Derek Jeter calls controversy 'comical'

Updated: September 18, 2010, 9:43 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

BALTIMORE -- For the past two days, the sports world has been debating over the propriety, or lack thereof, of Derek Jeter's "performance" after getting buzzed by a pitch in the seventh inning of Wednesday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

And as is often the case, the only person capable of applying true clarity to the situation was Jeter himself.

"It's really a big deal being made out of nothing," Jeter said in the New York Yankees clubhouse before Friday night's game against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. "I had nothing to do with the call. The umpire called it from the get-go. I didn't do it. I didn't tell myself to go to first base. I didn't make the call. He didn't ask me did it hit you and I said, 'Yeah, it hit me please let me go to first base.' It's comical to me that this is really getting this much attention."

Replays showed Chad Qualls' pitch hit the knob of Jeter's bat, but home plate umpire Lance Barksdale awarded Jeter first base as he writhed in apparent agony. The next batter, Curtis Granderson, hit a home run, giving the Yankees what turned out to be a short-lived 3-2 lead. "Everyone says it's cheating, but what did I do?" Jeter asked, bemused. "The ball hit the bat, he told me to go to first. How is that cheating?"

Asked about his exaggerated reaction -- Jeter is a player who rarely acknowledges legitimate injuries -- Jeter said: "You don't want it to look like he's completely wrong. If you get hit with a pitch, it usually hurts. My job is to continue to sell it, I guess. You don't want him to reverse the call."

General manager Brian Cashman was similarly surprised by the lingering reaction over the play, which became a moot point when Dan Johnson hit a two-run home run off Phil Hughes in the bottom of the inning to provide the margin of Tampa Bay's 4-3 victory.

"That's winning baseball, as simple as that. Winning baseball," Cashman said of Jeter's sales job. "He put us in a position to almost win a game and that's his job. If you're going to pitch in, you run the risk of hitting a guy or creating the perception of hitting the guy. That's on the pitcher."

Manager Joe Girardi acknowledged that Jeter's career-long reputation as a player who plays the game the right way factored into the outcry, much of which was negative. "I think if it wasn't Derek Jeter, and it wasn't that series, people wouldn't be talking about it," he said.

"It's trying to win a game is what I call it," Girardi said.

"This is not the first time this has happened, guys," Jeter said. "And by the way, we lost the game. Must have been a slow news day."

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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