By Ben Shpigel for The New York Times: DETROIT - Derek Jeter's 100th at-bat of the season came in the eighth inning Monday night against the Tigers, in a situation that over the years had all but defined his career with the Yankees. With two outs, the score tied and the go-ahead run on third base, Jeter strode to the plate, confident as ever.
He tapped meekly back to the pitcher, ending the rally. In that, it wasn't all that much different from many of the 99 at-bats that preceded it.
Jeter, five weeks into what is shaping up to be the most closely scrutinized of his 17 seasons with the Yankees, is hitting .250 - some 60 points off his career average, and 20 points lower than his disturbingly unimpressive average of last season. He had no home runs and only two extra-base hits of any kind, both doubles. The only offensive category in which he leads the major leagues is infield hits - and, well, it isn't his speed that accounts for that.
The intensity, even obsession, with which Jeter's performance in 2011 is being followed was assured from the moment he, 36 years old and coming off his worst offensive season, was signed to a three-year, $51 million contract. Many believed his days as a truly effective hitter had passed, and that the Yankees, worried about their public image, were merely paying him as reward for his past accomplishments and sterling reputation.
Aware that Jeter's every at-bat was being dissected and debated, Joe Girardi, the manager of the Yankees, in early April asked for calm and fairness: Give Jeter 100 or 150 at-bats, Girardi said, before even thinking about drawing any conclusions.
Drawing conclusions, after 100 at-bats, or even 200, can be perilous. There are several stars, players still securely in their prime, who are off to horrible starts this season. It happens in baseball virtually every season.
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