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The continuing humanization of Derek Jeter

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in a game against

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. (April 19, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

I was chatting with George King of the New York Post in front of the Yankees' dugout Sunday afternoon, about an hour and a half before the first pitch of Yankees-Orioles, when a voice interrupted us.

"Hey, George!"

I didn't need to look up to know it was Derek Jeter. George didn't need to say a word to me to excuse himself from our conversation and walk toward the Yankees' captain, who was playing catch with Robinson Cano.

And I didn't need to think too hard to realize this probably had something to do with the Post's front-page story Sunday on the relationship between Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, which cited passages from Ian O'Connor's upcoming book, "The Captain."

Jeter, mostly keeping his eye on Cano, spoke for just about a minute with King, who wrote down what Jeter said. So naturally, curiosity drove me to the Post's website Monday morning to find out precisely what Jeter told King.

Jeter wanted to make it clear that he had nothing to do with O'Connor's book, which is true in a technical sense. This is O'Connor's project, although Jeter was aware it was being written and agreed to be interviewed for it.

I haven't seen the book, but two news stories - the Post's and ESPN.com's, which focuses more on Jeter's contentious negotiations with the Yankees last winter - indicate that it will be well-reported, well-written and balanced. 

Which means, of course, that Jeter won't quite love it. His action Sunday with King, responding to the Post story, shows that he's already working to distance himself from it. 

The book will help fans get a better read on the real Jeter, as opposed to the myth that has been manufactured throughout the years and to which Jeter happily agreed to spread. The myth that started to take a hit during last winter's drama.

He's hardly the worst person in the world. But he's quite human. As these two excerpts display, he can hold a grudge for a very long time, he lacks self-awareness (see how befuddled he was last year that the Yankees didn't try harder to retain him) and he's not particularly tolerant of people (like A-Rod) who are wired differently than him. Jeter really didn't try very hard to help A-Rod during his tough times, when the fans were all over him.

Jeter has bigger problems than this book, for sure. Yes, he got four hits Sunday, but if you watched the game, you saw that two were infield hits and one was a ground-ball double down the first-base line. He still seems out of sync at the plate.

Nevertheless, anyone who protects his image as carefully as Jeter does won't like something that strays from the script. If he could take a step back and gain perspective, perhaps he could realize there's nothing wrong with a little humanization; just look at what it has done for A-Rod.

Then again, Jeter is Jeter because he doesn't think that way. That stubbornness and refusal to reflect have helped make him great.

--Contest coming up, and then I'll check in tonight from Yankee Stadium.

 

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