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Jeter Offers No Excuses for Ongoing Slump

April 29, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) _ A bunt, a bloop or even a bad hop. At this point, Derek Jeter just needs a hit. Any hit.

One of the most clutch and consistent players in the majors, Jeter has inexplicably fallen into the worst slump of his career _ a startling 0-for-32 slide going into Thursday night, the worst skid for a Yankees player in 27 years.

Bruised hands? Tough luck? Pressure from playing next to Alex Rodriguez?

True to form, New York’s captain never offers excuses.

``Pitchers aren’t going to feel sorry for you. You’ve just got to go out and keep swinging,″ Jeter said. ``It’s a funny game sometimes.″

A big crowd at Yankee Stadium tried to will the All-Star shortstop to success Wednesday night, chanting ``Let’s Go, Jeter!″ each time he came up against Oakland.

Instead, it was another hitless effort, leaving him without a hit since a week ago Tuesday. It’s the longest skid by a position player in the big leagues since Joe McEwing went 0-for-33 in 2002 with the Mets.

``The fans have been great,″ Jeter said. ``They’ve been cheering for me going up, but afterwards they haven’t had anything to cheer about. But they’ve been outstanding.″

``I’ve been thinking all right in the box. Afterwards, sometimes you start second-guessing,″ he said.

A career .315 hitter _ and the guy with the most postseason hits in history _ Jeter had never gone more than 18 at-bats without a hit. His slump is the longest by a Yankees player since Jimmy Wynn, the ``Toy Cannon,″ went 0-for-32 in 1977.

Former Jeter teammate Robin Ventura can sympathize. Back in 1990, Ventura went through an 0-for-41 rut with the White Sox that ended with a bunt single.

``It’s very frustrating. I know, having been there,″ the Los Angeles infielder said. ``But I was a rookie. He at least knows he’s not going to get sent down.″

Yankees slugger Jason Giambi said: ``We’re just trying to stay positive for him. Everybody’s gone through it. Everybody goes through it, I don’t care who you are.″

Tampa Bay outfielder Jose Cruz sure is. He was at 0-for-30 after going hitless in the opener of Thursday’s day-night doubleheader at Boston.

When it comes to monster slumps at the plate, pitchers rule.

Pittsburgh’s Kris Benson stopped his 0-for-44 slide this year, a season after Los Angeles’ Kazuhisa Ishii ended his 0-for-45 rut.

The major league record for the longest hitless streaks in a season belongs to Bob Buhl, who went 0-for-70 in 1962 with the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Braves.

Batting leadoff, Jeter took a .161 average into Thursday night’s game against Barry Zito and the Athletics. Jeter has done well vs. the former Cy Young winner, going 7-for-16.

Oakland manager Ken Macha recalled going a poor stretch during his first year of minor league ball.

``I was 0-for-30, or something like that,″ he said. ``Man, I was having nightmares, a lot of them. The mind really plays tricks on you sometimes.″

When he came up in the eighth inning of a 5-1 win Wednesday night, Jeter had a chance to break another drought, too.

But Jeter grounded out, meaning he’d gone 4,957 at-bats in his career without a grand slam. Eric Young led that list among active major leaguers with 5,532 at-bats through Wednesday.

``We’re all pulling for him,″ Yankees right fielder Gary Sheffield said. ``Right now we’re picking him up. Next thing you know, he’s going to pick us up.″

Jeter has been working hard in batting practice, watching tape and talking with new hitting coach Don Mattingly.

``I’d probably go through four different stances during 32 at-bats,″ Mattingly said Thursday. ``I’d try to bat like (Rod) Carew and try to bat like (Carl) Yastrzemski. That’s one thing _ if I look back at myself, I probably would’ve made a lot less changes.″

Jeter has hit some balls hard lately, but he also struck out eight times with only three walks during seven straight hitless games. On Tuesday night, he tried to bunt, and the ball spun foul.

With the Yankees struggling recently, Jeter has heard some jeers at home, too.

``Even when they boo, they want to cheer,″ he said.

Naturally, Jeter’s streak has attracted a lot of attention.

Players from the Lynbrook Dodgers, a softball team of senior citizens on Long Island, sent Jeter a letter with advice.

``Do it the old fashioned way,″ wrote Harry Schwarzkopf, 73, and his teammates. ``Pick up your bat and stand in front of the mirror and swing away.″

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