The baseball season is a long and lonely road. To preserve his sanity, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter keeps a diary. These are excerpts from The Captain's private journal.
Wednesday, April 18: vs. Minnesota
April baseball is always a little rough. The spring training rust isn't totally gone, and nobody's really ready to perform at their optimal level, but everything still counts. Yeah, I'm hitting .378 coming into the game and .389 after according to Scotty the ball boy — his name is actually Brian, but come on, he's Scotty — but that's not what I care about, so I had that kid scrub my locker with a Stay-at-Home Barbie Swiffer for telling me my batting average. I only pay attention to stats that begin and end with a capital W. And don't tell me there's some new nerd stat like WxRFSW or something like that. I'll make you circle every "Hatteberg" in Moneyball. (I'm not even kidding.)
Anyway, Kuroda had a terrible top of the first, and we go in a 4-0 hole. Between innings I gather up the guys in the dugout and tell them, "OK, the new guy shit the bed a little, so let's clean up his sheets for him," but Hiroki overhears and brings me a roll of toilet paper. Either his English isn't that great or he's hilarious. Unfortunately, that was the last laugh we had because Tex flied out to end the game and we not-win 6-5. We really need to get him going. He's always awful in April. Before the game I put a calendar in his locker turned to June, but he either didn't see it or he double-checked his iPhone. Still, you gotta try to help your guys get off the schneid.
Morneau's killing us. Two homers. Why do we even pitch to him? Doesn't he have five concussions? Note to self: Get to the stadium early tomorrow and ask the PA announcer to change his "Now batting, Justin Morneau" intro to an ear-piercing siren, maybe put one of those giant hypnotic swirly things on the JumboTron. Home-field advantage needs to count for something.
The only smile I get all night is when I watch some highlights and see my old buddy Bartolo threw 38 consecutive strikes. I don't know how closely you follow baseball, but that's a lot of strikes. He's like if the green Hungry Hungry Hippo could vomit pellets out of his giant hippo head, but then they break over the plate at the last second. Filthy. I text Freddy. "U SEE BART? SHOULDA KEPT HIM NOT YOU LOL. PETTITTE SEZ HI. ;) DJ2."
Thursday, April 19: vs. Minnesota
I couldn't sleep after last night's minus-win once I realized it dropped us to 6-6. .500. Unacceptable. I have this saying: ".500 is Unacceptable." So I stay up all night putting that on some T-shirts to give to the guys to wear under their uniforms. A Captain doesn't panic. A Captain channels panic into motivation, even if that means writing in Sharpie on 25 Hanes Beefy T's (the no-baconing ones, only the best) when he should be resting. And then a Captain watches like 10 episodes of American Pickers in a row to distract himself from thinking about maybe rewriting all the T-shirts to say ".500 is Fantastic " (on the front) " in Toronto" (on the back), but that's not how the saying goes, even if it's super funny. You gotta just stick to the saying.
Then guess what? Well, Hughesy gives up four in the first, but then Grandy hits three homers in his first three at-bats on his way to 5-for-5, and we W it up, 7-6. Which makes us 7-6, one game above .500. Message received. I collect all the shirts after the game, but let everyone know they're coming right back if we don't start a winning streak. A-Rod asks me to make sure I give him back the correct shirt, the one with the sleeves torn off that smells like he got in a Drakkar fight. That guy and his Drakkar, I can't even tell you. Did I mention I'm out-homering him still? I only bring it up because if he was going good he'd tattoo his homer totals on himself, if all that ink wouldn't garbage up his pristine cathedral. I didn't make that last part up, that's a conversation we had more than once in 2007.
Off to Boston.
Friday, April 20: at Boston
First things first: Don't worry, Swish was warned that if he made any 420 jokes, he's bunking with Logan. The last time I made them bunk up, he woke up in the middle of the night with half his foot in Boonie's mouth. Lesson learned.
So it's the 100th anniversary of Fenway. We're all wearing throwbacks, they invited back every Red Sock, even Big Mo Vaughn, who it turns out didn't die of an exploded heart in '09. Who knew? Maybe someone vandalized his Wikipedia page. Always good to see him. Nomar, too. One of the coaches caught him asking Bobby V. if he needs a shortstop. "Yeah. But not you." That guy is so not having a good time right now.
Did you hear how that nutjob Luke Scott got in a lot of trouble for calling Fenway a "dump"? Even as a lifetime Yankee I have to say that's a little harsh. Dumps have bears roaming around, and sometimes you find useful car parts you can sell. I wouldn't buy any of the junk laying around here. And no fun bears. Just saying "dump" is pretty inaccurate overall. He's a birther, I'm not gonna expect any precision of thought, you know?
You have to ignore the sideshow. The important thing is that we won. Ruining their anniversary party means nothing. That's not the kind of thing you care about this early in the season, or secretly take any joy in, or urinate a "W" in the corner of the clubhouse over. You just take the wins one day at a time and eventually you pray you've got more than Tampa Bay, because that new wild card shit is terrifying.
Saturday, April 21: at Boston
Here's the thing about Freddy Garcia right now: Freddy Garcia is really terrible right now. You gotta support your teammates and lift them up when they're down, but here's the thing: Freddy Garcia is really terrible right now. It's like you extend a hand to pull him to his feet, and he's like, "No, bro. I'm good down here." And then he punches you in the junk and starts laughing. I mean, he didn't actually do that, but he didn't make it out of the second inning, which is just as good as a dickpunch. Raffy Soriano is the dickpuncher on the staff. He's like a ninja with it. You don't expect that out of a guy who no one really trusts to lock down the seventh for $12 million a year.
By now you're probably sick of hearing about how we came back from nine down and scored 15 unanswered on the bullpen, so I won't go over it. I just assume you've seen the clip on SportsCenter. It was kind of a big deal when Bobby V. took the ball from Ace in disgust, insisted on pitching to Nuney, and fired three balls to the backstop before hooking himself. Bobby's really not having a good time right now.
BTW, Tex hit two homers, one from each side of the plate, drove in six. When he got back to the dugout after the second one, I asked him for the date.
"June 21st, Jetes."
Yeah, I changed the date on his iPhone, too. You gotta stay one step ahead to be an effective Captain.
Sunday, April 22: at Boston (rainout)
Rainouts are awful in general, but a rainout in Boston is the worst. You can't do anything but stay in your hotel. If you try to go outside, you literally will be killed. No matter how tricky the traveling secretary gets with it, that Sons of Sam Horn website always finds out where we're staying (Schilling must tell them, right?) and posts the address in a thread called "Let's get together and go murder the Yankees." So then you have a flash stab-mob patrolling outside all day, all wearing Mariah Carey masks, waiting for you to get bored enough to try to sneak out for a Duck Tour or something. One time I managed to get past them long enough to grab a meal on Newbury Street, but they found me by the time the entree arrived and threw a batting helmet full of cement through the window. Mariah was really freaked out and punched a cop who was trying to calm her down. I guess that explains the masks. So, rainouts. Yeah.
I can't wait to get home. Not home-home, Tampa St. Jetersburg home. Trump home. The security staff is under strict instructions to pepper-spray anyone in Mariah masks there, but only after checking to make sure it's not actually her. That was a rough day in '98, let's not get into it.
Monday, April 23: at Texas
You always feel good when CC's on the hill, especially when the pregame weigh-in shows he's up almost nine pounds in about a week. That's been a total team effort, really proud of the guys and the big man for sticking to the program. By mid-May we're hoping for the 308-315 neighborhood, assuming he doesn't plateau and we have to mix up the fattening program, maybe work the Crunch Berries or Count Chocula into the rotation. You gotta keep it fresh.
We touch up Derek Holland early, who (1) is like 16 years old, and (2) thinks he's a hipster or something. Come on with that hair and mustache, man. Texas really needs to get its grooming regulations in order. Does Nolan Ryan want his pitchers looking like male porn stars? OK, maybe if it's a clean-cut James Deen kind of deal, but not this weak John Holmes situation Holland's going for. Have some respect for the tradition of not looking like you're at the ballpark to fix the clubhouse cable with your enormous penis. Get on that, Mr. Ryan. I say that respectfully.
I didn't want to get into this, and I wouldn't have if we didn't W this one (the streak is at four, the T-shirts safely packed away), but after a 4-for-5 game I'm at .411, and the media is already starting to write the "Can the suddenly revitalized Derek Jeter hit .400 all season?" stories. Trust me, they're writing them. But I'm going to address it and get it out of the way. First off, it's very premature. This is late April, just 77 at-bats, let's all take a deep breath. Second, haven't I been washed up for more than a year now? Third, OK, that was pretty sarcastic of me, but last April Mike Lupica literally came into the clubhouse and stabbed me in the gut with a fork. All I can say is this: Can I hit .400 for an entire season? Of course not. I mean, not "of course not," but never bet against yourself, no matter how crazy it sounds now. And also never bet against a very competitive guy who wants to get back the last baseball of the regular season and inscribe it, "Dear Michael Lupica Jr., I have humiliated your father and taken his manhood from him, DJ2.403." Just always believe in yourself, that's my message to any children reading this. Let's not get it twisted.
Tuesday, April 24: at Texas
Hiroki Kuroda vs. Yu Darvish. This is a really big day for Japanese baseball. A whole new generation of Japanese pitchers can watch this game, call up their agents, and demand to be posted after the season. Come to America, guys. Not all of you will wind up like Kei Igawa, I promise. Maybe like 60 percent, but you gotta love those odds. Succeed 40 percent of the time in baseball and you're going to the Hall of Fame. Actually, that only applies to hitters, but you know what I'm getting at. You definitely want to shoot for winning more than four out of 10 games when you arrive here. I don't know what a good winning percentage for the Ham Fighters is, but we have pretty high standards in that regard.
The less I say about how this game turned out, the better. Darvish did that trick where a new guy from Japan goes up against us for the first time, gets a little lucky by confusing us with 68 different kinds of pitches, and nearly finishes a complete-game shutout. I'm not even sure that one where he kind of flips it sidearm and backhand is legal, but we can't dwell on it, we just have to prepare better next time. I promise you he won't catch us so flat-footed again. Wait, do you think he was saving some other secret pitches for next time? He's like Roy Halladay with amazing hair. Ugh, I hate this guy already. I'm going to bed.