"Not since last month, when George Steinbrenner uttered those three infamous words - "the third baseman" - has such a brief response to a question sparked debate critical to the health and future of New York baseball (no, make that Western civilization).
All the loco-commotion was over Derek Jeter's perceived lack of support for poor, poor Alex Rodriguez.
The way some commentators saw it, the Yankee captain should dump on customers who pay outrageous dough to enter Yankee Stadium to boo A-Rod. Anything less from Jeter is high treason, Yankee style. Next thing you know, those Monument Park plaques will rust when the faces adorning them begin shedding tears over this sad moment in Yankees history.
Yes, all this consternation because Jeter took off his coat of vanilla Tuesday night when asked about the boo-birds currently bashing Rodriguez.
Jeter said: "It happens to everyone, man. We won the game. Come out and play tomorrow. I was getting booed, Mo was getting booed at the beginning of the season. Everybody goes through it. You've got to work your way out of it. It's not like the first time somebody's been booed. It happened to Tino (Martinez) when he came here. It happens to everyone."
Those who found fault with Jeter's words reasoned this was further evidence of a fractious relationship between the two matinee idols. What entered what's left of my mind was the reaction Jeter got last season after lending support to Jason (The Giambalco) Giambi.
Jeter was trashed by some who described him as a transparent man travelling a predictable path - a Yankee who would defend any Yankee, even a cheater like Giambi.
So, on Tuesday night, when he did something perceived to be un-captain-like, Jeter gets hit again. When you've got kvetches coming at you from both sides, it's hard to win.
Michael Kay, on his Wednesday ESPN-1050 show, took Jeter to task for not coming to Rodriguez's defense. Kay said Jeter came off as "cold."
"He didn't stand up loud and proud for his teammate," Kay said. "Jeter's job as captain is to support his team...to defend his teammates."
Kay devoted time to this particular issue, which indicated he felt it was important. But that evening, during Al Yankzeera's Indians-Yankees telecast, Kay did not put a spotlight on the Jeter "issue." Gee, what a surprise. Guess in the space of a couple of hours this Jeter thing became a non-issue.
Certainly it was big stuff for WFAN's Chris (Mad Dog) Russo, who was downright offended by Jeter's words. Was anyone surprised Russo used all the A-Rod bashing as a vehicle to trash Yankee fans? Russo, suddenly concerned with A-Rod's feelings, got major bang for his buck.
By becoming A-Rod's defense attorney, albeit an insincere one, Russo not only got to rip Yankee fans, whom he despises, but also Jeter, the most popular Yankee.
Only a week working solo, without Mike Francesa, would provide Doggie with comparable joy.
Still, it was only a matter of time before Russo would escalate his attack on Jeter, making it personal by moving into an area having nothing to do with the A-Rod situation - Jeter's role as an endorser.
"Jeter is doing too many commercials," Russo said Wednesday. "Right now, he's all over the place. Jeter is overexposed. ... He gets too much exposure."
Russo's sudden concern over Jeter's "exposure" was a feeble attempt to portray the Captain as a greedy individual. It's not like Jeter is making live appearances in these commercials. The spokesman roles have had no effect on Jeter's on-field performance. That is the bottom line.
Russo did not mention this fact. He was too busy calling Jeter a "phony" whose only concern is his image.
"He (Jeter) comes from the Tiger (Woods)/(Michael) Jordan school. The school of 'Be accessible, but don't say anything,'" Russo said. "... Don't go out there and say something to put yourself in a negative light."
What a contradiction. In this case, if Jeter was actually looking to take the path of least resistance, he either would have admonished fans for booing A-Rod or served up pablum when asked the question Tuesday night. Instead, his response opened the door for Russo, and others, to cast him as the heavy.
Apparently Jeter did not really care about playing that role. When presented with all the residual static his comment inspired, Jeter offered an appropriate response.
Originally published on June 16, 2006