Before Ron Washington became the Rangers manager, he first saw Derek Jeter as a young shortstop with Class-A Greensboro in 1993.
“At that time, I thought he was a third baseman, not a shortstop,” said Washington, who was managing Capital City, the Mets’ Class-A affiliate in Columbia, S.C. “The guy had the same arm, but balls used to be hit to him at shortstop and he used to go to his knee and catch it and then get up and throw it. I said, ‘That guy can’t play shortstop.’ ”
Like Jeter, Washington moved up the minor league system and saw him again two years later when Washington was at the helm of the Mets’ Triple-A team in Norfolk, Va. and Jeter was at Triple-A Columbus in 1995.
This time, Washington saw a different player.
“I wrote my report and said I was wrong at the beginning,” Washington said before the Yankees’ 4-2 win over the Rangers Thursday in The Bronx. “I said, ‘That kid can play some shortstop.’”
Washington believed Jeter was ready for the majors at that point, but admired the Yankees’ decision to let him spend a full year at Triple-A before Tony Fernandez got hurt, which jump-started Jeter’s big-league career.
But even today, with Jeter in the 20th and final season of a Hall of Fame career, Washington said some things haven’t changed.
“Even as a young kid, he had an unorthodox hitting style and he always hit,” Washington said. “And that throwing style of his and long arms he has, he never gets into anything with his legs.”
Washington said his strong arm helps make up for it, along with other things.
“He has tremendous know-how and tremendous will,” Washington said. “You can’t teach that.”
When Jeter passed Lou Gehrig to become the franchise’s all-time leader in doubles on Tuesday, Washington took notice.
“Come on man, Lou Gehrig?” Washington said. “I don’t know if anyone in the Yankee organization realized when they drafted him this is where he was going to be at the end. They made one hell of a choice.”