No, he’s not. Let me preface this by saying that I do not believe Derek Jeter is using steroids or performance-enhancing drugs of any kind. My intent is not to call him out on anything, but rather to pose a thought-provoking debate on the tenets of current sports writing.
Hypothetical question: Will any sportswriter have the gall to call Derek Jeter out on his performance?
We all know Jeet is having a tremendous season. He is hitting .376/.421/.556/.977 with five homers (he had six all of last season), 15 RBI, 23 runs scored, a .421 wOBA, a 161 OPS+ and 1.6 WAR in 31 games. He became the fastest Yankee to get 50 hits, and those 50 hits are the most in baseball this season. Not too shabby for a guy who was written off as recently as last season.
Any Yankee fan can tell you that Captain was one of the hottest hitters in baseball once he came off the DL in July last season, but what about the season and a half prior to that? 2010 was his worst statistical season and even with his hot second half last year he still couldn’t break a 100 OPS+ (he put up a 98).* This brings me back to my original question: Will anybody in the mainstream media have the testicular/ovarian fortitude to question where this surge came from?
My first instinct says no. Derek has always been a great player, class act, said the right things, treated the media well, etc; more often than not the MSM will leave players whom they like alone. However, this is just too good to be true. Derek Jeter — the guy who can do no wrong, the Rookie of the Year who won four World Series titles in his first five seasons, the good-looking player who told all his friends when he was young that he would one day be the Yankees’ shortstop, the guy who can pick up any supermodel/actress/smoke show like she’s a drunken fatso who just got dumped — is revitalizing his left-for-dead career one month prior to his 38th birthday.
I have to figure that some young, brash writer looking to make a name for him(or her)self will sacrifice his (or her) integrity for page views or to sell newspapers/magazines. We’ve seen a similar story before with — and I’m not comparing these two players at all, Jeter is obviously much more high-profile — Raul Ibanez in 2009.
My feeling is this: If any writer does try to tarnish Jeter’s recent accomplishments — and I think some poor schmuck out there will before all is said and done — he or she will wake up the next day with a much worse parting gift than a basket of signed memorabilia.
*I understand that his crummy 2010 and first half of 2011 was due to injuries. As I said at the top of this post, I’m not trying to call him out and in no way, shape or form believe he is doing PEDs. Just trying to pose a hypothetical here.