Moreover, Jeter sometimes caught himself guessing the type and location of the next pitch. "I'm no good when I look for pitches," he says, "because if I look for something [and it comes close to that location], I'll swing no matter what. Like if I'm looking inside, the pitch could be about to hit me and I'll still swing at it."
Before his 0-for-32 slide, Jeter had never gone more than 18 at bats without a hit. When he finally ended the slump with a leadoff home run against Barry Zito of the Oakland A's on April 29, he said after the game, "It's like a bad dream is over with." He added, "I wouldn't wish it on anybody." Not long thereafter, he fell into a 1-for-26 funk.
"[It] never really changed much," Giambi said about Jeter's demeanor, "and that's hard to do when it seems like nothing is going right. I remember in Boston he hit a couple of line drives to rightfield that would have been hits except Kevin Millar was playing a Little League rightfield. When you're going bad, guys make plays on you that they're not supposed to make."
Says Jeter, "I never lose my confidence. It doesn't mean I'm going to get hits, but I have my confidence all the time."
According to New York manager Joe Torre, two of Jeter's three hits—flared doubles—in his breakout game against Baltimore were typical slump breakers. "All of a sudden you realize you don't have to hit it on the screws to get a hit," says Torre, a lifetime .297 hitter. Jeter added three hits in each of the next two games, after which Torre observed, "He looks very confident up there now, and he's got an edge to him. His body language says, 'I know you're going to challenge me,' and he's up for it."
Says Piniella, who watched the Yankees shortstop go 5 for 15 last weekend against his Devil Rays, " Jeter can run, he hits the ball to all fields, and he can even bunt, so for a player like him to be in a prolonged slump is hard to imagine. But [it happens, and] it's humbling because you can't get away from it. It's on the talk shows, it's in the newspapers, it's on TV, and pretty soon it's larger than life. That's when I tell my guys, 'Look, your wife is still going to be there when you get home, your dog will still like you, and you'll still drive the same car. Just relax and hit the ball.' "
One AL scout says, "Slumps become worse when guys try to do too much. Boone is an example. He's trying to carry the club, and he's expanding his strike zone. He's swinging harder than I've ever seen him. He's not recognizing sliders away—he's just hacking up there. He's lost at the plate right now."
Stars such as Jeter, Delgado, Jones, Vidro, Boone and Green still have more than two thirds of the season left to approach their typical numbers. In 1941, for instance, Joe DiMaggio had been mired in one of the worst slumps of his career—a 20-game stretch over April and May in which he hit .184—when on May 15 he singled off White Sox lefthander Eddie Smith in the first inning. It was the start of his 56-game hitting streak, and he finished the year batting .357.
"People kept asking me if I was worried about Derek," Yankees G.M. Brian Cashman says. "My answer was always the same: No. Because if you look at late May every year, there are a couple of stars struggling to get out of the gate. And by the end of the year their numbers are there regardless. They've proven themselves over time, so you don't worry. It just happened to be Derek's turn this year. Next year? It'll be somebody else's turn."
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