- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Derek Jeter was in the eighth grade when he wrote an essay in Chris Oosterbaan's class about his dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees. When he was in the 11th grade, the personal coat of arms he created for his English literature course included an image of himself in a Yankees uniform.
The odds of a kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., becoming a shortstop in professional baseball are astronomical, of course -- and the odds of a high school baseball prospect being drafted specifically by the Yankees in 1992 were diminished by a factor of about 28.
But Jeter has never concerned himself with odds, which is part of the reason why the teenage dreamer not only realized his vision of becoming the Yankees' shortstop, but will go down as one of the greatest ever to play his position. He is not wired to be preoccupied with the seeming boundaries of history.
That is why his conversation Thursday with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was typical for him. He and Cashman talked about the setback Jeter had suffered, the crack near the spot where he fractured his ankle last fall, and about the lengthened recovery time, and Jeter closed by saying, in so many words: OK, I'll see you after the All-Star break. Jeter has never allowed any doubt to enter his tone in discussing his recovery, or what he'll be capable of when he returns. You cannot accumulate 3,304 career hits if your habit is to fret over what might go wrong.
The lessons drawn from historical precedent suggest players of his age -- Jeter will be 39 by the time he would return after the All-Star break -- almost never come back after a year of diminished playing time.
I posed this question to Kevin Hines of Elias: How many times has a player at Jeter's age missed more than half of his team's games, then come back to be a regular (defined by accumulating 400 plate appearances).
There are only seven players who have done this in the past 100 years -- and only one was a middle infielder, Luke Appling.
Most games missed by season, Derek Jeter, MLB career
2013 -- 96 (assuming Jeter returns after All-Star break)
2003 -- 43
2011 -- 31
2000 -- 13
1998 -- 13
Jeter is 324 hits away from reaching Stan Musial's 3,630 career mark, fourth-place all-time. He will need to beat the odds again for this to happen; he will have to beat the odds to be an effective player ever again.
• Brandon Crawford keeps getting better as a hitter -- he was moved to the No. 5 spot in the Giants' lineup Thursday -- and we had him on the podcast Thursday; also, agent Jamie Murphy talked about getting into the business, negotiations and client-stealing.
• I watched a lot of Matt Cain's outing against the Brewers and once again, his stuff just looked flat -- his breaking pitches looked flat, his fastball looked benign, and indeed, as Fangraphs.com shows, his velocity now is the lowest of his career.
From ESPN Stats & Info: Cain's struggles have been with his breaking ball this season. Opponents are hitting .361 in at-bats ending with Cain's breaking ball (league average is .204).
More from ESPN Stats & Info: Cain is struggling to put hitters away with his breaking pitches. This season, he has thrown 44 breaking balls with two strikes and allowed eight hits. Last season, he threw 423 breaking balls with two strikes and allowed 21 hits. He also has struggled when falling behind hitters. In at-bats when Cain throws a first-pitch ball, opposing hitters are 13-for-26 (.500 BA), including six extra-base hits.
The San Francisco starters are giving up loads of runs, writes Henry Schulman.
• Evan Gattis and Justin Upton are ridiculous right now, which is what Carroll Rogers writes, in so many words. Upton hit his ninth home run in his 15th game; it took Upton 98 games to hit nine home runs last season.
From Elias: He is the first Braves player with nine homers in his team's first 15 games.
• You can't stop the Rockies, you can only hope to contain them: They've got six straight wins at home, and they're now 11-4.
From Elias: Carlos Gonzalez is the third player in Rockies history with a streak of four straight multihit, multirun games, joining Ellis Burks (1996) and Larry Walker (2001) in that exclusive club. In the past two seasons, the only other major league player with a four-game streak of that kind is Mike Trout (June 8-11, 2012).
• The Pirates should have some different rotation options developing in the weeks ahead. Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton are in the early stages of their game rehabilitation and building their pitch counts, but they should be ready in early to mid-May. Jeff Karstens has been feeling good, but is in the early stages of a throwing program.
• The teams that have used the most defensive shifts this season, through Wednesday's games:
1. Astros -- 52
2. Cubs -- 44
3. Rays -- 38
3. Orioles -- 38
5. Pirates -- 33
6. Reds -- 33
7. Indians -- 30
8. Royals -- 26
8. Red Sox -- 26
10. Yankees -- 23
The teams that have used the fewest defensive shifts this season, through Wednesday's games:
29. Rockies -- 0
29. Twins -- 0
28. Cardinals -- 1
25. Dodgers -- 2
25. Phillies -- 2
25. Tigers -- 2
24. White Sox -- 3
23. Diamondbacks -- 4
22. Nationals -- 5
21. Padres -- 5
Dings and dents
5. The Marlins placed another shortstop on the disabled list.
Moves, deals and decisions
3. A Cubs pitcher had a strong outing.
4. The Mets' brutal road trip came to an end.
6. A talented Marlins rookie had a really bad day.
7. The Mariners battled for a great win.
Royals pitchers have been limiting damage with the home runs they've allowed.
The Indians had a terrible series.
The Twins added some tech to Target Field.
The Angels are struggling with runners in scoring position.
Two early-season experiments have not worked out for the Astros.
The Mariners are not seeing a big change with the altered dimensions.
The Phillies have fallen and they can't get up.
A Reds batboy got what he wanted.
From Elias: Adam Wainwright struck out four batters without walking anyone in his win against the Phillies, giving him totals of 28 strikeouts and still no walks in his four starts this season. In the modern era, that's the most strikeouts without a walk by any pitcher in his first four starts of the season.
The Dodgers have some DH options.
• Miguel Cabrera turned 30 on Thursday. From ESPN Stats & Information, the players who accumulated .300 BA, 300 HR and 300 doubles before their 30th birthday: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx.
• Willie Horton had neck surgery.
From Seth Walder's story:
The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens can't open the season at home because the Orioles play a game on September 5, when the season opener is scheduled to be played, and the two teams share a parking lot. While there was talk of the Orioles potentially moving their game to another time, Ryan proposed something more ridiculous -- moving it's location -- during a rant against the Baltimore baseball team.
"Well, who really cares, you've got 81 at home, maybe you could have done the right thing and given one up and then played 82 on the road and then 80 at home," he said. "I really don't think people are going to care about that game."
Perhaps Ryan didn't quite consider how substantial the loss in gate revenue, not to mention the lack of home-field advantage the Orioles would give up, in such a bizarre scenario.
"You have a chance to have the defending world champs open up the season at home where they rightfully should. That's unfortunate," the Jets coach added.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Buster Olney writes that Derek Jeter will be fighting against history in trying to come back from a major injury this late in his career.