Patrick Reusse: Gardenhire isn't among Jeter detractors

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 6, 2014 - 9:16 AM

Their salute to Derek Jeter — and his playmaking and smarts — included a fitting keepsake from their last game at the Dome.

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Plenty of eyes were on Yankees great Derek Jeter as he took his final regular-season swings Saturday at Target Field.

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The self-appointed wizards responsible for numbers that allege to rate fielding range insist that Derek Jeter has been a subpar shortstop, even before the declines that go with age and injury.

There has been a kinder view of Jeter’s fielding from mere observers of the grand old game: Jeter had a habit of saving his best plays for occasions of the highest importance.

This is Jeter’s last go-round, and his Yankees will be visiting 17 opposing ballparks during the regular season. The Twins followed protocol by hosting a five-minute pregame ceremony, in which Jeter received a pair of gifts:

There was a check for $10,000 presented to Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation that assists drug-troubled youth, and also the last second-base bag ever used for a game at the Metrodome.

Simple though it was, this was nearly as creative as the rocking chair made of broken bats the Twins presented to Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on his farewell tour in 2013.

The last Twins game played in the Dome was a 4-1 loss to the Yankees on Oct. 11, 2009, that swept the home team out of the playoffs in three games. And the decisive play of that game offered an endorsement of the idea that Jeter invariably was where he had to be when the Yankees needed him.

The Yankees were leading 2-1 entering the bottom of the eighth, and Phil Hughes — having an excellent season in front of Rivera in the bullpen — came in to try to hold it. Nick Punto opened with a fly-ball double, and Denard Span followed with a bouncer through the middle.

Punto was certain the ball was headed into center field and ignored coach Scott Ullger’s stop sign. Jeter got to the bouncer behind second and sent a throw to catcher Jorge Posada. Punto skidded to a stop, tried to retreat but was out at third.

There went the rally. There went the game. There went the series. There went the Dome as a big-league ballpark. Nice play, Derek.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said the idea to present the second-base bag came from a member of the organization who remembered that Jeter was standing near second when he threw out the last batter (Brendan Harris) in the Dome.

When Gardenhire was asked about the low opinion Jeter gets from the computer crowd for his fielding, the rival manager said this, with obvious sincerity:

“He doesn’t miss plays. He’s rangy, he has good hands, he makes the throws … he’s the whole package at shortstop, as far as I’m concerned.

“If I’m a manager and it’s the biggest situation in a World Series, I want the ball hit to Derek Jeter … because I know I’m going to get an out.”

Jeter was playing his 144th game against the Twins on Saturday — 130 in the regular season and 14 (12-2) in the playoffs. He will be in the lineup again Sunday. He will be back in Target Field nine days later to make his eighth start for the American League in the All-Star Game.

There was considerable competition for the AL start in Jeter’s early seasons, with Alex Rodriguez as a shortstop in Seattle and Texas, and with Nomar Garciaparra in Boston.

Somehow, Garciaparra and then A-Rod got a bit “overmuscled” for playing shortstop, as Jeter remained the sleek prototype of a middle infielder. There were loud suggestions that Rodriguez (not Jeter) should be the shortstop when he first came to the Yankees in 2004, but as A-Rod grew to gigantic size, third base became enough for him to handle.

Minnesota fans joined in the growing national disregard for Rodriguez, and responded to this by loudly booing both him and Jeter. The Jeter reaction here was always a puzzle that finally came to end with cheers on Thursday, as he started his final series against the Twins.

The Minneapolis swan song for Jeter in the All-Star Game will be the first time that event has been held here since 1985. A case can be made that the four greatest shortstops in the game’s history have been in their primes in the three decades since then:

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Tennessee 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 108 2nd OT 0:37
San Antonio 109
Milwaukee 48 3rd Qtr 10:04
Portland 45
Houston 33 2nd Qtr 7:47
Denver 45
Indiana 39 2nd Qtr 4:31
LA Clippers 44
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 1 2nd Prd 9:50
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
NC A&T 55 FINAL
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
TX A&M-CC 73 FINAL
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 60 1st OT 0:52
Cincinnati 65
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 51 2nd Half 5:50
Cal Poly 47
Central Arkansas 47 2nd Half 11:38
New Mexico 52
Howard 31 2nd Half 11:59
Pepperdine 36
Portland 29 2nd Half
UNLV 28
CS-Northridge 8 1st Half 13:59
Oregon 6
Grambling St 6 1st Half 10:21
Washington 19
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
UNLV 84
NC A&T 70 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 22 2nd Half 11:51
San Francisco 38

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