OAKLAND -- Derek Jeter’s farewell season makes its lone stop in Oakland beginning tonight, as the Yankees arrive at the Coliseum for a three-game series. Naturally, there’s already been plenty of talk about one of the most painful plays for A’s fans in Oakland history -- Jeter’s cutoff of Shane Spencer’s overthrow and flip to the plate to get Jeremy Giambi and preserve a 1-0 Yankees win in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.
For anyone who doesn’t remember "The Flip" -- or consciously blocked it out -- here’s the summary: With the A’s down one in the seventh and Giambi on first, Terrence Long lined a ball off Mike Mussina into the right-field corner. Spencer tracked it down, but his throw in overshot both regular cutoff men -- Alfonso Soriano and Tino Martinez -- and that’s where Jeter came in.
Streaking across the infield from the shortstop position, Jeter backhanded the overthrow and made an option quarterback-type flip home to Jorge Posada, who tagged the leg of Giambi. The Yankees, down 2-0 in the series, went on to win the game 1-0 and come all the way back in the series en route to reaching the World Series.
Jeter today said the play is "one of those memories that I’ll always have (and) one play that people talk about a lot. … It was a big play at the time. I don’t necessarily know if it was a turning point (in the series). It was one win for us, but we still had to win a couple more."
Still, it has gone down as one of the iconic plays in Jeter’s surefire Hall of Fame career, up there with his dive into the stands to catch a foul ball against the Red Sox and his game-winning homer in Game 4 of that 2001 World Series that came just after the clock struck midnight the night of Oct. 31, earning him the nickname of "Mr. November."
"That’s one of those plays you’re talking about where he’s got point guard qualities," said A’s manager Bob Melvin. "He’s just in the right place at the right time. And that’s probably as (much of) being in the right place at the right time as you’re ever going to be on a baseball field."
Jeter has long maintained -- despite myriad disbelievers -- that he was in fact supposed to be trailing the play as a third cut-off option, though the flip home was improvised. New York manager Joe Girardi reiterated today that the Yankees do practice that play with the shortstop in the area. Still, Girardi -- who was not with the Yankees that season but said he has "obviously" seen the play -- said the play itself was indicative of the player.
"Obviously it was a very important play in that series and to the success of that year," said Girardi. "He’s always been a very smart player and a heads-up player and in the right spot about the right time and understands the game. Maybe some people call it his signature play that people remember the most. But to me it was just Derek being Derek."
For 13 years, of course, there has been speculation over whether Giambi might have been safe had he slid into home. Jeter’s take today: "Maybe. We’ll never know. I’m glad he didn’t."
The A’s will do something before Sunday’s afternoon game to honor Jeter. Before and after, they’ll try to beat his team, which comes in 34-31 and struggling a little to score runs. The A’s, meanwhile, are coming off a series-salvaging win in Los Angeles to keep their A.L. West lead at 3 ½ games. Here’s the A’s lineup tonight:
And the Yankees lineup against A’s right-hander Sonny Gray:
* The A’s originally had Nick Punto in the lineup at second base but scratched him. Melvin said before the move that Punto is "a little banged up," along with Eric Sogard, who fouled a ball off his foot during the road trip and is still bothered by it. So it’s Andy Parrino getting the start after being called up today to replace Alberto Callaspo, who was placed on paternity leave.
Melvin said Parrino has been "playing really well" at Triple-A Sacramento, but the move mostly gives the A’s a flexible defender, as Parrino can play three infield spots (not first) and also played some outfield in spring training. Parrino’s natural position is shortstop, and Melvin said Parrino could also get a start there this weekend if Melvin wants to give Jed Lowrie a day off or at DH.
* Josh Reddick (hyperextended right knee) ran on the field toady for the first time since landing on the disabled list and did some hitting in the cage. Melvin said that "everything feels good" for Reddick, but didn’t have an indication of what Reddick’s next step is. He said Reddick will likely eventually need a short rehab assignment before rejoining the A’s just to get back up to speed facing live pitching.
* These teams just saw each other on the A’s road trip, with Oakland taking two of three from the Yankees in New York. Gray did not pitch in that series, so the Yankees will be seeing him for the first time this season -- and in his major-league career. The righty is in a bit of a rough stretch -- in his last three starts, he’s 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA in 18 innings.