Derek Jeter's injury-rehab assignment to Double-A Trenton is due to begin Saturday night. He's going to do great. At least, you'd better say he's going to do great, if you want to keep writing about the Yankees.
In last weekend's New York Times Magazine, Michael Sokolove celebrated Jeter's 37th birthday by giving the Yankee captain an exhaustive account of the pitiless and irreversible process by which aging baseball players lose their ability to hit. This is late, but it's worth noting. Way down near the end, Sokolove provided a glimpse into the story behind the story, or maybe the story behind the story behind the story:
The prospect of this article did not sit well with the Yankees, or at least elements of its hierarchy. Jason Zillo, the team's media director, would not grant me access to the Yankees' clubhouse before games to do interviews. I have been a baseball beat writer, have written two baseball books and have routinely been granted clubhouse credentials for a quarter-century, as just about anyone connected to a reputable publication or broadcast outlet usually is. "We're not interested in helping you, so why should I let you in?" Zillo said, before further explaining that he views his role as a "gatekeeper" against stories the Yankees would rather not see in print.
What did the Yankees accomplish through the freezeout? Sokolove ended up going to Baltimore, where the Orioles gave him a credential to see an O's-Yankees game. Jeter gave him a brief interview — "That's all I got for you, buddy" — and then his performance did the talking:
The night I watched him in Baltimore was like most games for Jeter these days, only more so, because it went on for 15 innings. He came to bat seven times, and in six of those he hit ground balls — two of which squirted through the infield for base hits. He struck out in his other plate appearance. He leads all of baseball, by a wide margin, in his ratio of ground balls to balls lifted in the air, an arcane but telling statistic. Jeter can no longer consistently bring the bat through the hitting zone at the proper moment, and with enough authority, to hit line drives into the outfield gaps or fly balls that clear the fences.