NEW YORK - Dick (The Legend) Groch was early to bed Saturday. He watched 10 innings of the Detroit Tigers-New York Yankees game, but had an early flight to catch.
Groch awoke Sunday morning to see painful images of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter being carried off the field with a broken left ankle.
“The career he’s had, it’s like he’s indestructible,” said Groch after landing in Phoenix.
Groch, the Yankees scout who signed Jeter out of Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1992, pointed out how Jeter fouled a ball off his foot against the Baltimore Orioles last week and played through the painful injury.
“Josh Hamilton misses a game with a hamstring the Texas Rangers still win, Johnny Cueto gets hurt, the Cincinnati Reds go up 2-0,” Groch said. “But Derek Jeter plays at a different level. He’s the captain. He’s the leader. The leader was wounded ... nothing is supposed to happen to him.”
Every TV station Groch looked at in his Marysville, Mich., home showed Jeter’s injury on the Jhonny Peralta 12th-inning groundball. Groch turned on his laptop to see pictures and stories of the same event.
“You have to feel awful watching whether you’re someone like me with a relationship with him, whether you are a Yankee fan or a fan in general,” Groch said. “Maybe it was only me, but watching the highlights you felt that the series was over.”
Down 0-2 in the American League Championship Series, the Yanks face Tigers ace Justin Verlander on Tuesday at Comerica Park in Game 3.
A VOICE FOR REPLAY
Omar Infante made a big turn rounding second base before scrambling back after Austin Jackson’s single in the eighth inning Sunday. Replays showed Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano tag Infante before the Tigers baserunner reached the bag. Umpire Jeff Nelson called Infante safe ... “I’m not saying it cost us the game, but there’s a big difference between pitching with a 3-0 lead and a 1-0 lead,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who saw the replay, argued with Nelson as he went out to make a pitching change and was ejected ... “Replays slow down the game? It can’t be any longer than me going out to argue and getting kicked out,” said Girardi ... Said Nelson: “The call was incorrect.” ... “You want everything to be perfect and it’s not perfect,” said Joe Torre, MLB vice-president of baseball operations. “At the All-Star Game we discussed replay. It seems we want replay to be on the last thing that happened.” ... Said Girardi: “We play 235 days to get to this point and two calls go against us. We lost by one in Game 1.” The Yanks thought Cano beat a throw to first in Game 1 that would have scored a run.
A NAME FOR 2013
Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez impressed, pitching seven shutout innings and allowing three hits. He’s a free agent the Toronto Blue Jays would love to have. They’ve scouted him, but it’s unknown whether or not the right-hander will escape the pockets of Tigers ownership. Detroit’s general manager David Dombrowksi says he wants Sanchez back if he can sign him. Sanchez is a name to keep an eye on this off-season ... Sanchez was dealt by the Boston Red Sox with Hanley Ramirez and two others to the Florida Marlins for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota in 2005. At this year’s trade deadline, he was traded with Infante to the Tigers for prospects ... Sanchez is on a one-year, $8-million deal. In 31 starts for the Marlins and Tigers, he was 9-13 with a 3.86 earned-run average, walking 48 and striking out 167 in 195 2/5 innings.
Many stadiums have a place in Jays hitting lore. At Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, George Bell hit three homers off Bret Saberhagen on opening day 1988 after a stormy spring where Toronto tried to turn the outfielder into a designated hitter; Boston’s Fenway Park is where Junior Felix hit an inside-the-park home run to centre field in 1989 and Yankee Stadium is where Ernie Whitt hit a ground-rule single in 1987. Whitt pulled a David Beckham, bending the ball inside the bag at first and into foul ground where it got lodged into a tarp. Whitt headed to second, but umpires told him they ruled he would not have made second on the play and to stay at first ... Tigers leadoff man Jackson snuck a ball inside the bag a la Whitt in Game 1 at in New York on Saturday. While the old Yankee Stadium angled gradually, the new park has a three-foot flat section facing the plate. The ball hit the wall and bounced back towards the infield as outfielder Nick Swisher gave chase. Jackson wound up with a short triple ... “They never let me show my speed,” Whitt said jokingly from Mount Pleasant, Mich., “I’ve still never seen that play since.”
Following New York’s Game 1 loss, which included a four-run Yankees rally in the ninth and Jeter’s injury, the New York Post printed the headline “Heaven 2 Hell” ... New York Daily News: “BAD BREAK! Yanks’ Jeter fractures left ankle, done for the postseason” ... Newsday: “Jeter done for year, Yanks lose ALCS Game 1” .... The New York Times: “A Jarring Reality: The Yankees Without Jeter.”
Heading into the 1992 draft, Groch was in the Yanks war room trying to sell scouting director Bill Livesey on taking Jeter sixth overall. The conversation went like this: Livesey: “Where’s this kid going to school? University of Michigan?” Groch: “No, he’s not going to Michigan.” ... Livesey: “Has he signed a letter of intent to Michigan State?” Groch: “Not going to Michigan State.” ... Livesey: “Where is he going to go?” Groch: “This kid is going to Cooperstown.”