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Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Jeter over Rollins? You really have to wonder why


The big story last night was David Wright, in a good way. But it was almost Derek Jeter, in a bad way. Robothal:

Umm, even with the dramatic victory, Jeter's defense is coming under scrutiny. Again.

Rollins is quite possibly the best defensive shortstop in the major leagues; Jeter is quite possibly the worst.

What does that mean, practically? The difference between them might fall somewhere in the range of 20-30 runs, or (roughly) less than 0.2 runs per game. That's why -- when someone asked me on the radio last week -- I said that playing Jeter instead of Rollins was highly unlikely to really hurt Team USA. If the Americans reach the final, they'll play eight games; theoretically, even if Jeter played every inning of every game, he would "cost" his team a couple of runs … and a couple of runs wouldn't be likely to change anything. And he's not playing every inning of every game.

So far, so good. Jeter's cost his team (at least) a couple of runs, but Team USA hasn't lost a game because of them. Not quite. Nor is Team USA likely to lose the championship because of Jeter. Still, you can't help but wonder -- as you might have wondered three years ago -- if decisions like this one send a fundamental message to everyone involved: Team USA isn't really trying to win.