He flexed his knees and settled into the batter’s box like a man into his garden, needing just another moment to root his right foot into the dirt. Then he pulled his left shoulder in, as if to fit into a crowded subway car, waggled his bat and awaited the pitch.
R. A. Dickey, the Toronto Blue Jay, tossed up a fat mistake of a fastball, and Derek Jeter unleashed that compact swing. The ball soared deep into the left-field stands. Jeter trotted quickly around the bases, no preening. He’d done this 259 times before.
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For a minute or so, Yankee Stadium got loud and raucous. There’s a nip to the air, which means September, which means the time of Yankees domination.
The team has truly promising young pitchers, two of whom, Shane Greene and the towering Dellin Betances, pitched Thursday night. But their lineup is a Tomb of the Ancients. All but one of the regulars have passed their 30th birthdays, at least two have wandered north of 34 and two, Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki, have passed 40 years old. (In the wings is the cryogenic Alex Rodriguez, seemingly fated to return next season at 39.)
The age-old Yankee way, which is to spend like a giddy King Midas on free agents, has failed of late.
For now, the Yankees offer endless evocations of the glorious past. It begins hours before the game, with montages of the Babe, Lou Gehrig, Joltin’ Joe, Louisiana Lightning, Mickey Mantle, Jorge Posada and so on and on. In right-center field, glowering beneath the Hess sign, is a spectral photo of a suspicious looking George M. Steinbrenner III. “THE BOSS.”
The announcer hawks a signed magazine collection: “All Our Yesterdays.”
Where is Oscar Gamble and that magnificent Afro of his? Is Roy White suiting up?
Derek Jeter has taken his place in this line of march, just as Mariano Rivera did last year. Jeter’s wrists and bat no longer spring cat-quick, and he does not pretend otherwise. After the game, a reporter informed him that he had just hit his first home run at Yankee Stadium this year. He arched a sardonic eyebrow.
“Thank you,” he told the reporter. “Thank you.”