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

Giardi: John Farrell has been ‘handcuffed’ by roster

Giardi: John Farrell has been ‘handcuffed’ by roster

Mike Giardi and Trenni Kusnierek debate whether or not John Farrell should be fired after a rough month of June.

McAdam: It's make-or-break time before the break for Red Sox

McAdam: It's make-or-break time before the break for Red Sox

Not long ago, the final homestand of the first half of the 2016 season looked like an opportunity for the Red Sox.
      
Now, however, it looks more like a survival test.
      
Are they contenders or pretenders? 
     
Is this a month-long downturn or a preview of coming attractions? 

      
The Red Sox still possess a winning record and are tied for one of the wild-card spots in the American League. The season isn't shot. Yet.
      
But it could be soon if the Red Sox don't execute a turnaround and thrust themselves back into the divisional race. At the precise moment the Red Sox are in freefall, the Baltimore Orioles are streaking, and doing what the Red Sox have failed to do: take advantage of some breaks in the schedule.
      
While the Red Sox dropped two of three to a Tampa Bay team which had lost 11 in a row -- four at the hands of the Orioles themselves, it should be noted -- the Orioles have steamrolled over lowly opponents to go 7-1 against a steady diet of nothing by the Rays and Padres.
      
That delivers some additional urgency to this upcoming homestand, which features three games each against the Los Angeles Angels, the Texas Rangers and the Rays again.
      
While Dave Dombrowski continues to hunt for pitching help, how the Red Sox play over the next nine games could either intensify his search or reduce it to unnecessary.
      
Should the Red Sox lose further ground while at home, it might result in Dombrowski refusing to mortgage any of his organization's future for a team that hasn't proven worthy of an upgrade.
      
Why sacrifice prospects in exchange for a starting pitcher or bullpen piece when the playoffs drift out of reach? And, yes, the Red Sox are going to need reinforcements to the rotation and the bullpen for next year either way, but if the Sox don't show signs of life soon, that effort can be put off until after the season.
      
Due to simple laws of supply and demand, the already exorbitant cost of pitching skyrockets before the trade deadline, since there are a handful of needy teams convinced that one additional arm could spell the difference between a trip to the World Series and missing the postseason altogether.
      
If a team isn't in need of immediate help, it's best to wait for November and December, when there's less of a sense of desperation to the whole exercise.
      
Beyond the matter of determining whether the Red Sox go all-in on 2016, there's the matter of job security for manager John Farrell.
      
Should the Sox continue to stumble, the All-Star break might give Dombrowski time and cause to evaluate whether it's time to make a change in the dugout.
      
If Dombrowski determines that the season can still be salvaged with a change of voice in the dugout, Farrell would be vulnerable. And if he decides that, regardless of playoff aspirations, he's seen enough in a half-season of observation that  Farrell isn't his choice to lead the club going forward, the four-day break would be time to reflect, then act on that evaluation.
      
Farrell challenged his team in a postgame meeting Monday, exhorting them to play to their potential, to trust in their teammates and play hard.
      
If that push doesn't yield tangible results in the next 10 days, a dark uncertainty -- for himself and the team he manages -- lies ahead.
      
The All-Star break offers upper management and ownership a time to take stock in what they have. If they don't like what they see in the next week and a half, the consequences could be felt soon.