Sunday, October 11, 2009

ALDS Game 3: The Genius of Jeter

(Revised on fresh information)

I figured at the moment of the tag exactly what Nick Punto was thinking when he made his baserunning error (above) in the eighth inning Sunday.

He was, I thought, trying to make the same play Denard Span made last year against the Yankees.

The problem was, Derek Jeter remembered it too.

The game was on August 11, 2008. Here's the link to Baseball Reference's box score and play by play.

In the eighth inning, Span was on second base (and Joe Mauer on first) with two outs. Justin Morneau hit a chopper up the middle. Jeter gloved it and looked to first, and while he was doing that, Span — running hard on contact with two outs — steamed home.

The play clearly stuck in Jeter's mind. He was looking for it Tuesday with Punto on second. When he fielded Span's chopper behind second, he clearly had no intention of throwing to first — he knew Punto was going to be aggressive. And had he tried to throw out Span, Punto would have scored.

It could have worked. It probably would have worked on any other shortstop. But Jeter had been burned once by this team on that play. It wasn't going to happen again.

As it turns out, Punto thought, from the crowd's roar, that the ball had gone through the infield. It amounts to the same thing, though — Punto had committed to go home, and Jeter was looking for it.


So much for the Metrodome. So much for the Twins this postseason. The outcome of this series wasn't surprising; the 2009 Yankees are clearly the best team in the American League. Their major weaknesses during the regular season — the fourth and fifth slots in the starting rotation — are almost meaningless in October.

I'll root for the Angels in the ALCS anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Please, enough with the "Jeter is divine" stuff. He fielded a ball, looked at third and threw the ball home. Most shortstops would have done the same thing, particularly in a close playoff game. I would have a different view if he threw behind the runner at third in an unexpected way that snagged the runner. Here, Punto made a big mistake, and my four-year old could have thrown him out. Jeter did not end the rally with a tremendous play; Punto ended the rally with a horrible play.