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David Brown

Broadway bound! Yankees' Jeter acts his way past umpires

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Like he was born for the stage, New York Yankees superstar Derek Jeter(notes) acted his way to first base on Wednesday night.

"Ow, my arm!" Jeter cried in the night at Tropicana Field.

Umpire Lance Barksdale called Jeter's production "SPELLBINDING!"

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, after he was thrown out for arguing too much with Barksdale, said Jeter was worthy of "APPLAUSE!"

Jeter's persuasive performance, pretending to be hit by a pitch that actually connected with his bat — not his left arm, as umps ruled — helped the Yankees take a seventh-inning lead in another epic ballgame with the Rays.

Jeter had some help, not only from umpires who ate it up, but from trainer Gene Monahan, who tended to Jeter's "wounded" arm as if the ball actually hit Jetes Meat.

O' Captain, My Captain tried his darnedest, but the Rays would not get knobbed out of victory. They won anyway 4-3, thanks to more big hits by Dan Johnson(notes).

Rays right-hander Chad Qualls(notes) plunking Jeter appeared to be much more consequential a few moments after he took his disputed base. Curtis Granderson(notes) followed with a go-ahead, two-run homer that no doubt had Maddon seething even more back stage.

Later, Jeter conceded it was a nuanced performance, and that he was merely taking Barksdale's lead.

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From the Associated Press:

Jeter, who stood doubled over while receiving attention from a trainer, confessed that the ball hit the end of his bat and he sold the call to Barksdale with a good acting job.

"He told me to go to first base. I'm not going to tell him I'm not going to first, you know," Jeter said.

"It's part of the game. My job is to get on base. Fortunately for us it paid off at the time, but I'm sure it would have been a bigger story if we would have won that game."

So, don't go calling him "Derek Cheater." But imagine if Alex Rodriguez(notes) tried pulling that stuff. Ha! (or, "Slap!") A-Rod's notices would not be as nearly well-received.

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Maddon, an old song-and-dance man himself, appreciated Jeter's effort. (Also, is that the Playbill in his back pocket? What has Dan Johnson been in before?)

From MLB.com:

"There's several thespians throughout baseball," Maddon said. "I thought Derek did a great job, and I applaud it, because I wish our guys would do the same thing."

The "Did-the-ball-hit-the-batter-or-didn't-it?" moment seems to be one of the toughest for umpires to call. The Rays actually wanted Jeter to be called out — the ball deflected into fair territory, as if struck by a bat — but that wasn't happening because Barksdale called time immediately after the point of contact.

Jeter wasn't awarded first base initially, though. That took a conference.

[Maddon said:] "It was really obvious that the ball hit the bat. There's times that it can be disputed that it hit the hand and the bat at the same time.

"But nobody's eyes are good enough to know that. Nobody's eyes are good enough to know that. I really can never agree with that call. ... I really thought the play would be reversed based on pure logic."

The best evidence could have been the sound of the ball striking wood; umpires often say they listen for a foot to hit the bag at first base before the ball reaches a mitt on a bang-bang play. If Barksdale had opened his ears, he would have heard the sound of cowhide hitting Louisville Slugger.

He was too caught up in Jeter's attention-grabbing arm grab. Broadway's lights can be so blinding.

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