Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Now batting, Number 2"

Baseball is, in its most basic sense, all about the numbers. For the hitter, while each swing of the bat may look the same to us, imperceptible changes are made clear in the statistics that we see next to the player's name. Numbers don't lie, or at least they don't lie in the same way that our wishes and desires do for those we want to succeed.

And so, the body of evidence accumulated on the page ("Under a Microscope, Jeter has a Powerless Start") reveals what I refuse to allow as a possibility: the erosion of Derek Jeter is well underway. One home run in 565 at bats. Two extra base hits in 105 at bats this season. And worse, if one were to subtract the 10 infield hits from the calculation, the future Hall of Famer would be batting an anemic .154.

I wish I could dismiss all of this. He still looks virtually the same as he did when he sprung upon us over 15 years ago. The hair may be a little thinner, and the waist just a bit thicker, but this is still the same player who has accomplished so much, at bat to at bat, for a decade and a half. But the overwhelming reality is that he is not what he was, and will never again be. It is hard to watch and even harder to accept. We wait for tomorrow to be different, for the line drives to return with unrelenting frequency. But when we add it all up, we come to the inevitable conclusion that even for Derek Jeter, time does not stand still.

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