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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Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 92 FINAL
Chicago 97
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
Denver 106
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 FINAL
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 3
NY Islanders 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 3
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
Edmonton 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 66 FINAL
Clemson 61
Texas A&M 62 FINAL
Florida 66
Kentucky 72 FINAL
Georgia 64
West Virginia 69 FINAL
Kansas 76
Auburn 61 FINAL
Missouri 63
Michigan 78 FINAL
Northwestern 82
Villanova 76 FINAL
Creighton 72
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
NJIT 51 FINAL
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
TCU 45 FINAL
Texas 79
Fresno State 61 FINAL
Air Force 41
San Jose St 76 FINAL
Boise State 91
Nevada 61 FINAL
Colorado State 68
UNLV 61 FINAL
San Diego State 76
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Utah State 57

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