A lot.''
Ortiz said that even when the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry ran at its hottest, when the clubs met in consecutive ALCS in 2003 and 2004, "I haven't heard one person make a negative comment about'' Jeter.
The 38-year-old designated hitter said part of that has to do with Jeter rarely showing any outward emotion, other than when something happens relating to the Yankees winning.
"He doesn't show too much body language. I don't know how he does it,'' said Ortiz, whose emotions often are worn on his sleeve for all to see. "That's kind of hard to do. He knows how to manage himself real well.''
Unprompted, Ortiz brought up the Jeter contract negotiations from the 2010 offseason that eventually turned ugly, to the point that the shortstop, after agreeing to a three-year, $51-million deal (with a fourth-year player option), said he was "angry'' at the team for how it handled the talks.
"I was telling myself, 'Man, what is it you need to do in the game to get what you want?' '' Ortiz said.
For Ortiz, Jeter's decline in range in the field and numbers at the plate this season -- a .266 average with a .319 on-base percentage -- are almost irrelevant when discussing who should start the All-Star Game at shortstop.
"I think whoever is asking him for more than he's doing, he's out of his mind,'' Ortiz said, becoming animated again. "He's 40 years old! That position isn't for 40 years old.''
Ortiz smiled again.
"If I'm a Yankee fan or media or whatever, I would just enjoy watching whatever he gives us every day,'' he said, "because you're not going to see another Jeter for a while. So enjoy it, have fun . . . That's one of the greatest to ever play the game. When he makes an error, when he gets a hit, when he catches a ball, enjoy it, because you're not getting that kind of player [again]. Not for a while.''