03/24/2011 2:49 PM ET
Graziano: Showalter fuels Jeter's fire
Yankees shortstop well aware of his detractors in game
By Dan Graziano / SNY.tv
Derek Jeter hangs over the plate and sometimes theatrically leans back from inside pitches. (AP)

You just made the list, Buck Showalter.

Oh no, Derek Jeter won't say it. He'll shrug and pretend he hadn't heard and then say it doesn't bother him and it's no big deal. But you'd better believe he's aware that the Orioles manager (and, by the way, his own first big league manager, right?) just accused him of drama-queen behavior in the batter's box, and he's not about to forget it.

For all of his ultra-professional veneer, Jeter is shrewdly, keenly aware of his detractors. He knows the names of everyone who disses him, the manner in which they do it and the extent to which any criticism veers from his own belief in his own abilities. He remembers. And he holds onto it with a vise grip.

Alex Rodriguez knows the list from experience, as do Chuck Knoblauch, Willie Randolph and a certain specific number of commentators and columnists in the media. Brian Cashman and Randy Levine likely made the list this offseason, if they hadn't already, and now Showalter, who apparently told "Men's Journal" that he doesn't like the way Jeter jumps back from inside pitches, has found a place on it.

I'm setting the over/under on Jeter's 2011 batting average against the Orioles at .325 and I'll bet he hits more home runs at Camden Yards this year than he does at any other road ballpark. By the way, I'm also betting he has a much bigger year overall than most people seem to be expecting.

This is Derek Jeter. He is 37 years old and coming off his worst big league season, and it's tempting to wonder if he's done. He has not, to anyone's knowledge or suspicion, engaged in Barry Bonds-like or Roger Clemens-like chemical methods of prolonging his career, so it's reasonable to wonder if he might tail off in his late 30s. You know, the way ballplayers used to.

But this is Derek Jeter, and I don't see that happening. This is a guy who thrives on doubt and criticism. His self-confidence may not take the shape of Rodriguez's arrogance or Albert Pujols' anger, but it's there. Jeter is a guy who believes himself to be very good and believes that others should appreciate that. He has pride, and you can be guaranteed that, no matter what he says, that pride was injured by last season's poor production and the offseason smackdown the Yankees forced him to endure in contract negotiations.

There are other reasons to bet on a Jeter bounce-back. He has a hitting coach, Kevin Long, who's as good as any in the game, who believes there's a solution to every problem and it's just a matter of finding it. Long believed he had Jeter's swing fixed last September, and that the fix (which includes this spring's stance alteration) would carry into this season. Long has a track record (see Cano, Robinson) to back this up, and the Yankees pay him very well because they believe in his abilities.

Jeter also has the unique pinstriped advantage of being a Yankee -- of hitting at or near the front of the league's most fearsome lineup. He will get support, on and off the field. And he will fuel his comeback desires with that little bit or resentment toward those who have doubted him or criticized him or dared to suggest that he is not all that he once was, or that his attendant hype purports him to be.

So no, I don't think Jeter is mad at Showalter for what he said. I think he's probably grateful, if anything. Showalter, who knew Jeter when Jeter was still a kid, should have known better. All he did was give the man fuel.

Dan Graziano is a regular contributor to SNY.tv.
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