Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 2/28/12

Any Derek Jeter highlight reel you have seen since 2001 almost certainly has included his backhanded toss in the 2011 American League Division Series. Every baseball fan has seen the play. With the Yankees facing elimination in Game 3 against the Athletics, Jeter sprinted from the shortstop position to field a ball that had sailed over the heads of two cutoff men and down the first base line, snagged it, and flipped it on the backhand to home plate to get Jeremy Giambi out and save the game. Bobby Valentine, the new manager of Jeter’s biggest rival, did his best to downplay the moment on Tuesday.

“We’ll never practice that,” Valentine said Tuesday while the Red Sox practiced relays and cutoffs. “I think (Jeter) was out of position and the ball gets (Giambi) out if (Jeter) doesn’t touch it, personally.

 

“The Jeter-like simulation today is that idea of what’s a first baseman and third baseman do as the ball is coming in, because they have to react, willing to change the position of where the shortstop is when the ball’s coming in from right, because these guys have to react to the ball. When you see a ball in flight, you have a chance at those positions to adjust. That was amazing that (Jeter) was there. I bet it’s more amazing that he said he practiced it. I don’t believe it.”

Many disagree. The play has been lauded as heads-up baseball and amazing awareness by Jeter. Buck Showalter, who was with the Yankees when Jeter first came to the majors, insists it was a play that was practiced in spring training and Jeter only had to backhand the ball because he was a bit late to react.

Whether you think it was rehearsed or not, most people agree that if the Yankees’ captain was not there New York would not have gone to the World Series in 2001. As far as Bobby V. in concerned, the Jeter backhand contributed style points to a play that would have been made anyway.

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