Sunday, August 19, 2012

Admiration for Jeter's consistent brilliance, plus musings on the Bills exhibition performances, the new Wings-Twins agreement & SU football's trip up north

One baseball story that’s been overlooked this season is the continued excellence of Derek Jeter. The marvelously consistent Yankees shortstop enters tonight’s game against the Red Sox with a league-leading 160 hits and a nifty .317 batting average.

 Not too shabby for a 38-year-old who looked like he was washed up during the first few months of the 2011 season when he was hitting more dribblers than line drives.

       Jeter currently ranks 12th on baseball’s all-time hits list with 3,248, and will crack the Top 10 with just 36 more hits, surpassing both Eddie Murray and Willie Mays.
    He has a legitimate shot at cracking the top five with an average season in 2013.
    The juicy question, of course, is if El Capitan has a shot at the Hit King, Pete Rose.
            He does, but it’s not going to be easy. As Rose told me in an interview in Cooperstown several years ago, “The last 1,000 hits of my career were 10 times harder to get than the first 3,000.”
            Jeter clearly has kept himself in impeccable shape, but Father Time eventually catches up with all of us, including elite athletes. Down the road, expect to see Jeter spend more time in the DH slot and at some point, probably after signing a contract extension in two years, he will have to switch to a position that is less demanding than shortstop. That could be a combination of third base (think Cal Ripken Jr. at the end of his career) and DH. Some have suggested a shift to left or centerfield, but I think the inevitable diminution of skills will preclude such a move at this late stage of his career.
            In the meantime, we should try to enjoy the consistent excellence of this remarkable ballplayer.
            Spectacular always gets noticed. Day-after-day excellence isn’t as sexy and often gets overlooked.
            Some observations after the Bills first two glorified exhibitions:
            Donald Jones clearly has cemented his grip on the No. 2 wide receiver spot opposite Stevie Johnson.

 T.J. Graham’s sprinter’s speed and crisper routes could give the Bills the field-stretcher they’ve been looking for since Lee Evans was in his prime.

 I believe that, unless he stinks up the joint in these last two preseason contests, Vince Young will beat out Tyler Thigpen for the backup QB job.

And, despite the fact Mario Williams doesn’t have a recorded tackle in two games, Buffalo’s D-line is going to be as good as advertised and create some havoc for opposing quarterbacks.
            I haven’t been enamored so far with the play of the linebacking corps – this unit really needs to step it up.

 And the O-line has looked a little shaky, but I remember how putrid this unit looked last exhibition season and it wound up greatly exceeding expectations.
           This week’s home exhibition vs. Pittsburgh will give us a slightly more focused look, with the starters possibly playing into the second half. But neither team will be game-planning or showing its hands, so, again, watch everything with a grain of salt.

         I think the two-year extension of the player development contract with the Minnesota Twins was the right move by the Rochester Red Wings. The Twins have put a much better ballclub on the field at Frontier Field after the worst back-to-back seasons by the Wings in nearly a century. It continues to be a good working relationship, much better than the one the Buffalo Bisons have had with the New York Mets, whom Buffalo probably will dump in favor of the Toronto Blue Jays. I also like the fact that the Wings continue to sign two-year, rather than long-term extensions. The shorter contracts help prevent the big club from taking you for granted.
           Classy move by Doug Marrone to have his Syracuse University football team spend this past week at Fort Drum, interacting with members of the U.S. Army. He, his assistants and his players no doubt learned some valuable lessons from the soldiers – lessons that should benefit them not only this football season, but throughout their lives.