The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

June 5, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Pirates can learn from Jeter’s story

MORGANTOWN — Much has been made over the past month about the Pittsburgh Pirates’ reluctance to promote their wunderkind outfielder Gregory Polanco from the Indianapolis Indians of the International League, where he seemingly is leading the league in everything except for broken bats.

In fact, it might have become a full scale fan revolt had not super sub Josh Harrison eased some of the pressure by moving out of the obscurity of life on the bench to produce like the reincarnation of Roberto Clemente in the outfield in recent days.

But Harrison is only a temporary fix, and the furor is sure to heat up again as soon as Harrison cools off, which leads us to something that great, learned philosopher from the last century, Lawrence Peter Berra, once said, muttering “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

And, it is.

A couple of pinstriped decades back, in fact, the New York Yankees like the Pirates were about to emerge back at the top of baseball, but had gotten off to a slow start. Down in the minor leagues was a player who everyone knew would someday be a star, a player they refused at the moment to promote to the major leagues.

His name was Derek Jeter.

At the time there was a sports writer covering the Yankees who was somewhat outspoken on the matter. You might even recognize his name, as it was mentioned in a biography entitled “Derek Jeter, Pride of the Yankees.”

This is the way the author Patrick Giles wrote it on the day in May the call finally went out for Jeter as starting shortstop Tony Fernandez went onto the disabled list with an injury:

“First, Jeter had a plane to catch to Seattle, where the Yankees were beginning a three-game visit fighting the Mariners. They had just lost a game to the Oakland A’s, managing one hit but no score. They had lost nine of their last 11 games. So far that season their wins had totaled an even dozen – and their losses, 14. Bergen Record sports writer Bob Hertzel was merciless but accurate assessing the team Derek Jeter was eagerly joining: ‘If it weren’t for bad news the Yankees would be making no news at all.’”

With Fernandez out, Jeter made his major league debut with a dreadful 0-for-5 while batting ninth in manager Buck Showalter’s lineup, giving him a sleepless night in Seattle. He played every day from May 29 through June 11 when he was returned to — get this — Indianapolis, then the Yankees’ Class AAA farm team.

He would bat .317 that final year in the minors, but as the season wore on the Yankees’ chances for the wild card spot – and there was only one in those days – was slipping away.

This mouthy Hertzel guy, went on to say a lot of things about the need to get Jeter back in September, many of them exactly the same kind of things you are reading about the Pirates’ Polanco situation today if you are following that soap opera in the Pittsburgh media.

“If Derek Jeter is the real goods — and there’s nothing to make you believe he is anything but — the time has come to promote him to the major leagues, stick him in the lineup and see if he can help the Yankees win the American League wild card berth that is rapidly slipping away,” he wrote.

“Anyone who has watched the Yankees sleepwalk their way through Boston and the West Coast knows they need a kick in the rear. Jeter can apply that kick with his youthful enthusiasm.”

Even the Yankee clubhouse was on edge by this point in the year, their leader, Don Mattingly, being quoted as saying:

“We have reached the danger zone. It’s got to turn, and it’s got to turn now.”

And so it was Jeter was recalled, although not as the star he would become. There were no private jets, no limos.

“A long trip,” Jeter assured those who were listening upon his arrival. “Norfolk to Dallas, three hours, then here, four more hours.”

And when he arrived Showalter called him aside for a chat.

“If you are going to be a star player, there’s no better place for you start than in the most difficult of situations. That is what you will face your entire career,” Showalter said.

As it was, though, Jeter did not play much after his recall, that Hertzel guy once referring to him as “the invisible Yankee”.

If he didn’t help with his bat and glove, that “youthful enthusiasm” that was written about had to have some affect as the Yankees won 21 of 27 games in September.

Can Polanco provide something similar for the Pirates?

Won’t know, unless they give him a chance, will we?

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Smallwood puts future in jeopardy

    The last thing West Virginia’s struggling football program needed as twilight was setting on Bastille Day in Morgantown was to have one of its own whisked off to the North Central Regional Jail on a fugitive warrant from another state, especially a player who had figured to play a key role in the resurrection of a program gone bad.

    July 16, 2014

  • WVU player arrested in Delaware case

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood has been arrested by university police and is being held at North Central Regional Jail awaiting extradition on a felony warrant out of Delaware.

    July 15, 2014

  • WVU hoping to add two non-conference contests

    West Virginia is nearing the completion of deals to play football games against long-time rival Virginia Tech, now in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Tennessee of the Southeastern Conference, according to a source close to the negotiations.
    An announcement is expected shortly.

    July 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: MLB All-Star game biggest celebration of top athletes

    You will pardon me if I find something else to do when the Pro Bowl rolls around, or if I try to find a “Three Stooges” marathon when it’s time for the NHL All-Star game. As for the NBA All-Star game, I’d rather watch a replay of a four-year-old Uruguay-Ethiopia World Cup soccer match in which I knew the outcome.

    July 14, 2014

  • Howes learns to ‘never settle’ as WVU administrator

    You probably don’t know much about Terri Howes, even though she is a rather high-ranking executive in the West Virginia University athletic department.
    “I like it that way,” she said, sitting in a large office at the Coliseum, decorated with pictures and memorabilia, a jar of candy sitting by the door for visitors to dip into.

    July 13, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Rich Rod’s return not impossible

    As you may guess, in the wake of LeBron James’ decision to let bygones be millions and return to his rooters in Cleveland, more than once was I approached with someone wanting to know if this opened the door for a return to West Virginia University of their once-reviled coach Rich Rodriguez.

    July 13, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Trickett best option as a leader

    In the end, West Virginia University’s decision to place the mantle of starting quarterback upon veteran Clint Trickett was less about quarterback than it was about leadership.
    This is not to say that Trickett lacks the talent to succeed as quarterback in coach Dana Holgorsen’s system.

    July 6, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads