Jeter, A-Rod respond to Bobby V
Yanks stars shrug off comments by Red Sox skipper
TAMPA, Fla. -- It's been more than 10 years since Derek Jeter's famous flip, and the Yankees and Red Sox won't play a game that counts in the standings for nearly two months. But that didn't stop Game 3 of the 2001 American League Division Series and the New York-Boston rivalry from dominating the clubhouse conversation on Wednesday.
There was Derek Jeter responding to Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine's comments about his legendary relay, saying he didn't think it was a big deal. There was Alex Rodriguez giving a very brief statement before taking his leave. And, perhaps most unexpected, there was former Red Sox manager and current ESPN broadcaster Terry Francona standing in the clubhouse, warmly greeting several Yankees and sharing his thoughts on the rivalry.
Valentine seemed to be stirring the pot Tuesday when he said Jeter was out of position on the play in Game 3 of the ALDS against the A's, and he didn't believe the Yankees practiced that play. He has since apologized after being told the Yankees do indeed work on that play every year. In fact, they just so happened to be practicing it at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday.
Jeter was mostly bewildered that his flip was still a topic of conversation. But he also stood by what he's always said about the cutoff, noting that it's how the Yankees have done it since he was coming through the Minors. And he was happy to point that out as he was lining up in that same position during Wednesday's workout.
"I don't think anything. I really don't. I have no thoughts whatsoever," Jeter said. "Who cares? Why are we talking about this? They must be bored over there, huh? I don't understand.
"Think about it. We don't practice it? We do. You guys see it. What else can I say. I was out of position? I was where I was supposed to be."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi agreed with Jeter, saying that's how it's been done with the Yankees since at least 1996, and even pointing out that he adopted that same defense when he became the Marlins' manager. Girardi took comfort in knowing that Jeter would do his best to handle the situation without causing more controversy, but he was more concerned with what happens between the two clubs on the field this year than what's being said during interviews.
"You know what's going to matter? Wins and losses," Girardi said. "Over the years, this rivalry has been great, and it's usually not because of what is said. It's usually because of the games on the field, the competition on the field and the competition in the standings and what both teams shoot for."
Jeter did his best to defuse the situation, making it clear he didn't think Valentine was trying to stir the pot with his comments. Nor did he think the rivalry between the two AL East powers needed to receive any more attention than it already does. When asked about the first thing he would say to Valentine when he next sees him, Jeter responded flatly.
"'Hey, Bobby.' That's about it," he said. "I don't think it's that big of a deal, really. A lot of people have said that I wasn't supposed to be there, and I've told you guys from Day 1 that's where I'm supposed to be. That's what we work on. He's not the first person to say that."
That wasn't Valentine's only controversial comment about the Yankees on Tuesday, however. In discussing Jason Varitek's decision to retire, Valentine praised Boston's longtime catcher for many things, including the fact that he "beat up Alex." Rodriguez made a short statement at his locker Wednesday morning then immediately moved on, cutting through the crowd of reporters gathered around him.
"Like I said, I'm not going to win many battles here when it comes to words, especially against Bobby," Rodriguez said. "But I will tell you this: I got my new press secretary that should be landing in the next couple days -- Reggie Jackson -- so I'll let him handle that. All right? Thanks."
Despite his new role as a commentator with ESPN, Francona couldn't quite escape the rivalry. Valentine's predecessor admitted he used to hold back some of his thoughts to the media when the Red Sox were playing the Yankees, saying things were often sensationalized, but he still offered his take on Valentine's comments regarding Jeter's play.
"I'm sure some of that's in jest. I don't know. I wasn't there, and I'm out of it," Francona said. "To me, it's not important whether the Yankees practice that play or not. The fact of the matter is that he's good enough to make that play. You could practice that play until you're blue in the face, and he's probably still the only guy who makes that play.
"That play was part of baseball lore. Again, I don't doubt they do practice it. He's probably the only guy that makes the play. ... He sees the field better than anybody in baseball. He's the one guy that makes that play."
All the talk over Valentine's initial comments will likely come to an end with his apology. But as Girardi said, this season is already shaping up to be "a very emotional and very intense year, like always" between the Yankees and Red Sox.
"It's going to matter what happens on the field, not by what people say. That's the important thing," Girardi said. "When you look back on 2012, when we're judged this year, it's going to be on how we played -- not on a quote of mine."
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.