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April 12, 2006

Derek Jeter and Clutch Homers
by Larry Mahnken

We expect Jeter to hit homers like Tuesday's game-winner because so many other times he has.
- Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports

Has he now?

Derek Jeter has now hit 171 home runs in his career, which has spanned 11 seasons. Add in the postseason and it's about 12 seasons, and his 16 postseason HRs bring his total up to 197.

So out of those nearly 200 career homers, how many would you think have tied or won the game in the seventh inning or later? Go ahead, take a guess.

Eleven. That's it. that's one a year, and just about one every twenty homers. That's not really very many, and not very often. I can think of several times Tino Martinez did it, several times Scott Brosius did it, and several times Alex Rodriguez has done it.

But if A-Rod had hit that homer yesterday, the story wouldn't have been how he's done what he's done so many times before, but how he finally came through in the clutch.

Passan writes about how polarizing Jeter is. Well, Mr. Passan, this is why: every time he does something exceptional, sportswriters act like he's the only person who could have done it, and that he's quite nearly the only person who ever has done it.

We want Jeter to be analyzed for what he is, warts and all. He's a bad defender, not a Gold Glover. He's an outstanding hitter, but he doesn't "step it up" in the clutch, or the postseason, or ever. He just keeps doing what he does in all situations, and sometimes it pays off big-time.

For the record, here are the eleven games:

July 11, 1996: 8th inning 2-run homer off Mike Mussina breaks 2-2 tie, Yankees win 4-2
October 9, 1996: 8th inning solo "homer" off Armando Benitez ties game at 4, Yankees win 5-4 in 11. (Jeffery Maier play)
July 21, 1999: 7th inning 2-run homer off Bobby Witt breaks 2-2 tie, Yankees win 4-3
August 2, 1999: 8th inning 2-run homer off David Wells breaks 1-1 tie, Yankees win 3-1
May 12, 2001: 8th inning 3-run homer off Josh Towers breaks 5-5 tie, Yankees win 8-5
October 31 (really Novemeber 1), 2001: 10th inning solo homer off Byung-Hyun Kim breaks 3-3 tie, first career walkoff homer
July 17, 2003: 7th inning 2-run homer off David Riske ties game at 4, Yankees win 5-4.
May 9, 2004: 7th inning 2-run homer off Julio Mateo ties game at 6, Yankees win 7-6
April 5, 2005: 9th inning solo homer off Keith Foulke breaks 3-3 tie, second career walkoff homer
August 11, 2005: 7th inning solo homer off James Baldwin breaks 8-8 tie, Yankees win 9-8
April 11, 2006: 8th inning 3-run homer off Ambiorix Burgos down 7-6, Yankees win 9-7, first career late homer when trailing that won the game

Yeah, you read that last part right, kids. What he did yesterday -- snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a homer is something he had NEVER DONE BEFORE.

It was a great, great, great, great accomplishment, but let's not make it sound like he does it all the time.

edited for missed game