For Yankees’ fans and the team itself, the last three games have been frustrating against the Chicago White Sox. New York jumped out to a lead in each of the first two games of the series, blew both of them with poor pitching performances and then were utterly dominated by White Sox ace, Chris Sale, 2-1 in the finale on Wednesday. The Yankees were swept in Chicago against the White Sox for the first time since 1991.
The star of the night was Sale, a dominant lefty (the type of pitcher the Bronx Bombers have struggled with all season) who struck out a season high 13 hitters and yielded just three hits and a solo home run to Derek Jeter in 7.2 innings of work. If Sale was the lead role, Phil Hughes was Best Supporting Actor, giving up just two runs on five hits in seven innings, but ultimately losing on an Alexis Rios solo home run during a classic pitcher’s duel.
For the Yankees, it was encouraging to see Jeter homer for the third consecutive game and it was nice to see Hughes get back on track with a great start against a top AL lineup. It was worrisome to see the division lead fall down to three games after the sweep as the Rays won yet again, 5-3 against the Royals.
Out of anything accomplished tonight, it should be Sale’s coming out party on national television and a 13 strikeout performance to make him a legitimate Cy Young contender. Unfortunately, the major headlines of the day had already belonged to Jeter, even before he homered yet again.
Professional hack, Skip Bayless, has been known for making baseless attacks on players, teams and anything sports related. His sole job at ESPN appears to be sacrificing his credibility to stir up trouble on ESPN’s popular show, First Take. He is a ratings’ booster because he has given up his dignity for a pay check.
With that understood, Bayless was up to his antics yet again before the Yankees’ game even started. On the heels of Bartolo Colon‘s PED suspension less than week after Melky Cabrera‘s, Bayless went on record as saying nobody could be trusted in Major League Baseball.
As a sign of evidence, he pointed to Jeter, citing his (then) 12 home runs and amazing season at the plate for a 38 year old shortstop. On the surface, it appears there could be merit to Bayless’s accusations (which, by the way, he stopped short of actually saying he thinks Jeter uses steroids, a sure sign this was said just to create chaos).
After all, Jeter at aged 37 hit just .297 with six home runs and 34 extra base hits last season. Of course, if you are even a minor baseball fan you might remember some interesting things about the first ballot Hall of Famer’s year in 2011.
For starters, he tinkered his swing in spring training, an attempt to speed up his bat. It was a complete failure as Jeter hit just .256 in April and .274 in May (which is when he started abandoning the new plan) and combined for two home runs and nine extra base hits in those months. He never looked comfortable and admitted he could not generate any power with a new leg step.
Another factor we may recall was Jeter was injured last season and did not play from June 13th until July 4th. Not only do injuries deteriorate season stats, but they can cause a hitter to struggle before and after time on the disabled list depending on if the injury lingered or not and because a hitter may be rusty upon return. Finally, as he did return there was one final factor.
The Yankees’ shortstop was attempting to become the first Yankee ever to have 3,000 hits in his career, something he admitted afterwards played with his mind as he crept closer to the milestone.
Jeter is a career .313 hitter. He hit .297 in July of 2011, followed by an August and September of .387 and .303. In other words, he ended last season red hot once his injuries and history were a thing of the past and his old swing had returned. Bayless also happened to conveniently make this (empty) accusation while Jeter is in the midst of a hot streak right now (.380 in August), meaning his .324 average may fall as he cools off.
This season Jeter is at .324 with 13 HR and 40 extra base hits in 518 at bats. He had 546 at bats all of last season.
Bayless brought Jeter’s name into a steroid (PEDs) discussion because he has six extra base hits in 28 at bats less during a completely healthy season, a season he has been able to DH more often with the absence of Jorge Posada, a season he is not chasing a career milestone and a season where he did not tinker his swing in Spring Training. The “Who’s Using?” game can be played in a lot of instances, but this is not one of them.