Well, that was a hell of a way to kick off the playoffs and/or end an almost three decade playoff drought. I still firmly maintain that the Royals won that game in spite of Ned Yost. Between the "Billy Butler Episode" where he tried some fancy base running with two of the slowest guys in the game and throwing a very young starter into the middle of the sixth inning, the Royals ship should have been sunk. But they pulled it out somehow. Here's my scorecard for the game.
There comes a time when you have to admit that you are not a kid anymore.
Well, actually, that's not quite true. There are a series of moments that keep reminding of you of that fact. They are different for everyone. Everybody uses a different yardstick. Unsurprisingly, I tie a lot of the passage of time to sport, and last night was one of those moments.
I watched baseball before Derek Jeter broke into the big leagues in 1995. My earliest clear memory is of the Blue Jays-Phillies World Series, which was in 1993. That memory would peg me at seven years old. Which means I would have been nine when Derek Jeter made his debut with the Yankees.
Like it or not, the Yankees tend to define baseball. They demand the most attention in the nation's biggest media market,* they typically have the biggest names,** and they are just about always contenders.*** So, of course, their stars become the nation's stars, whether you can stand the Yankees or not. And that was certainly true of Derek Jeter.
*And quite possibly the biggest media market in the world, though I haven't researched that at all.
**Even if those names tend to be a bit long in the tooth.
***This is the first year in the Wild Card era that neither the Yankees or the Red Sox will be in the playoffs.
With his retirement, the debate about this defense has raged back and forth all over again, as it has his entire career. My take? He was a solid shortstop. Not the greatest, but much better than his detractors would suggest. Yes, he played with some flair, as his signature jump throw would suggest. And, yes, I would readily agree that most of that flair came about from having somewhat limited range as a shortstop. But the fact remains that he made those plays. Whether it looked as smooth (or routine, maybe) as an Omar Vizquel or somebody similar in their prime, the box score didn't change. 6-3, batter out.
I went through my Jeter-hating stage. Any confirmed Yankee hater would, especially in the late '90's when the Yankees were seemingly winning every year. But as the years have gone by, I have softened my stance on Jeter. You're not going to find me rooting for the Yankees anytime soon, but I have found nothing but respect for number two.*
*Yeah, he probably could have put a stop to all the merchandising of his retirement tour this year, and I wish he would have. But I can't blame him for it, either. It's the world we live in.
He has put in two decades of being the highest visibility player in the sport in a pretty savage media town. And what is the worst you ever heard about Jeter? That he sent his women gift baskets? Let me tell you, if that's the worst you can say about a guy, he's done pretty well. He has squeezed every last bit of opportunity and effort out of the talent he was graced with. He has approached the game with nothing but respect. He always plays hard. If he had just worn stirrups, he would be the perfect image of a baseball player.
And last night? Of course last night would end how it did. He has clearly been blessed as a ball player. Part of that comes from always playing in high profile spots, but I'll be damned if he didn't come through at the biggest times. He's not infallible, of course, but think of the stories you will tell about Jeter, especially if you have gotten to watch him from start to finish. The Flip. Mr. November. Busting his face in the stands against the Red Sox, Homering for his 3,000th hit. A bottom of the ninth walk-off hit in his final game in Yankee Stadium. You can dispute if "clutch" is really a thing or not all you want. All I know is seemingly every time a situation came up that you wouldn't dare put into a movie for being to fanciful, Jeter made it reality.
And, you know, even the way he got last night's walk-off was better than a scriptwriter would have come up with. A screenplay would want him to hit the ball over the fence to close the book. But a little inside-out slice into right field was far more in character for Jeter, as Grantland (somewhat psychically) pointed the other day. He has been a nearly-Gwynn-like machine about flipping the ball into the 3.5 hole.*
*To use a Gwynn-like term. As good as Jeter has been, though, I don't believe he is quite Tony Gwynn's level.
Baseball will miss Jeter. I will miss Jeter. As I've written here before, he is the first superstar baseball player I have gotten to watch from start to finish. And, you know, he did it the right way. Or, at least, the old fashioned way. And I have nothing but respect for him, and I have no choice but to respect his decision to call it a career at shortstop after last night. We'll get a few bonus at bats in Boston, sure. But as far as the storybook is concerned? I think we just reached The End.
Thank you, Jeter. I may not have always been your biggest fan, but you have made me into a bit of a convert.
I am briefly popping my head out of the ground for a quick update. There has been quite a bit of upheaval around Casa de Parrish recently, so my hiatus here has been a bit longer than planned.
First off, as far as scheduling is concerned, the current break should last through November. At this point, my usual break for NaNoWriMo is fast approaching, and it seems silly to get back into the habit of posting every day again just to stop a month later. So expect me back in December.
Now, as far as why things went so long. First off, the hockey book is on hiatus as well. It turns out there is next to no information on the Western Michigan Wolves and the early years of the Kalamazoo Wings on the internet, or even in the league office. This is not to say that this book will never be written, but it's going to take more digging than previously thought to make this book what it should be.
Why can't I dig as deeply or as quickly as thought? Well, that's because I'm finally free of bonds of contractual labor at Alcoa. After years of trying, I am finally a full-time Purdue employee. It has been quite a transition, but a nice one. It's kind of funny how it finally came about, so let me tell the story in full.
I've had different phone interviews with Purdue before, and countless applications sent in. I thought I had landed a job with Agriculture IT after two rounds of face-to-face interviews there which culminated in a ding letter mere hours after my father-in-law had a heart attack.* I hadn't had any serious action from Purdue since then until this summer.
*That was a banner day, let me tell you.
Back in June, I had a promising phone interview in connection with some software Purdue had developed. I would be, as I understood it, somewhere between a consultant and a support agent for this software. This phone interview led to an all-day in-person interview that ended with me giving a presentation on their software. After meeting what felt like everybody remotely connected to this software and then getting to tell the people that write, support, and "sell" this software about their own product, I was pretty fried, but confident. I made sure to stop by Harry's and treat myself to a draught Old Style after that one. I went home and expected the inevitable call to start discussing the nuts and bolts of an offer.
The next day, my phone rang. It was Purdue, but it was not the position I had just interviewed for. It was instead to come in and interview for a different position that I, frankly, did not even remember applying for.* As confident as I was I had the other job, I remembered how things went down with Ag IT the year before and quickly agreed to come in later the next afternoon. When I got there, I sat down and had a quick, breezy interview. I was probably a bit more loose in that interview than usual, thinking this was merely a back up plan.
*This is not surprising, though. Like I said, I applied to Purdue so many times for so many positions, there is no way to remember them all.
It turns out, it was a good idea to have a back up plan. The second job quickly moved into ironing out nuts and bolts of an offer, while the first job went silent. It was to the point where I hoped I would have an offer on the table from the second job before I left on vacation so I wouldn't have to worry about coming back to Alcoa. That didn't quite work out, but it was close. I had a little bit of contact with Purdue while I was on vacation just to through the fine print, so to speak, and was emailed on that Sunday we returned that I had an offer that I needed to come in and sign on Monday.
First thing Monday morning, I put in three days' notice with Alcoa. A bit short, but Purdue did want me to start quickly so I was in and somewhat trained before school started. Could I have worked a week? Oh, probably. But I hardly had three days worth of things to finish up at Alcoa,* and I certainly wasn't going to start anything new. Besides, for as much as I had put up with for practically nothing for two years, I had no qualms about taking a couple days for myself. I was a contractor for a company that had absolutely no intention of hiring me on full time, nor any intention of giving any sort of raise or better benefits, but still have practically all the responsibilities of other full time employees.
*Remember, I was coming back from a vacation, so I had nearly everything as wrapped up as possible before I left for that anyway.
So, yeah, they were lucky to get three days out of me, honestly. I left to a rather nasty email that was sent to all of Alcoa Lafayette about how I had put everybody in a bind. I struggled mightily to care.
I started the next Monday at Purdue and have now been here for a month and eleven days.* I have settled in nicely here and have opened all sorts of doors now both for myself and my immediate family. The benefits are awesome, the pay increase was substantial, tuition benefits are awfully nice not just for myself and Kristine, but for our future children as well. Everything is good with us.
*But who's counting?
Now that things have settled down for me, I feel like it's about time for me to get back into the routine of posting here again as well. And it will happen, just not yet, for what I said above. It's nice to get back to writing, especially doing it in an academic setting. I'm guessing that by the time I'm back to writing here every day, the NFL mess will have more or less settled down, but that's okay. There's always something new to write about in the world sports, right?