Watching Derek Jeter
carry the New York Yankees
into the dog days of August while some of his equally high profile teammates struggle, I am reminded of the old cartoon where Bugs Bunny takes on the Gashouse Gorillas singlehandedly.
Those mean and nasty Gorillas are pounding the hometown Teatotalers into submission when Bugs declares, “I could lick them in a ballgame with one hand tied behind my back all by myself.”
Bugs is challenged by one of the Gorillas: “So, big shot, you think you can beat us all by yourself?”
“Your attention, please,” the announcer intones. “There’s been a slight change to the Teatotaler lineup. Catching, Bugs Bunny. Left field, Bugs Bunny. Right field, Bugs Bunny. Pitching, Bugs Bunny. Third base, Bugs Bunny. Center field, Bugs Bunny. First base, Bugs Bunny. Shortstop, Bugs Bunny. Second base, Bugs Bunny ( there was no DH back in those days).”
Sometimes, it seems Jeter is a one-man team, taking on the opposition all by himself, one against nine. The 32-year-old shortstop just completed arguably the best month of his career in what could be the best season of his career. Jeter likely won’t win the Most Valuable Player award in the American League, but he is without question the Yankees’ MVP.
Jeter recorded the highest batting average of any player in the major leagues in July, hitting .412. During his last nine games, he has been even better than that, logging a gaudy .514 average with 19 hits in 37 at-bats. The man has been on fire, which probably means New York’s most eligible bachelor soon will be linked to another super model.
Jeter has raised his overall batting average to .354, putting him in a position to make a run at his first batting title with two months left in the season. He is inching closer to Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, whose average has slipped under .370. Mauer’s average recently was above .380.
Given the wear and tear of the position, it is unheard of for a catcher to bat in the .370 range. If Mauer does go on to win the batting crown, it would have to be considered one of the best feats in baseball history. Jeter may have a real chance to snatch it away from the Twins’ young backstop.
Jeter also has been the Yankees’ most productive batter with runners in scoring position – an area where infield mate Alex Rodriguez has struggled – and it is reflected in his RBI total. Despite batting No. 2 in the lineup, which is not a big RBI spot, Jeter ended July with 65 runs batted in. He could have a chance to surpass his career high of 102 RBI set in 1999, when the Yankees won the second of their three straight World Series titles. Driving in 100 runs batting second is an impressive accomplishment.
Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera continue to personify what the Yankees are all about. In fact, Jeter should make Rodriguez kiss his four championship rings.