It had to be an amusing scene at Yankees’ camp today, what with Terry Francona roaming the clubhouse as a broadcaster and Derek Jeter being asked to defend perhaps the defining play of his career, which happened, oh, 11 years ago.
This came on the heels of Bobby Valentine saying on Tuesday that he thinks that Jeter was out of position on that flip play, and that the Red Sox would never practice that alignment in their cutoff drills. The moment in question happened on Oct. 13, 2001, Game 3 of the Division Series between the Yankees and A’s. Terrence Long lined a double into the corner, and Shane Spencer missed two cutoff men. But there was Jeter on the first-base side of the mound, in position to flip the ball home to Jorge Posda to get Jeremy Giambi, who didn’t bother to slide.
Valentine did tell me this morning he wasn’t trying to malign Jeter because he said, “I love Jeter”.
Anyway, here is what Jeter had to say from Yankees camp. Thanks to colleague Adam Berry for passing these quotes on.
On Bobby V. disputing the notion that the Yankees actually practiced that play. “I mean, we do. You know what I mean? You’ve seen it. You guys have been here.”
What does he think about this being a topic of conversation? “I don’t think anything. I really don’t. I have no thoughts whatsoever. Who cares? Why are we talking about this? They must be bored over there, huh? I don’t understand.”
Valentine’s motivation? “I don’t know Bobby well enough to tell you what he’s trying to do. I could care less, I guess is the best way to put it. I just don’t know why it’s brought up.”
“Think about it. We don’t practice it? We do. You guys see it. What else can I say. I was out of position? I was where I was supposed to be.”
Terry Francona’s view of the flip play?” I’m sure some of [what Valentine said] is in jest,” Francona said. I don’t know. I wasn’t there, and I’m out of it. I’m out of it. To me, it’s not important whether the Yankees practice that play or not. The fact of the matter is that he’s good enough to make that play. You could practice that play until you’re blue in the face, and he’s probably still the only guy who makes that play. That play was part of baseball lore. Again, I don’t doubt they do practice it. He’s probably the only guy that makes the play. He sees the field better than anybody in baseball. He’s the one guy that makes that play.”
Jeter was much happier to talk about his fellow captain for all these years, Jason Varitek, who will formally retire on Thursday.
“Talking about Varitek, I’ll point out the good things — an unbelievable career. I’m happy for him. I enjoyed competing against him all these years. That’s what we should be talking about as opposed to what Bobby said.”
Valentine praised Varitek in a blanket statement yesterday adding that he “beat up Alex”.
A-Rod didn’t feel like touching it.
“Like I said, I’m not going to win many battles here when it comes to words, especially against Bobby. But I will tell you this, I got my new press secretary that should be landing in the next couple days, Reggie Jackson, so I’ll let him handle that. All right? Thanks.”
More from Jeter: Rivalry still strong? “It’s the same. I don’t know. I can’t tell you that he’s trying to stir it up. I don’t know why you would have to stir it up. I think our rivalry gets so much attention anyway. But I am not saying that he is stirring it up.”
What will Jeter say to Bobby V. when he sees him?
“Hey, Bobby. That’s about it. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, really. A lot of people have said that I wasn’t supposed to be here, and I’ve told you guys from Day 1 that’s where I’m supposed to be. That’s what we work on. He’s not the first person to say that. Since I’ve come up, we’ve done it the same way. We might be doing something like that the next couple days, so I invite all you guys to come out there and see that I’m in the same spot every time.”
How about seeing Tito in the Yankees clubhouse? “Yeah, I’ve always respected Terry. I’ve enjoyed playing against him, getting to know him throughout the years. I have a lot of respect for him and how he manages. Every player that I’ve ever talked to about him appreciated the way he managed and the way he dealt with players. I always had a lot of respect for him. Yeah, it is [strange having him in the clubhouse]. But it’s good to see him. He did a great job. It goes without saying how great he did in Boston. I’m happy to see him.”
One of the most memorable plays in Yankees history, without question, came on October 13, 2001. It is now known simply as the flip play. In Game 3 of the Division Series between the Yankees and A’s, it was the bottom f the seventh inning, the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead and down 2-0 in the best-of-five series.
Terrence Long belted a double into the right-field corner, and right fielder Shane Spencer air-mailed two cutoff men. Somehow, Derek Jeter was standing on the first base side of the pitcher’s mound, and caught the errant throw, and then http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=19792193&c_id=mlb flipped it (as you see here in the video) across his body to catcher Jorge Posada. Jeremy Giambi inexplicably never slid, and was tagged out. The Yankees won the game, and the series.
And more than 10 years later, new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine pretty much considers the play to be blind luck.
Valentine had his team work through just about every type of cutoff and relay during Tuesday’s workout, but he didn’t incorporate a version of the Jeter ‘flip’ play.
“We’ll never practice that,” Valentine said. “And I think he’s out of position. And I think the ball gets him out if [Jeter] doesn’t touch it, personally. The Jeter-like simulation today is that idea of what the first baseman and third baseman [are doing] as the ball is coming in because they have to read and maybe change the position where the shortstop is when the ball is coming in from right. He does have to react to the ball. When you see the ball in flight, you have a chance at those positions to adjust. He was out … it was amazing that he was there. I bet it was more amazing to say they practiced it. I don’t believe it, personally.”
David Ortiz, on the notion that Varitek was a quiet leader: “He did say a lot. He did. He just always found the right moment to say it, you know what I’m saying? Tek was somebody that I think this organization is going to need forever, especially now that he’s going to retire. I think he’s the kind of person this organization needs to keep very close. This is a guy who does nothing but add things – good things and like I say, it was an honor for me to be his teammate. I learned a lot of good things from Tek. One of the most important things from Tek was the hard work. He based his whole life on working hard and making sure that you were Ok. His preparation was so good, it was ridiculous. He was a guy that as long as I watched him play, he wanted to do well, he wanted to do good, he wanted to be prepared for that.”
Dan Duquette, the man who brought Varitek to Boston with one of the greatest trades in team history. “We were looking for a catcher. Everybody in the business new Jason Varitek because he was drafted twice in the first round. Did we know he’d be with the Red Sox for 15 years and lead the team to two championships? No. but to his credit, he had all the skills and he deserves all the credit for the great work ethic that he developed. His tenacity as a competitor. This kid, whenever we went into Yankee Stadium, he always had a big game. He always did something to help the team win on the big stage.”
Clay Buchholz, who threw the third of the record-setting four no-hitters Varitek no-hitters Varitek caught in his career. “There were a couple times, early in the game I shook off him a couple times and had a couple missiles hit. They were caught. But after that it was just I’m going to throw what he puts down. The game started speeding up on me a couple times and I remember him calling timeout, running out there, telling me to take a couple deep breaths, throw a pitch down and away and get a ground ball and get out of the inning. That’s what I’ll always remember about him. He was always the guy that could calm you down when things started to speed up.”
Jarrod Saltalmacchia, who absorbed Varitek’s lessons last year and will take over behind the plate. “Just the way he went about his business, watching him –– it wasn’t even in the clubhouse –– I could see from across the field, how people looked at him, how people respected him. So you definitely look up to a guy like that.”
Josh Beckett, who never wanted anyone but Varitek catching him since arriving in Boston in 2006. “I loved working with him. I’ll answer that part first. I’ve never had a catcher before that who I felt like cared more about what wanting me to be successful even before he wanted to be successful. He’s going to be missed a lot in the clubhouse and on the field.”
Bobby Valentine will never get to manage Varitek, but he has a strong grasp of what he meant. “From afar, he was everything you wanted a guy who wore a ‘C’ to be. He was a man’s man. He was a big hitter when needed. He was the leader of a pitching staff. He was able to beat up Alex [Rodriguez]. All that stuff is good stuff. He was exactly what he was supposed to be.”
Derek Lowe, who was traded to Boston along with Varitek some 15 years ago, viewed his catcher as a human security blanket. “It was hard to leave [Boston],” Lowe said. “One of my biggest fears when I left to go to Los Angeles was to leave Varitek. I had not shaken him off in years. You just pitch. You throw whatever he says. And I think a lot of times it’s easier that way, because all you’re doing is reacting to what he’s putting down. You don’t have to think, really, about anything. I think that was one of the biggest things when I left. It was like, ‘Whoa, I’m going to have to start doing more of this stuff on my own.’ If you ask a lot of people, you’d be amazed at how many people, that even spent two or three months in Boston, say Varitek is the best catcher they’ve ever thrown to. A lot of those comments, clearly, he never hears. But to have that many people say this guy is the best, and we’re talking about well accomplished guys, he should be proud of the stuff he’s been able to do. “
Manager Bobby Valentine had his pitching plans for the first few exhibition games posted on the clubhouse wall this morning. Here are the lists
Thursday’s B game vs. the Twins.
Saturday vs. Northeastern
Saturday vs. Boston College
Sunday vs. Minnesota
Monday, March 5 at Minnesota
March 6 vs. Baltimore
March 7 “B” Game vs. Minnesota
March 7 at Toronto
Jon Lester’s pickoff move will be a point of emphasis:
“His actual technique was what was being worked on today, and that would be his ability to disguise to the runner when he’s coming to first and when he’s going home,” said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. “Today was mainly his bottom half, his leg movement, and kind of closing the gap a little when he throws to first. He was pretty good at it. He also has a thing about throwing to first, his confidence in firing it over there. Repetitions hopefully will cure some of those ills and get rid of some of those demons.”
Matt Albers started strong, but finished horrendously last year. The hope is that he can regain his form.
“Matt’s a good thrower. He’s throwing that two-seamer, which is something he’s working on here in the spring. Punto seemed to be on it pretty good hitting it to left field as a left-hand swinger. Matt’s had a wonderful spring so far. His work and his attitude. Like one of the guys said, ‘Don’t let his body fool you,’ because he’s a pretty good pitcher.”
Bobby Valentine is one of a plethora of managers who was able to write Hall of Famer Rickey Hendeson into his lineup card, having managed him in New York in 1999 and 2000.
Did Valentine ever try to hit Henderson anywhere but first?
“No. Matter of fact, the first conversation I ever had with Rickey, I said I wouldn’t ask him to hit anywhere else. He said, ‘Good, ’cause Rickey’s a good leadoff hitter.’ That was the same day Rickey told me, ‘Rickey don’t do signs.’ No signs? ‘Rickey don’t do signs.”‘
One of the most entertaining parts of Spring Training is always the annual state of David Ortiz address. Entering his 10th season with the Sox, Papi was in good spirits as he met with the press for 29 minutes and 20 seconds this morning.
Here are the highlights:
“Based on what happened the last month of the season last year it seemed like everything was going south. It didn’t matter what we did, it seemed like everything was going to end up the way it did. Now this year we’ve changed things around. You learn from your mistakes. You learn from your struggles. So I’m pretty sure everybody is on same page now and things are going to be different. We have a new manager, Bobby, and he has an idea what he wants to do with all of us and I’m pretty sure that he’s going to take over and try and do his job his best.”
Beer and chicken-gate? “Well, I don’t think … not because of the beer or the chicken. The problem was when they did it. If they come out and apologize, that means they’re not going to do it again. Because of that, you need to turn the page. We’re going to be thinking of the fried chicken and the beer that they had last September and March and February of 2012? No. you’re not going to resolve any problems with that. Now, we have a new skipper, he is aware of all this stuff and he’s going to try to change things around. That’s all you can do about it.”
Playing on a one-year contract? “I’ve been playing on one year contract for the past few years, right? Of course, you want not to have to worry about contracts. That ain’t for everybody. You know what I’m saying? I tried my best to sign for the next few years. It didn’t work out. But I’m happy with what I got. I’m not going to lie to you. I’m happy with it. I want to get over it. I’m back, I’m here, at least for another year. Like I always tell you guys, I’m going to try my best. I always try to change things around when I’m on the field. I think I’ve been a well representative of this organization for years. That’s what matters to me.”
Could Ortiz have done anything better last year? “Not hitting .340? I don’t know. I mean, I think, whatever happened between me and my manager, he called me into the office and told me what I did wrong [disputing an official scorer’s decision publicly]. I think that’s the best thing that can ever happen to a human being in general. And it’s because, like I say, you do things, that you think you’re doing the right thing but you ain’t. I didn’t do anything that reflected on some of the guys. Pretty much most of the things I do, when Tito used to call me into the office to say something to me, it wasn’t something that was affecting the team. It was something that I should not do because I have young guys looking out for me. So he didn’t want them to get the wrong idea about things. But it wasn’t a big deal.”
Kept in touch with Tito? “We talked a few times after the season, and I think he was just tired. He needs a break. He was in a good mood. I guess they agreed to be on the same page at a time. Tito was a close friend to me when he was the manager, and we got along pretty good. He called me the other day to congratulate me when I finalized my deal with the Red Sox. He was like, ‘You know, I don’t see you wearing another uniform.’ He was happy that we got into an agreement after anything, and he wished me good luck.”
Would Ortiz have made any wardrobe changes for the arbitration hearing, had their been one? “They told me not to wear my earrings in front of the judge. I was like, ‘Did I kill someone or something? What did I do that I’m not allowed to wear them in front of a judge?’ They were like, ‘You don’t want to have that much bling bling coming in and this and that, start on the wrong foot.”
Disbelief that the 2011 Red Sox didn’t make it to the playoffs: “I remember at one point during the season, I was like, ‘Man, this is the best ballclub that I have ever been into,’ because we were playing so good. When you’re playing that good in July, August, me personally, I already made up my mind that we would be in the playoffs. And having the kind of drought that we had and moving forward towards the end of the season when you know that you’re running out of chances, that wears you out. That wears you out. I’m telling you, I was like having all this pressure that we’ve got to win to get to the playoffs, that’s something extra that you’ve got to bring to the table. After all, it was like, you know, I don’t know if you guys know, but I was very disappointed. But there’s nothing you can do about it this year. You have to pull yourself together and be ready to do damage next year.”
Aside from familiar faces like Dustin Pedroia, Darnell McDonald and top prospect Jose Iglesias, a couple of the new guys arrived today — outfielder Cody Ross and infielder Nick Punto.
Ross was asked about his ability to step up when it mattered most in 2010, the year he helped the Giants win the World Series.
“I just had a different mindset. You go through the day-to-day routine of playing baseball and it’s a grind. You play everyday. But once you get to the playoffs, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is what we’ve played every single day for. This is why we’re here. This is why we play the game.’ You sort of have that mentality. You go and you play. Like I said, you either do it or you don’t. Fortunately for me and for us, we did. There’s a lot of guys in here with playoff experience. They understand what it takes to get there. That helps on teams. You realize from day one that you need to win this game. It can matter in Game 162, when you’re going down the stretch. That’s a good thing to have.”
Punto is no stranger to big games either, having just helped the Cardinals win a World Series. Now he will compete with Mike Aviles to be Bostons’ Opening Day shortstop.
“I’m just thrilled, excited to be part of a franchise like this, a team like this. It’s kind of a dream come true,” Punto said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m just here to compete, here to have some fun. I’ve worked hard this offseason. It’s going to be a good opportunity.”
And for once, he won’t be the shortest guy in the room — that honor, as always, going to Pedroia.
“It will probably the first [double play partner] I’m taller than,” Punto said. “I’m looking forward to that.”
An upbeat Carl Crawford arrived early to Spring Training this year, determined to put last year behind him. He also responded to comments made by John Henry in the offseason that the owner was against the $142-million signing that brought Crawford to Boston.
“Oh, I can’t do nothing about what he said. I can just go out and play. It was unfortunate that he feels that way but there’s nothing to say to him but just go out and play. Oh, I wasn’t happy about it. I was a little surprised to hear the comments. But like I said, it was unfortunate he feels that way. I wish that those words hadn’t came out.”
But they did, so now all Crawford can do is have a better season.
“Last year was probably one of the toughest things I’ve had to go through. For whatever reason it was, I struggled, and it was really hard to deal with. I had a lot of time to think about it and make corrections, and I think things will be better,” Crawford said.
Crawford said he is making a nice recovery from wrist surgery and still holds out hope he can be ready for Opening Day.
Outstanding job by the Red Sox PR staff today by getting reaction from all kinds of people about Tim Wakefield’s retirement. Here you go.
STATEMENTS ON TIM WAKEFIELD
JASON VARITEK, former teammate
There is so much to say about Wake. He has been a part of so many things and he‟s meant so much to the game, the organization, the community, and personally as a friend and teammate for 14 years. He is a consummate professional with a one-of-a-kind talent that allowed this team flexibility, dependability, and endurance for 17 years. His competitiveness will be missed but his legacy and friendship will last a lifetime. It‟s sad to see it end but this will be an exciting new chapter for him in his life.
DOUG MIRABELLI, former teammate
Wakey has been a wonderful teammate and friend, and a great representative of his family and the Red Sox. When you think about the Red Sox you can‟t help but think of Wakey. What a tremendous success. He‟ll now have a chance to look back and see what he‟s accomplished from his days at Florida Tech to pitching 19 years in the Major Leagues.
NOMAR GARCIAPARRA, former teammate
It‟s truly been an honor to play with him for so many years. Every game he gave it his all, supported his teammates, and his professionalism was second to none. For me to play with him was an honor, but it‟s even a better honor to know him as a friend.
CURT SCHILLING, former teammate
A consummate professional, I‟m very proud to call Tim Wakefield a former teammate and more importantly a friend. Anyone that wonders how far they can go in life only needs to look at what Tim overcame and accomplished in his long and storied career. I can honestly say I have all my fingers, toes and teeth today, because I never had to catch his knuckleball. Tim proved time and again that class and perseverance DO matter, and Shonda and I wish him much health and happiness after baseball.
MIKE STANLEY, former teammate
You always hear the term „professional hitter,‟ but you don‟t hear that about pitchers. For me, „professional pitcher‟ is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Tim and his career. He started, was a spot starter, worked out of the bullpen and even closed for us for a short time when I was with Boston. A consummate team player, he always put his nose to grindstone for the betterment of the team and did what he was asked. That to me is what Tim Wakefield is all about. Selfishly, I‟m excited because I‟ve got my fishing partner and golfing buddy back.
TERRY FRANCONA, managed Wakefield with the Red Sox from 2004-11
I think Wake‟s career can be embodied by Game 3 against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. With the team down, he came to me in the fourth inning and asked what he could do. He pitched more than three innings that game, sacrificing his start the next day for the good of the team. A lot of what he did went under the radar. I wish him congratulations on a wonderful career and hope his second career is as good as his first.
JIM LEYLAND, managed Wakefield with the Pirates from 1992-93
Tim had a long and tremendous career. I’m proud to have been his first manager and I’ve enjoyed watching his success over the years. I wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.
JOE CASTIGLIONE, longtime Red Sox broadcaster
Congratulations to Tim Wakefield on a marvelous career. I feel honored to have called all of his 186 wins for the Red Sox from his amazing 14-1 start in 1995 when he pitched the Red Sox to a division title to his 200th career win last September and all the great games in between, including his unselfish performance in the 2004 ALCS that made the comeback possible. I will miss Tim and his wonderful wife Stacy and family and will always cherish his friendship.
PHIL NIEKRO, Hall of Fame knuckleball pitcher
We have been friends from the first day we met. I don‟t know where the Red Sox would have been without him.
THOMAS M. MENINO, Mayor of Boston since 1993
It has been a pleasure to watch Tim Wakefield play baseball in Boston for the last 17 years. There is something to be said for longevity in a profession – and Wake is one of the few people in this town who managed to keep the same job almost as long as I have! He has been not only a legendary pitcher and teammate on the mound, but in the community as well. I thank him for everything he has done for Boston and wish him well in the future. We are going to miss this class act.
MIKE ANDREWS, Dana-Farber Trustee and Former Chairman of the Jimmy Fund
To me, Tim is everything a professional athlete should be. He handled himself in such a professional way as far as his baseball career goes and he has done what I would hope and what most people would hope professional athletes would do off the field in his charitable endeavors. What he did for the Jimmy Fund is second to none. He is beloved by so many kids and adults alike at the jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It‟s awesome what he did for the kids. I know he will be successful in whatever he chooses to do going forward.
CAROL TROXELL, Co-Founder of Pitching in for Kids
Blessed with an incredible career on the field, Tim Wakefield has also done many incredible things off the field. Never selfish with his time, Tim has raised millions of dollars through his charities to help others in need. Our organization, Pitching in for Kids, which was named for Tim’s job on the mound, is proud of him today and we are looking forward to working with him as he continues to pitch in and serve the community. Today, we not only honor a baseball champion, we honor our friend.
With reporting date closing in — the official day for pitchers and catchers is Feb. 19 — fans must be waiting to get their first look at the Red Sox on TV, or even the first listen on radio. Here is the broadcast schedule for the team.
DATE OPPONENT SITE TIME
Saturday, March 3 Northeastern JetBlue Park 2:35 p.m.
Saturday, March 3 Boston College JetBlue Park 7:05 p.m./TV/Radio
Sunday, March 4 Minnesota Twins JetBlue Park 1:35 p.m./TV/Radio#
Monday, March 5 Minnesota Twins Hammond Stadium 7:05 p.m./TV/Radio
Tuesday, March 6 Baltimore Orioles JetBlue Park 1:35 p.m.
Wednesday, March 7 Toronto Blue Jays Dunedin 1:05 p.m.
Thursday, March 8 St. Louis Cardinals Jupiter 1:05 p.m.
Friday, March 9 Pittsburgh Pirates JetBlue Park 7:05 p.m./TV/Radio#
Saturday, March 10 Tampa Bay Rays JetBlue Park 7:05 p.m./TV/Radio
Sunday, March 11 Baltimore Orioles Sarasota 1:05 p.m./TV
Monday, March 12 Miami Marlins JetBlue Park 1:35 p.m./ESPN
Tuesday, March 13 New York Yankees Tampa 7:05 p.m./Radio
Wednesday, March 14 Off Day
Thursday, March 15 St. Louis Cardinals JetBlue Park 2:35 p.m.
Friday, March 16 Minnesota Twins JetBlue Park 7:05 p.m./Radio
Saturday, March 17 Baltimore Orioles (SS) Sarasota 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 17 Baltimore Orioles (SS) JetBlue Park 1:35 p.m./Radio
Sunday, March 18 Tampa Bay Rays Port Charlotte 1:05 p.m./TV/Radio
Monday, March 19 Minnesota Twins JetBlue Park 1:35 p.m.
Tuesday, March 20 Toronto Blue Jays JetBlue Park 7:05 p.m./TV/Radio
Wednesday, March 21 Pittsburgh Pirates Bradenton 1:05 p.m.
Thursday, March 22 New York Yankees JetBlue Park 7:05 p.m./TV/ESPN/Radio#
Friday, March 23 Baltimore Orioles Sarasota 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 24 Miami Marlins (SS) Jupiter 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 24 Philadelphia Phillies (SS) JetBlue Park 1:35 p.m./TV/Radio
Sunday, March 25 Toronto Blue Jays Dunedin 1:05 p.m./TV/Radio
Monday, March 26 Philadelphia Phillies Clearwater 1:05 p.m./ESPN
Tuesday, March 27 Tampa Bay Rays JetBlue Park 1:35 p.m.
Wednesday, March 28 Off Day
Thursday, March 29 Toronto Blue Jays JetBlue Park 1:35 p.m.
Friday, March 30 Minnesota Twins Hammond Stadium 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 31 Tampa Bay Rays Port Charlotte 1:05 p.m./Radio
Sunday, April 1 Minnesota Twins JetBlue Park 1:35 p.m./TV/Radio#
Monday, April 2 Washington Nationals JetBlue Park 1:35 p.m.
Tuesday, April 3 Washington Nationals Nationals Park 3:05 p.m.
(SS)- Split Squad Home Games at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Lee County, Florida
TV- Game Telecast by NESN, ESPN- Game Telecast on ESPN
Radio- Game aired on WEEI 93.7 FM/850 AM, Radio#- Game aired on WRKO 680 AM