BALTIMORE -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who was Derek Jeter's first major-league manager back in 1995, has no doubt that Jeter was in the right place at the right time to make the famous "flip play" that saved the Yankees in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.
But he did have one minor gripe: Jeter should have been there sooner. Watching the game with Brian Butterfield, who served as the Yankees first-base coach during Jeter's rookie season, Showalter said neither man was surprised Jeter was able to make the play.
"Everyone's saying it's a great play, but that’s where he’s supposed to be," Showalter said. "But at the time, I remember [Butterfield] and I talked about it, and Butter said, 'He’s actually two steps tardy.'"
Showalter offered the anecdote during a press conference called specifically for him to discuss Jeter before tonight's Yankees-Orioles game at Camden Yards. He told it lightheartedly and added, "I won't tell him that until after [his retirement]."
As always, Showalter was candid and humorous with his observations -- recalling that Jeter made 56 errors in his rookie season in A ball, Showalter said, "We cut him off at 56 so that he and DiMaggio would have something in common."
And despite saying Jeter "had some development to do" after being selected sixth overall in the 1992 amateur draft, Showalter added that he noticed qualities about Jeter that would eventually serve him well over 20 major league seasons and eventually land him in Cooperstown.
"He had very alert eyes," Showalter said. "Was aware of things off-field. He was alert to things. I guarantee you he always saw the cutting guard on a fast break. He had peripheral [vision]. He always had a great clock. If the game speeds up, he could slow it down."
Jeter But Showalter admitted he would not have predicted Jeter would wind up with more hits than all but five players in the history of baseball with 3,431 knocks and counting.
"I don’t think anybody is that good at projecting," he said. "But I did know I felt like, after being around him, that he was going to be as good as he was capable of being. You were confident to know he was going to reach his potential."
What gift would he give Jeter for his retirement? "I’d get him a big picture of that home run that wasn’t a home run, we know that," Showalter said, referring to the so-called Jeffrey Maier home run from the 1996 ALCS against the Orioles. "That’s what I’d get him, a big picture and have the whole team sign it. We could do that cheap too, I guess, and make it in bronze."
But Showalter could hardly hide his affection for Jeter, although he said he would defer the accolades until after Jeter is officially out of the game.
"I try to stay away from looking at him," he said. "He knows we’re not going to do a lot of suck-face until he quits playing for the other team."
The Yankees will make one more trip to Baltimore for three games on Sept. 12, 13 and 14.