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Tom Verducci on D&C: Derek Jeter can ‘sit back and enjoy’ last season

02.14.14 at 10:10 am ET
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Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday to discuss Derek Jeter and the upcoming baseball season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

For Verducci, Jeter’€™s decision to announce his retirement before the season started was not necessarily a selfish act.

“I think he will like the attention that’s going to come his way; I don’€™t think that’s the driving force,” Verducci said. “I think he decided two or three months ago this was going to be it and he didn’t want to deal with the questions all year long. … From Day 1 of spring training, the first slump, every city he goes to the questions are going to be there about, ‘Hey when are you retiring? €˜Is this your last year?’

“Now he can just sit back and enjoy it and not have to worry about playing defense against those kind of questions.”

Like closer Mariano Rivera, Jeter will come back for a final season after suffering a potential career-ending injury.

“I know Rivera, I’ve spoken to him multiple times about that, he probably would have retired that year he got hurt, but he was not going out with the last image of him being carted off in Kansas City,” Verducci said.

“I think there was something to Derek, too. … Especially when you’re hurt and you put in the time to rehab, you want to come back and play, you want to see something of a payoff for that work, so I do think it’s actually a double-edged sword. I think the fact that he broke down told him that the end was near and he wasn’t going beyond this year, but it also said, ‘I want to get back on the field and at least play and see what I’ve got left.’ ”

While the Yankees spent $471 million this offseason, New York is not a clear front-runner in the AL East.

“It got them in the mix is a good way to put it,” Verducci said. “It doesn’t make them a favorite. I don’t sit here today and say they’re better than Tampa or Boston, but before they signed [Masahiro Tanaka] I would not have put them in the mix at all, so I think they closed the gap in terms of being a team that can contend. … But, man, there is a ton of questions with that team, and I think you have to start with the starting rotation even with Tanaka.

“I still would take the staff of the Red Sox over the Yankees staff from 1-12. That’s why I think they’re a solid three right now — they’ve got a shot if everything goes right, but I still think they’ve got work to do.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On Jeter staying at shortstop instead of moving to third: “I don’t think that was a selfish thing. I think he truly believed that the Yankees were better with him at shortstop. He was the incumbent there and it’s always tougher to knock out the heavyweight champ, and given that he was so important to the franchise I didn’t think it was a big deal that he didn’t move. It turned out to be the right thing not to move, too.

“I can see how people put that on him. I mean we like our guys to say, ‘I’d do anything to help the team win.’ But I think in Derek’s case he thought really the best thing to do was to keep playing shortstop for the Yankees to win.”

On if the Mets will sign Stephen Drew: “I said all along, ‘Why has he not re-signed with Boston at this point?’ I think the only way the Mets could sign him is if the market came so far back the Mets could actually afford him, because they’€™re not showing any inclination to go multiple years and give like a one-year opt out. If that’€™s the case and the market isn’t as strong as he wants it to be, why doesn’t he go back to Boston? And I still think that’€™s where it’s going to end up.”

On his predictions for the upcoming season: “I haven’€™t done my picks yet — I like to see as many teams around camps in the spring first — but going in, I really like the Dodgers team, and I know everyone likes to point out there’€™s potential for trouble there with four outfielders in three spots and some of the other issues they have. I just think the way that team played in the middle of the summer when they had that incredible 50-game stretch, there’€™s a potential there for that Dodgers team to win 100 games. I would say they’re the only team in baseball I’d say that about right now.

“I said that about Washington last year, by the way, and I was dead wrong about the Nats, but I really like the depth of that Dodger team, and if Matt Kemp is really healthy we’€™re going to wake up and say, ‘Oh, yeah, this guy used to be one of the five best players in baseball.’ It’s just because he’s hurt, but if he’s healthy we’re talking about MVP candidate on a very deep roster.”

Read More: Derek Jeter, spring training 2014, Stephen Drew,
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