On Wednesday night, the Rays edged the Yankees by a 4-3 score to take the A.L. East lead, but it wasn't for Derek Jeter's lack of trying. In the seventh inning, a pitch hit the knob of Jeter's bat. Without a split-second of hesitation, Jeter immediately pulled off a wildly entertaining sell so convincing that he was awarded first base. (Video can be seen on mlb.com, in case you missed it.)
The response from non-Yankees fans, of course, is overwhelmingly negative -- take, for example, the current popularity of "Derek Cheater" on Twitter. Here's a factually-based statement: Derek Jeter did not "cheat"! Here's a controversial statement: it was awesome!
I tend to hate the Yankees as much as most people, this isn't an attempt to troll you, and I'm not playing the other side of the fence just for kicks. Derek Jeter's attempt to deceive the umpire was something perfectly consistent with the spirit of baseball.
First, to get this out of the way, let's visit this "Derek Cheater" business. Sorry to employ a lazy writing device here, but:
To violate rules deliberately, as in a game
To deceive by trickery; swindle
these are two provided definitions of the word "cheat." Jeter certainly didn't violate the rules, as there is nothing in the rule book that forbids deceiving the umpire in this manner. Players game umpires all the time. Catchers frame a pitch within the strike zone, outfielders pick themselves up from the grass while triumphantly holding baseballs they know they trapped, etc., etc.
Jeter's actions certainly fit the second definition, but then again, baseball is a game of deception. Pitchers attempt to deceive with every single pitch. I'm reminded of a time I played a game of chess with my younger sister. A few moves into the match, she said, "wait, you're just trying to trick me!" "Yes," I told her. "That is what this game is all about!"
Just as I'm a total badass for beating my little sister at a board game, Jeter is a total badass for executing this trick to perfection. He immediately yelped in pain and grabbed his arm, and pretended to be in pain while the trainer tended to him. He could not have done a better job, and as a result, he was knocked home by Curtis Granderson's go-ahead home run later in the inning.
Now, if you're a Rays fan, I can't possibly fault you for feeling angry. A crafty veteran's gamesmanship is a beautiful thing, though, especially in this case: here we have Derek Jeter, the seemingly forever young shortstop who's finally getting old, whose skills are declining, and who is prepared to pull out every trick in the bag in an effort to contribute in any manner possible. Indeed, it was--
"Cheater" rhymes with "Jeter"! I get it!