It Was Quite a Memorable (If Not Meaningful) Series in Tampa

Three runs over three games separate Rays and Yankees

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Now that we've lived 15 years with a Wild Card in baseball, complaining about it is about as worthwhile as complaining about the fact that human beings require oxygen to live rather than some kind of mixture of vanilla extract and Jameson's.

    That said, there are moments where you can safely regret its existence. The end of this week's Yankees-Rays series is one such instance.

    Imagine how differently you'd feel about the Yankees losing two of three games and falling out of first place if there wasn't a chance for them to make the playoffs through the back door? Imagine how legendary this series would become because the three games were all decided by one run with tow of them running into extra innings? And the names Reid Brignac, Greg Golson and Dan Johnson would forever become part of the lore of both teams because they were the unlikely heroes of this taut series.

    Topping all of that would be what happened in the seventh inning of Wednesday night's game. Derek Jeter was at the plate when a pitch by Chad Qualls hit the bottom of his bat. Jeter reacted like he'd been shot by a sniper residing in center field, the umpires awarded him first base and, one batter later, the Yankees took a short-lived 3-2 lead on a Curtis Granderson home run. Rays manager Joe Maddon was ejected for pointing out that players should not be automatically awarded first base for simply having a pitch hit their bat and Jeter admitted after the game that the pitch didn't hit any part of his body.

    "He told me to go to first; I'm not going to tell him I'm not going to go first," Jeter said. "It's part of the game. I've been hit before and they said you weren't hit. It goes both ways."

    Jon Lovitz would be so proud!  

    Jeter's turn as a thespian touched off a Twitter firestorm, but had they come in a game with greater weight they'd probably be the dominant storyline of the entire sports world on Thursday morning. The most telling part of the whole thing is how Jeter's actions are being greeted with a wink, a shrug and even some grudging admiration. Had Alex Rodriguez gotten away with such chicanery, the response would be quite, quite different.

    It was just as silly a play/justifiable attempt to get on base as what Rodriguez did when he was pilloried for slapping a ball out of Bronson Arroyo's hand or yelling "Ha!" as a popup dropped toward a Blue Jays infielder. The larger narrative that's been written about each man's career defines the reaction to each man, but it's nice to realize that there's not always such a big difference.

    At any rate, this just becomes an amusing little moment from a good little baseball series that mostly wound up making us hope that the two teams meet again in the ALCS with something more significant on the line.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.