Paoletti: It's a pity party, and we're all invited

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Paoletti: It's a pity party, and we're all invited

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
Poor Derek Jeter.

The Yankee captain returned from the DL last night and went 0-for-4 against the Indians.

This isn't deserving of pity; guys have 'o-fer' nights from time to time.

No, I feel for Jeter today because The Sports World has decided he's an old horse in need of a friendly bullet and there's nothing he can do about it.

On the front page of ESPN.com: "O-for-Fourth"

Headlining SI.com: "No Fireworks"

The New York Times sports page: "Jeter is Back, but He's Not the Same"

All of the stories, essentially, say the same thing: Derek Jeter had a glorious prime, but it's probably over. When a man is early in his professional sports career he has slumps; when he's 37 bad days are a symptom of The End.

Every game he plays now reeks of some inevitability. Those covering nod knowingly at the struggles. If he had a double-dinger night tomorrow, they would smile small, sad little smiles . . . the way you do when your old, lame dog bounds out the door to greet you the way he used to as a puppy. You're delighted because, in that moment, you remember the two-mile runs and the half-hour games of fetch. But as he later lays, panting at your feet all you can see is the white hairs and heaving chest.

Jeter fans are guarding his life-support plug with stubborn loyalty. Like ol' Scruffy's owner, they're focused on the good times -- on The Diving Catch et al.

Why else would they vote him (2 HR, 20 RBI, .256 AVG, .320 OBP) as a starter on the 2011 All-Star team?

It makes you feel good that people appreciate how you play," he said of the selection. "Youre going to have years where your first half is going to be better than others. This year, Im not happy with my first half. But you still appreciate what the fans think about you.

Michael Sokolove wrote a story about Jeter's decline for NYT Magazine. This excerpt was highlighted by Deadspin ("Ifthe Yankees Don't Let Anyone Say Derek Jeter is Washed Up, He Won't beWashed Up"):

The prospect of this article did not sit well with the Yankees, or at least elements of its hierarchy. Jason Zillo, the team's media director, would not grant me access to the Yankees' clubhouse before games to do interviews. I have been a baseball beat writer, have written two baseball books and have routinely been granted clubhouse credentials for a quarter-century, as just about anyone connected to a reputable publication or broadcast outlet usually is. "We're not interested in helping you, so why should I let you in?" Zillo said, before further explaining that he views his role as a "gatekeeper" against stories the Yankees would rather not see in print.
Can you blame them?

Jeter is the face of the franchise. Take him permanently out of the leadoff spot and it's the end of an era. The Yankees can win without him -- they already have -- but it won't be a pretty scene when the city is forced to turn from the guy whose name is emblazoned on seven A.L. pennants and five World Series titles.

Even less can you blame Jeter.

The end of his playing career won't be a business transaction, it will be the biggest identity shift of his life. In this glaring light it seems too personal to watch.

But we will -- it's unavoidable. Maybe the tape will need to last another decade, a la Julio Franco. Maybe not. Either way, we'll all have a front-row seat.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Dustin Pedroia forgets own words on leadership after Matt Barnes throws at Manny Machado

Dustin Pedroia forgets own words on leadership after Matt Barnes throws at Manny Machado

Dustin Pedroia has some explaining to do. 

Maybe he can clarify everything. Maybe he called Matt Barnes on Monday to explain what he meant when he told Manny Machado on the field for all the cameras to capture, “It’s not me, it’s them.” 

But the most prominent voice in the Red Sox clubhouse in a post-David Ortiz world definitely has some explaining to do.

Let’s remember Pedroia’s words in 2012 during a radio interview with WEEI

The second baseman revisited famous comments he made about Bobby Valentine that season, when Pedroia spoke up in defense of Kevin Youkilis after Valentine was critical of Youk.

“I’m proud to a point where, you know, to be a team leader, you need to have your teammates’ backs under any circumstances,” Pedroia said. “I felt like Youkilis was kind of thrown in a corner by himself. When the top dog comes down on you that hard, you know, I felt like Youk needed someone to be there for him to have his back.

“I would rather have people calling [into radio stations] saying however they feel [about me] than for me to walk into work and have to look at Kevin Youkilis and have him say, ‘Hey, man. He didn’t have my back when I needed him the most.’ To an extent, I’m proud that I said that because Youk knows now that under any circumstances I’ll have his back. That goes for all my teammates. I love them.”

Under any circumstances, Dustin? All of your teammates?

Zach Britton questioned Pedroia’s leadership for the stupidest of reasons. Apparently, per Britton, Pedroia was supposed to prevent Barnes from throwing a pitch too close to Manny Machado’s head.

That was a silly shot for Britton to take.

But there is an actual, legitimate leadership question facing Pedroia — which is bizarre, considering he tried to defuse a bad situation, and that he’s the only player injured through all this.

Moments after Barnes nearly hit Machado in the head, Pedroia told Machado, “It’s not me, it’s them.”

Machado spiked Pedroia on Friday. The Red Sox tried to throw at Machado on Sunday in a failed attempt at a tit-for-tat exchange. 

But Pedroia distanced himself from teammates at that point. Importantly, per Pedroia's own words, he did not do so only because the pitch to Machado was dangerous.

Pedroia said if it were him, he would have thrown at Machado sooner after the initial incident, which was Friday.

The idea that retaliation has to come immediately is strange. Maybe some prefer it that way, but that’s not some sort of widely known baseball-ism.

It’s one thing to admonish Barnes for throwing high and tight. It’s another to suggest Barnes never should have committed the act in the first place because of timing.

Barnes was trying to do one thing: protect Pedroia. He failed. Did Pedroia fail at protecting Barnes?

No one in their right mind would suggest Barnes acted properly by throwing near Machado’s head. Likely, what Barnes meant to do was what most of the baseball world expected: continue a tradition of retaliation via plunking, not a beaning.

Should baseball outlaw retaliatory pitches? Without question, player safety would be improved if punishments were harsher — incredibly harsh — for throwing at hitters.

But it’s a separate debate. 

Baseball operates this way right now. Do not pretend Pedroia was attempting to be some sort of catalyst of change for the betterment of the game and player safety.

He said after Sunday’s game that if he had spiked Machado, he would expect the Orioles to plunk him.

“If I slid into third base and got Manny's knee, I know I'm going to get drilled,” Pedroia said Sunday. “That's baseball. I get drilled, and I go to first base. That's it.”

Barnes attempted that and failed. Pedroia embarrassed Barnes for that for reasons beyond the obvious sin: the pitch’s location.

“It’s not me, it’s them,” Pedroia said.

At the very best, Pedroia may have calmed the beef.

If he doesn’t apologize; if he doesn’t speak up during the game, doesn’t say he loves Manny Machado; it’d be a given that this fiasco carries over when these teams meet again next week.

It’d be automatic that someone else on the Red Sox gets hit.

Now, it’s harder for the Orioles to justify another volley, another retaliatory measure. 

Machado was not hit with a pitch. Pedroia was the only one hurt. He and Barnes apologized. The Sox screwed up, and very publicly tried to own it.

The one thing Britton got right in an interview with BaltimoreBaseball.com was his attitude toward what happens now.

“I think we’ve talked about it already, as a team, and we’ll see how (the Red Sox) choose to act,” Britton said of what comes next. “Whether or not they choose to act professionally or unprofessionally when we get to Boston.”

The Sox would be insane to further this thing. The Orioles would be smart not to.

Pedroia might have saved a ball from finding one of his teammates’ ribs. That may be worth a teammate’s temporary unhappiness. 

But Pedroia might regret his choice of words, and how he went about it in the heat of the moment.

“I love Manny Machado,” Pedroia told reporters Sunday. “I love playing against him. I love watching him.”

Does Matt Barnes know right now that he’s loved too?

Did Matt Barnes deserve 4 games for throwing at Manny Machado?

Did Matt Barnes deserve 4 games for throwing at Manny Machado?

Bob Ryan and Lou Merloni react to Matt Barnes being handed a 4-game suspension for throwing at Manny Machado, and whether he deserved it.