Why this week matters: Cubs face tough test, MLB’s surprising slugger

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What do you need to know heading into the new week? From struggling champs to healing aces, from a surprising new power source to some considerations about the trade priorities of one of baseball’s best teams, here’s what you should be checking out in a new week’s worth of game days.

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Editor’s PicksPower Rankings: Astros on top, NL teams risingThe Astros are back at No. 1, while two of the NL’s hottest teams — the Cardinals and Dodgers — made big moves in the rankings. How high did they climb, and who else went up and down?

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Is Willson Contreras Jersey the next Yadier Molina Jersey?They’re already two of baseball’s best throwing catchers of the past 15 years. Now, let’s see if Contreras can dial up the star power as a hitter.

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Kids Joel Peralta Jersey Will the Cubs start playing like the champs? This will be an interesting week at Wrigley Field, and I don’t write that just because I have to be there. The Chicago Cubs Jersey host the Reds and Brewers in back-to-back series, two early surprise teams that currently are ahead of Chicago in the NL Central. The Cubs’ run prevention problems are worse than they superficially appear since their solid team ERA doesn’t account for their MLB-high total of unearned runs. Meanwhile, Milwaukee (second in runs) and Cincinnati (seventh) feature top-10 offenses. Can either or both of the upstarts hang with the Cubs and Cardinals for the near future? We may get a glimpse of an answer to that question this week. — Bradford Doolittle


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Power Rankings: Astros on top, NL teams rising

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After last week’s lack of turnover in the top 10, things definitely got shaken up this week — and not just because we have a new No. 1, with the Houston Astros Jersey reclaiming the top seed from the Washington Nationals Jersey. The New York Yankees Jersey took a slight step back while retaining their edge over the Baltimore Orioles Jersey in the AL East race, and the Los Angeles Dodgers Jersey made their own move into the top five with a 7-2 run.

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Editor’s PicksVote: Cubs Confidence MeterThe Cubs have fallen under .500. Do fans still feel there’s a dynasty in the works at Wrigley? Or is there an outbreak of agita on the North Side?

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Perhaps the biggest power move within this week’s reshuffle was made by the St. Louis Cardinals Jersey, with their return to the top 10 while taking over first place in the NL Central and moving past the Cubs in the Power Rankings with their weekend series win over Chicago to drop the Cubs below .500.

Game James Paxton Jersey Among the teams that made a move up in the rankings, nobody soared higher than the Toronto Blue Jays Jersey, who moved up eight slots to get back inside the top 20 with their climb back toward .500 and relevance. Not far behind them were the similarly slow-starting Texas Rangers Jersey, who moved up six slots apiece.

Kids James Paxton Jersey The biggest decline probably isn’t a surprise, as the New York Mets Jersey tumbled six slots. That caps a week packed with more drama: Matt Harvey Jersey’s suspension and subsequent shellacking by the Brewers, plus the loss of closer Jeurys Familia Jersey for at least three months after surgery to remove a blood clot from his shoulder. Stay tuned for your next dose of Mets mayhem.

This week’s voters are Bradford Doolittle, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, David Schoenfield and Mark Simon.

Week 5 rankings | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Preseason

1. Houston Astros JerseyRecord: 26-12

Week 5 ranking: No. 3

The Astros have won 11 of 14, a run of success that elevated them back atop the rankings. Their one-two punch of Dallas Keuchel Jersey and Lance McCullers Jersey Jr. has been even better than expected, as those two have combined for a 2.51 ERA and the Astros are 13-3 when one of them starts. — David Schoenfield, ESPN.com

2. Washington Nationals JerseyRecord: 24-13

Week 5 ranking: No. 1

We’ve officially reached the “run-and-hide” portion of the Nationals’ schedule because their next 18 games are against the Pirates, Braves, Mariners, Padres, Giants and Athletics, all teams currently under .500. The Nats’ next game against a team that currently has a winning record is June 5 against the Dodgers, which will be the teams’ first meeting since Clayton Kershaw Jersey came out of the bullpen to get the save in Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

3. New York Yankees JerseyRecord: 22-13

Week 5 ranking: No. 2

The Yankees hadn’t lost more than two in a row since they lost three straight April 5-8, but last week they lost three in a row again while scoring three runs or fewer in each of those games. They didn’t have more than seven hits in any of those losses after going six straight with at least 10 hits (all wins). Sunday’s 11-hit, 11-run explosion to win the first game of their doubleheader was getting back to business as usual. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

4. Los Angeles Dodgers JerseyRecord: 22-16

Week 5 ranking: No. 7

In winning seven of their past nine, the Dodgers have basically relied on pitching and Cody Bellinger’s power (five of the team’s 12 home runs). The Dodgers rank this high before Corey Seager Jersey or Yasiel Puig Jersey have gotten hot — though both homered Sunday — or Rich Hill Jersey has gotten healthy. Although the rotation should be reshuffled with Hill due back from the DL, Alex Wood Jersey might be tough to take out after he whiffed 29 batters in 16 innings across three turns. — Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

5. Baltimore Orioles JerseyRecord: 22-14

Week 5 ranking: No. 5

Dylan Bundy Jersey has a 2.26 ERA, which puts him among the AL’s top 10 and best on the Orioles. The No. 4 overall pick of the 2011 draft appears to have finally figured it out, posting a better ERA this season than either of the players taken before him that year who are currently in the majors; Gerrit Cole Jersey (No. 1, Pirates) has a 3.06 ERA and Trevor Bauer Jersey (No. 3, Diamondbacks) has a 6.92 ERA for the Indians. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

6. St. Louis Cardinals JerseyRecord: 21-15

Week 5 ranking: No. 12

After starting the season 3-9, the Cardinals have been the best team in baseball, and it has mostly been because of their pitching. Mike Leake Jersey continues to lead the way for the rotation, and Lance Lynn Jersey looks like his old self after missing all of last season with Tommy John surgery. Dexter Fowler Jersey has shaken off his slow start to get things started at the top of the order. And despite a low batting average, Matt Carpenter Jersey has been getting on base and slugging at career-high rates. — John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Info

7. Chicago Cubs JerseyRecord: 18-19

Week 5 ranking: 4

The Cubs dropped below .500 after a frustrating 2-4 week that started with a loss in an 18-inning game Sunday night and including playing a doubleheader in Colorado two days later. Joe Maddon noted his team’s sleep deprivation, sounded off after the slide rule cost his club a run Saturday and derided the game’s safety rules on Sunday. — Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

8. Boston Red Sox JerseyRecord: 19-18

Week 5 ranking: No. 10

With 12 strikeouts in seven innings against the Rays on Saturday, Chris Sale Jersey has 10-plus K’s in seven straight starts and is one start from tying the major league record held by both Pedro Martinez … and Chris Sale Jersey (he did it in 2015). Sale has fanned 38.8 percent of the batters he has faced, which would be a record; Pedro fanned 37.5 percent of his batters in 1999. — David Schoenfield, ESPN.com

9. Colorado Rockies JerseyRecord: 24-15

Week 5 ranking: No. 8

After getting a weekend split from four games with the Dodgers, what’s a team gotta do to get some respect? Winning at Coors Field wasn’t what hampered past Rockies contenders; road woes did, and this year’s Rockies are off to an 11-5 start outside Denver. If the Rockies romp during their season-high 10-game road trip that starts Tuesday, the Dodgers should worry. One thing they hope to find on the road? Carlos Gonzalez Jersey’s bat — CarGo is homerless with a .535 OPS in May. — Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

10. Cleveland Indians JerseyRecord: 19-17

Week 5 ranking: No. 6

The Indians’ mediocre start enters another week. Edwin Encarnacion Jersey has been in a season-long slump and needs to start hitting if he’s going to play as big a role as expected in Cleveland’s bid to contend. But a bigger concern might be the starting pitching; the Indians’ touted rotation ranks last in the league in ERA after ranking second in the AL last season. — Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

11. Arizona Diamondbacks JerseyRecord: 21-18

Week 5 ranking: No. 9

Although Chase Field slightly mutes their excellent pitching performance, the D-backs’ staff ranks among MLB’s best in strikeout rate and ERA+. So why aren’t the D-backs doing better in the standings? A big problem is that the offense hasn’t been strong since busting out double-digit scores four times in their first 14 games and has dropped to just 22nd in runs per game since. You can bet that the plan to add a humidor at home to keep balls in the yard won’t turn that around. — Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

12. Minnesota Twins JerseyRecord: 19-15

Week 5 ranking: No. 15

The Twins are still in first place and have already spent more time there than they did in the previous three seasons combined. Jose Berrios started 2017 looking far readier to deliver on the potential that made him a first-round pick in the 2012 draft. His season debut Saturday was the best start of his young career, 7? innings of two-hit, one-run ball. He never lasted more than six innings in an MLB game last season and posted an 8.02 ERA. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

13. Cincinnati Reds JerseyRecord: 19-18

Week 5 ranking: No. 17

Joey Votto Jersey continues to swing a hot bat. The notorious slow starter owns the best walk-to-strikeout ratio in the NL (25 walks to 19 K’s) and has a hit in 16 of his past 18 games. After their surprising start, the Reds’ relevance in the NL Central race is about to get a big test: seven of Cincinnati’s next 10 games come against last season’s World Series teams, the Cubs and Indians. — Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

14. Milwaukee Brewers JerseyRecord: 21-17

Week 5 ranking: No. 20

The Brewers know their strength, and that’s pounding the ball on offense. They lead the league in homers and are second in runs, and that’s with Eric Thames predictably cooling off a little bit. Keon Broxton Jersey and Travis Shaw Jersey have been on fire, and Matt Garza Jersey has given the rotation a boost since he came off the DL. Chase Anderson Jersey continues to pitch well, allowing two or fewer earned runs in five of his seven starts. — John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Info

15. Texas Rangers JerseyRecord: 19-20

Week 5 ranking: No. 21

Despite everything that has gone wrong — Sam Dyson Jersey, no Adrian Beltre Jersey, Rougned Odor Jersey ‘s .252 OBP, Mike Napoli Jersey ‘s .225 OBP — the Rangers are back to one game under .500. Where would they be without Joey Gallo Jersey? He’s going for maybe the best sub-.200 season ever, as he is batting .195 but slugging .537 and on pace for 50 home runs and 112 RBIs. — David Schoenfield, ESPN.com

16. Detroit Tigers JerseyRecord: 18-18

Week 5 ranking: No. 11

Some things are turning around for the Tigers. They might have a new closer in Justin Wilson Jersey after he struck out the side in his first save chance since he took over the role. J.D. Martinez Jersey is back from a foot injury and seems to have not missed a beat. The Tigers are back home all week after a 5-4 West Coast road trip, which could set them up for a good run. — Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

17. Tampa Bay Rays JerseyRecord: 19-21

Week 5 ranking: No. 13

Given the pitching they went up against this week, it’s not surprising that the Rays dropped below .500. They ran into the pitcher with arguably the best changeup going (Jason Vargas Jersey), the now super-nasty curveball of Nathan Karns Jersey and the all-around dynamic assortment from Chris Sale Jersey. Meanwhile, the Rays have a pitching problem to figure out: how to get Blake Snell Jersey right. He was demoted to Triple-A with a 4.71 ERA. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

18. Toronto Blue Jays JerseyRecord: 17-21

Week 5 ranking: No. 26

The Jays finally got the strong week they needed to rebound from their slow start by winning seven of eight games. As their fortunes have rebounded, so have Jose Bautista Jersey’s. After he hit just two home runs in his first 33 games this season, he has hit three in his past five games, boosting his OPS from .553 to .641. He had a 16 percent hard-hit rate in those first 33 games and has a 31 percent mark in his past five. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

19. Seattle Mariners JerseyRecord: 17-21

Week 5 ranking: No. 18

For a brief moment, there was hope that the Mariners could overcome all the injuries, as they were 17-17 on Wednesday after winning six of seven, but four straight losses in Toronto sent the season spiraling downward — with four-fifths of the projected rotation now on the DL. Even the replacements are getting hurt, as Ryan Weber Jersey injured his biceps in his first start. — David Schoenfield, ESPN.com

20. New York Mets JerseyRecord: 16-20

Week 5 ranking: No. 14

The Mets filled out their “Make Baseball Unfun Again” bingo card on Saturday night in Milwaukee, with a runner getting picked off second base for the second straight day, a fielder making two errors on one play, a walk to the opposing pitcher and a starting pitcher who averaged more than 20 pitches per inning. Combine that and their injury woes (to their best hitter, pitcher and closer), and the Mets are much closer to being a bad team than a good one. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

21. Los Angeles Angels JerseyRecord: 19-21

Week 5 ranking: No. 16

Angels fans breathed a collective sigh of a relief with the news that Mike Trout Jersey would not need a DL stint for his hamstring. He hit his 10th homer on Saturday, and it was the fastest he has reached that mark in his career (33 games). Albert Pujols Jersey continues to inch closer to the 600-homer plateau (he’s at 596 and counting), seeking to become the ninth player to reach the mark. — Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

22. Chicago White Sox JerseyRecord: 17-18

Week 5 ranking: No. 19

The White Sox suffered a six-game losing streak last week behind abysmal starting pitching, getting a 6.82 ERA from their rotation over that span. Should they continue to slide, expect Jose Quintana Jersey trade talks to ramp up again. The 28-year-old lefty is under a team-friendly contract that with two club options runs through 2020, which adds to his value. — Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

23. Oakland Athletics JerseyRecord: 16-21

Week 5 ranking: No. 28

Yonder Alonso Jersey’s hot start continued this week, and it seems legit. He’s among the AL leaders in hard-hit percentage, and he has made some real changes to his swing. More than 50 percent of his balls in play this year have been hit in the air; that’s after he had a 30 percent fly ball percentage last year. He could be a major trade chip for the A’s come July. — Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

24. Philadelphia Phillies JerseyRecord: 14-21

Week 5 ranking: No. 24

The Phillies’ schedule got tougher in the past two-plus weeks and they haven’t been able to keep up. Their bullpen continues to struggle, and their rotation has been awful. But there are some bright spots in the lineup. Aaron Altherr Jersey has been great since he was pressed into regular duty, and Cesar Hernandez Jersey continues to be one of the best hitting second basemen in baseball. — John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information

25. Miami Marlins JerseyRecord: 14-22

Week 5 ranking: No. 23

The Marlins might have done what they needed to get the most out of Jose Urena Jersey, who has made two good starts since he was plugged into the starting rotation due to injury issues. But is this something that can last? There’s reason to be skeptical. Urena’s ERA is 1.98, but his FIP is 4.28. His changeup has gotten a lot of outs, but batters’ miss rate on it has dipped from 33 percent last season to 14 percent in 2017. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

26. San Francisco Giants JerseyRecord: 15-24

Week 5 ranking: No. 25

The Giants won three consecutive games for the first time this season by taking their past three games — including that 17-inning marathon Friday night — against the Reds. According to Elias, Buster Posey Jersey’s walk-off home run to win that game was the latest by inning in franchise history. It was also the longest game by innings in MLB history in which the winning team had both leadoff and walk-off home runs. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

27. Pittsburgh Pirates JerseyRecord: 16-22

Week 5 ranking: No. 22

After briefly showing signs of life, the Pirates’ offense has returned to anemic levels. Only one team has fewer home runs this season. Andrew McCutchen Jersey is a major culprit, as he has come off the worst season of his career with an even slower start. Jameson Taillon Jersey’s injury will hurt; along with Gerrit Cole Jersey and Ivan Nova Jersey, the Pirates had a very nice top three in the rotation before Taillon went down. — John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Info

28. Kansas City Royals JerseyRecord: 16-21

Week 5 ranking: No. 29

The Royals capped a big week with a series sweep of the Orioles — all three one-run wins. They can thank their surging offense led by Eric Hosmer Jersey, Salvador Perez Jersey and Lorenzo Cain Jersey. On the pitching side of the ledger, Jason Vargas Jersey still leads the majors in ERA. But despite all of that good news, the early hole the Royals dug for themselves might be too big to climb out of. — Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

29. Atlanta Braves JerseyRecord: 13-21

Week 5 ranking: No. 27

At age 31, Tyler Flowers Jersey is looking like an all-around catcher, not just a one-dimensional one. He’s hitting .353 with a .470 on-base percentage. Flowers also has (maybe) improved upon his biggest issue: an inability to prevent stolen bases. He has thrown out three of 14 base stealers in 2017 after throwing out a woeful 2-for-62 in 2016. His pitch framing is still good; Flowers rates behind only Martin Maldonado Jersey for best in the majors in earning extra called strikes so far. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

30. San Diego Padres JerseyRecord: 14-25

Week 5 ranking: No. 30

The Padres’ implosion is picking up speed, with their current 2-9 tumble capped by Sunday’s eight-run eighth inning to blow a save against the White Sox. With just one series against a below-.500 team in their next seven, the bad news isn’t about to stop. But GM A.J. Preller’s goal of accumulating talent got a boost with the trade for Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur Jersey, and the former prospect finally gets a chance to play regularly. — Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

Derek Jeter sets gold standard for Yankees’ Baby Bombers

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NEW YORK — There it was, the final halo over Derek Jeter’s perfect playing career. On Saturday in the Bronx, it rained all day and night. On Sunday, there were off-and-on showers.

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By the time, Derek Jeter’s No. 2 retirement ceremony began, the sky was perfect, and the sunlight shone through as Jeter took the field with his pregnant model wife, his loving parents, his sister, his nephew and his grandma, who turned him into a Yankee fan as a child.

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This was it for Jeter in the Bronx, and, after it all, you had to wonder: How could it have gone any better? Not just the Mother’s Day celebration — with Jeter nailing his thank-you speech — but the entirety of his pro career, beginning with his slipping to the No. 6 pick and the Yankees in the 1992 draft.

Game Vidal Nuno Jersey That is why Jeter is a blessing and a curse for the Yankees’ next generation, the Baby Bombers. Jeter left behind a dedication to winning that has been imprinted on these young Yankees. You can hear it in their quotes and how they go about their work. There is a Jeter standard, which is also a curse.

Kids Vidal Nuno Jersey No doubt, ballyhooed catcher Gary Sanchez Jersey and his fellow Baby Bombers will be facing pressure in the coming years to live up to the standards of Yankees icon Derek Jeter. Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsThey have to live up to the five championships and the clutch reputation. You can already imagine the future playoff failure laments, “Jeter would have come through.”

In hindsight, we usually remember the great moments and forget the not-so-great ones of icons. There is an idea that Jeter never didn’t come through in the clutch, even though, because of the nature of baseball, he failed more times than he succeeded. That is not to take away from his greatness, but merely to state a fact. Still, Jeter’s legacy will hang over all prospects, such as shortstop Gleyber Torres, for eternity.

Torres is considered one of the future stars of the game. He seemingly has it all both on and off the field. Even if he goes on to have a career like Torres’ idol, Omar Vizquel, it will fall short of Jeter’s. Torres would not only have to be great, he’d have to have the right teammates surrounding him to experience magic moments in October.

Not to mention how difficult it is to succeed for so long. Jeter’s first and favorite manager, Joe Torre, talked about how those Jeter dynasty teams always entered February looking to win it all again, even after another parade in October. They never sat around and reveled in their success; it was on to the next one. Jeter, as the captain, led that charge.

So many things have to go right for a career like Jeter’s to coalesce. Jeter couldn’t do it alone. He needed his Core Four buddies (Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte) and Bernie Williams, not to mention the yearly big-time free agents brought in by the club. Pettitte said those additions always pumped life into the new year.

The Baby Bombers could have that luxury, as well, because the Yankees have so much money coming off the books, and the free-agent class of Bryce Harper Jersey and Manny Machado Jersey is just two winters away.

But, even on Jeter’s day, you can see how difficult that five-championship run was to produce. The morning started with the Yankees’ placing Aroldis Chapman Jersey on the DL with left shoulder inflammation. The five-year, $85 million closer is expected to miss a month, but the shoulder is the most sensitive body part of a hard thrower, so it is ominous.

By the night, after an 11-6 win over the Astros, the Yankees were wondering about Masahiro Tanaka Jersey. Tanaka lasted just 1 2/3 innings after allowing eight runs, including four homers, in a 10-7 defeat. Over the next five years — even with the fact that they both have opt-outs — Tanaka at the beginning of games and Chapman at the end likely need to be quality players if the Yankees are going to be special.

That is why when you saw the Core Four and Bernie honoring Jeter, all a little grayer or a little balder, you once again realize how lucky Jeter was to have them and they were to have Jeter. They didn’t win every year, but they won more than any set of players of their generation.

For that group, the clouds parted, the sun peaked through. It was perfection. It is hard to repeat.

The Derek Jeter interview: How he became No. 2

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Derek Jeter’s No. 2 will be retired by the New York Yankees Jersey on Sunday. But first, he sat down with Baseball Tonight’s Karl Ravech to discuss being drafted by his favorite team, adjusting to being a professional athlete and the lessons he wants to pass on to his child.

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Watch the full interview on WatchESPN.

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Jeter: I was, you know, as far back as I can remember, I was a Yankee fan. My mom’s got thirteen brothers and sisters, and every summer I’d spend at my grandparents’ house in New Jersey. My grandmother was a huge Yankee fan. So, I would sit up at night with her and watch the games. And that’s where the love affair came about with the Yankees. And I guess the first thing I can remember is playing on a little league team, and we were the Tigers.

Game Mike Montgomery Jersey Ravech: The Tigers?

Kids Mike Montgomery Jersey Jeter: And I couldn’t have been more disappointed. And I can’t tell you anything else about that season, but I was playing for the Tigers.

Ravech: Was there a Yankees team in that league?

Jeter: No, there wasn’t, which eased the mind a little bit.

Derek Jeter said his biggest fear is being unprepared. Joe Faraoni/ESPN ImagesRavech: What do you remember about watching the Yankees then? Who were the big guys? What did you like about it?

Jeter: Obviously, the pinstripes stood out first and foremost. I think when you’re young, it’s a visual love affair. And it was [Dave] Winfield. Big Dave was my guy, you know. I thought he was larger than life. But, you know, those were the years — Donny [Don Mattingly], you know, Willie Randolph. We used to watch all the highlights. So, I tried to learn as much as I could about the past Yankee teams, and I just couldn’t think of a better organization to play for.

Ravech: When you say Winfield, was it his physical size? I mean, you’re a little guy. He’s a giant. But was it the way he played, the way he carried himself?

Jeter: Well, back up, I’m a little guy, you said?

Ravech: I mean, when you were watching him.

Jeter: I think so, you know, it’s — and the more I learned about him, you know, you see he’s drafted in all three sports. He was just the ultimate athlete and, you know, to this day, he’s just the only athlete to be drafted in all three. So, yeah, I think his size stood out first and foremost. And he was big. He was big on the Yankees.

Ravech: He was. When you said you always loved the Yankees and you watched Winfield, was that when you think the seed was planted or did you, at that age — what are you at that age?

Jeter: I mean, I was 4 or 5.

Ravech: So, you’re not thinking, I’m going to be a baseball player, are you?

Jeter: As long as I can remember, that’s the only thing I’ve wanted to do.

Ravech: Really?

Jeter: So, you know, someone asked me an interesting question one time when I was playing, they said, what’s your first memory? And they say that your first memories usually come about when you’re 4 to 5 years old. Mine was when my younger sister was born. It’s the first thing I can remember. But as far back as I can remember, in terms of baseball, is I wanted to be a Yankee.

Ravech: Did you ever have any roadblocks at that age where you said, oh my gosh, that guy is better than I am. This isn’t going to happen. Was there ever any of those things?

Derek Jeter NightThe Yankees will retire Derek Jeter’s number Sunday. Here’s more information on the team’s tribute to No. 2.

Watch: ESPN

Time: Coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET. The game is slated for 7:30.

Read more:

? The moments that define Derek Jeter

? Jeter’s No. 2 is MLB’s No. 23

Jeter: Well, you know, sports is a little bit different nowadays than it was. You know, I never wanted to be that guy that said, “Well, you know, back when I played it was different,” but back when I played, you know, when you’re young, I played almost 12 games a year until I was in high school. I mean, you play all different sports. More importantly, you played it outside. So, you know, [when I say] outside, I mean, unorganized. I was just out there with friends. But, yeah, you have your dreams and your aspirations and your goals and, you know, you hear people laugh at you and tell you to put real things, real thoughts in your head. And no one from Kalamazoo, Michigan, is going to be able to play for the New York Yankees Jersey, but I used that as motivation.

Ravech: Who encouraged you at that point to continue, or was it just you in your bedroom at night, eyes open looking up at the ceiling saying, “Yup, I’m going to do this?”

Jeter: My parents. You know, my parents were very supportive. You know, they’re big on, you can accomplish anything if you set your mind to it, and you work harder than everyone else. So, that’s a good feeling when you come home and you have the people that are closest to you telling you that you can accomplish this goal. But they wouldn’t allow me to ever make excuses. And, you know, I couldn’t use, you know, coming from Kalamazoo, a small town, I couldn’t use that as an excuse. You know, you’re playing people in Kalamazoo in the small little league, and they tell you, “Well, there’s people better in Florida and California, yet they continue to work.” But when you have that reinforcement at home, I think it goes a long way.

Derek Jeter said his name was in the program once as No. 17, but he quickly asked for it to be fixed. Joe Faraoni/ESPN ImagesRavech: Your dad is a substance-abuse counselor. Your mom is an accountant. Did their careers in any way, do you think, assist in, “Hey, we’re raising a great son, but a baseball player? We don’t have that necessarily as our dreams, and yet this is our son’s dream.” How did those things that they had in their paths help you?

Jeter: In their mind, you know, I don’t want to speak for them, but they never looked at it as they were raising a baseball player. I think they were trying to raise good people, me and my sister, as well. And, you know, they always told me, you can do anything you want to do. We’re going to be supportive as long as you work at it. And if we see that you’re not working at it, we’re going to tell you you need to pick another career path. But I worked hard at it, and they were there for me.

Ravech: The contract that everybody seems to know about between you and your parents, did you actually sign it?

Jeter: The first contract I’ve ever signed was with my parents, and they used to, before every school year, they’d map out, you know, what our grades had to be in order to play sports, our after-school programs, respect. They taught us accountability, responsibility and curfews. And, you know, I never really tried to argue with the contract, with the exception of the curfews I tried to change. But, I think, you know, it taught us to stay grounded. It taught us, you know, you need to set goals and work hard at them and, you know, at the time you don’t really understand it, but looking back on it, you realize that it really built the framework for success.

Ravech: Did you ever violate the contract other than maybe a curfew thing here and there?

Jeter: I was so, you know, I was so afraid of disappointing my parents, and to this day, it’s something that’s in the back of my mind. It sounds strange saying it because I’m 42 years old, but you know, every time I do something I try to think, what would my parents, how would they react to it? So, I guess I was ruled by fear when I was younger.

Ravech: You’re always a son. That doesn’t change.

Jeter: Exactly.

Ravech: Are there lessons beyond the accountability that you will recite when you become a dad — and I don’t want to get to that part yet — but are there things that they planted in there that you made sure you used as you’re growing up and as you become a parent?

Jeter: Yeah, I mean, I’m sure I’ll try to do as many things as I can remember that they did, you know, when we were growing up, but, you know, I don’t know, man. I’ve always prided myself on being prepared, you know. If I’m playing a game, I want to make sure I know in this particular situation what I’m going to do. And you’re talking about being a parent. I have — there’s no preparation. I think you just sort of fall into it. So, I hope I do a good job.

Ravech: I can share some advice if you want.

Jeter: I appreciate that. Worst-case scenario, I’ll just drop him off at my parent’s house.

Ravech: Let them deal with it, because they did such a good job the first time. That’s part of the Derek Jeter thing, is preparation. And yet, you go through these ages and stages and somehow you get to play for the team that you dreamed about when you were young. How does that happen?

Jeter: A lot of good fortune, I mean, to say the least. You know, you get to the draft, it’s a crap shoot. You know, I never even thought I would have the opportunity, like, for the Yankees. I thought I was going for another team. But everything aligns. The stars aligned, I guess, but a lot of luck. I think you have to work hard, obviously. You have to. But more importantly, you need to be in the right place at the right time, and everything seemed to work out. And then, on top of that, you know, back in the day, the Yankees were known for trading their prospects. And, you know, Bernie Williams was the first one that came up and did a great job, and he sort of set the tone for the rest of us. And we got our opportunity.

Ravech: Well, some of the great stories from baseball players that I’ve talked to is that draft day and where you were and who you were with and how it happened. So, how did that day unfold, and the call? How did you find out?

Jeter: Well, once again, I’ll go with this back, in the day, you know, there was no call waiting. There was no — and this was not televised. You’d sit around and wait for a phone call. And, you know, I told all the family and friends — I told them don’t call me because I’m going to keep the phone lines open. And, you know, I was supposed to be drafted first or fifth is what they had projected, and I got a phone call from a local newspaper and they said, have you heard anything, because the first five picks have been announced, and my heart just dropped. I hung up the phone, went to the bathroom, and the phone rang, and my mom answered it. And then, she was sort of in shock. I could see it in her face. And she said, “The Yankees are on the phone.”

“I hung up the phone, went to the bathroom, and the phone rang, and my mom answered it. And then, she was sort of in shock. I could see it in her face. And she said, ‘The Yankees are on the phone.'”

Derek Jeter on finding out the Yankees drafted himRavech: You were in the bathroom?

Jeter: I was in the bathroom, yes. I’m not going to tell you what I was doing, but …

Ravech: I was just going to say, were you crying? Were you emotional because the first five?

Jeter: I needed a moment to myself because I thought, I didn’t know what was going on.

Ravech: That must have been a little unsettling.

Jeter: Very unsettling. It’s one of those things that obviously you have no control over it. But yeah, I didn’t know what was going on, and I was — went from disappointment to the ultimate feeling of …

Ravech: Do you remember the look on her face? You came out of the bathroom …

Jeter: And she said, the Yankees are on the phone. And to be quite honest with you, I didn’t even know the Yankees picked sixth because everyone said first or fifth. And, you know, it’s one of those feelings you’ll never forget.

Ravech: Do you have chills now, like, literally thinking about that phone call?

Jeter: I do. I do, because that’s the beginning of it all, you know. I could have been drafted by any other team, and you like to think in your mind you’d have a successful career, but, you know, I just couldn’t imagine playing for another organization.

Ravech: There’s a great deal of structure and preparation and confidence you have. At that stage, you’re beginning this baseball career as a professional. Did you always believe that you would end up at the major league level?

Jeter: No. I always, in the back of my mind, I did. When I first signed, you know, I was drafted when I was 17. I had signed the day after my 18th birthday and never really been away from home with the exception of family trips to my grandparent’s house and had never really struggled when it comes to playing baseball. And now you’re playing against the best players in the world, you know, not just in the United States. And I went to rookie ball and I struggled. And it was, it was rough. And, you know, everyone has a roommate. I didn’t have a roommate at the beginning because I signed late. I’m by myself struggling for the first time, calling home, crying, saying I should have gone to school. Can I give the money back and start all over? But my parents were there. And it’s really sad to say it, because I was there for two weeks, my parents came down. Two weeks later, they came down again, and two weeks after that, the season was over. So, I really wasn’t gone for a long time, but it’s, you know, dealing with struggle and dealing with failure, it’s all the first time. … I mean, you have a lot of confidence and you’ve always had success, and now you’re struggling. So, it was difficult to deal with.

Ravech: How about the moment when you realized, all right, my parents have helped me, but actually, I just did it on the field? Was there a moment when you were like, yup, this is the right choice?

Jeter: You know what, the following year in 1993, I went to major league spring training. The only reason I got an invitation is because it was in my contract when I signed, and I got a chance to go for two weeks. And I saw the players there and, obviously, you know, they were better and more consistent, but they weren’t hitting the ball 300 feet further and throwing 100 miles an hour faster. They weren’t running faster or throwing harder. So, when I saw that I said to myself, “You know, I can do this. You know, it’s just a matter of being more consistent.” So, I think that sort of triggered something in my mind.

Derek Jeter said he was always a Yankees fan because of his grandmother. Joe Faraoni/ESPN ImagesRavech: Early on, the biggest influence to help sort of get you to the next step, and then the next step — who was the person or people baseballwise, not your folks?

Jeter: Baseballwise, man, there was Gary Denbo, my first manager, and now he runs the Yankee minor league system, and he was sort of with me along the whole journey. He was my first manager in rookie ball. He was the coach in A-ball, Double-A and Triple-A, and I worked with him every offseason, pretty much every offseason my entire career. And, you know, he’s someone that’s been around from day one.

Ravech: You remember the first game wearing pinstripes?

Jeter: The first game I went to, I didn’t play, because I sort of got there late, and I went there and just watched. And the first game I played was a doubleheader. I was 0-for-8, I think, with seven strikeouts. I had a few errors. And I felt like crying between games. If I could have gone into a bathroom, and this is rookie ball, there’s no real privacy there. You’re out in the open. If I could have, I would have — I would have broke down.

Ravech: You seem to have opened a little door. Do you use the bathroom to cry?

Jeter: It seems to be the common theme here, right?

Ravech: I know Buck Showalter really well, and the story sort of goes, when he was asked what number you should have, 55, 61, he said, “Nope, he should have No. 2 because he’s going to be great.”

Jeter: Well, I appreciate it if that’s what happened. You know, I was just always under the impression it was the smallest uniform. You know, Mike Gallego had it before me and, you know, when I came up, I was pretty thin and small. So, I just thought they gave me the smallest uniform.

Ravech: Two is a small uniform. Ten is a big uniform. Winfield was what, 31?

Jeter: Winfield is 31, yeah. So, I thought as the numbers get a little higher, the uniform size increases.

Ravech: At what point do you think you understood the significance of a single digit, given Yankee Stadium and the monuments and the plaques?

Jeter: You know, I was well-versed on the Yankee history, but I never thought about it when I got the No. 2. My dad won on the 13 in college, and, you know, I always tried to get 13 as much as I could. Jim Leyritz had it when I came up, and the following spring training they actually changed my number to 17, because they thought I just didn’t want No. 2. And I went back and I said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You know, I do want No. 2.” So, I think if you go back to the program in 1997 spring training. I was listed at No. 17.

Ravech: Really?

Jeter: Yeah.

Ravech: So, you had 2. They put 17.

Jeter: I got 2 back.

Ravech: Did you look at [it] and be like, “No, no, no?”

Jeter: Well, I told them before I got there. I saw it somewhere that I was 17, and I said, “No, no, no, I’m going to stick with No. 2.”

Ravech: Any pushback on that from them?

Jeter: No, no pushback at all. Nick Priore was our old clubhouse tenant, so I had no problems with it.

Ravech: That’s amazing. You were No. 17 for a while.

Jeter: Never wore it. Never wore No. 17, but it was listed in the program, yeah.

Ravech: Now we’re on the journey. Can you piece together what you think were the most important ingredients for you and the Yankees’ success now that we’re on the team? We’re wearing 2. We’re playing every day.

Jeter: For me it was a great support group. You know, I came into a great situation, and we had a lot of veteran players. We had a few young guys that came up. We had a perfect mix and, you know, they all took me under their wings. You know, they never made me feel as though I was a rookie.

Ravech: Who is they? Who made you most comfortable?

Jeter: Oh, I mean, there was everyone. Tino Martinez, Gerald Williams, you know, we got Cecil Fielder, Tim Raines, Luis Sojo. I mean, we have so many people that are part of our team, and they always made me feel comfortable from day one and felt as though I was a part of it. And they didn’t make me feel as though I had to prove something. They just looked at me as I was another one of the guys.

Ravech: What can you tell us that they showed you, taught you about the city, about being a major league player that perhaps people at home wouldn’t think that a player would teach another player?

Jeter: Different things. I learned different things from different guys. You know, Tim Raines taught me — Tim Raines and Cecil Fielder — Fielder taught me to have fun every single day. You look at those guys. They had a smile on their face. You see them today and they’re the same personalities. I learned from watching Don Mattingly — how you go about your business in the right fashion. You know, I work, I learned I think the intensity …

Ravech: Buying clothes? Where to eat? Did you have to learn that?

Jeter: No, I just sort of, I had to wing that. So, I was in the middle of New York City just, you know, walking — not too many players lived in the city at the time. A lot of them have families and live outside the city. I wanted to experience the whole thing. So, I just sort of jumped into it.

Ravech: When did you start feeling like we actually have beyond a good team with great guys, a chance to win, to be special, championships?

Jeter: Well, look, every team with a new spring training, you know, you go visit all of them. They say, “Oh, we have a great team. We have a chance to win.” You never really know how the team is going to shape up ’til maybe around the All-Star break. But we kept rolling. I mean, we just sort of jelled as a group. We added some great players at the trade deadline and, you know, it was a fun time here. Yankees hadn’t won in a long time. You know, you had the support of the — well, the Yankee fans are the best in the world, anyway. They watch every game and support the team year after year, regardless of how they’re doing.

Ravech: Did you always think that the Yankees fans were the best in the world. Were there days where you were like, “I can’t? Back off.”

Jeter: They’re tough. They’re tough. But I think, you know, it eliminates complacency. You know, I think that’s important. You know, you don’t ever want to think you have it made. You know, when I was playing in New York, every day I took the field, I thought I was playing to keep my job. You know, it was a different time.

Ravech: You felt that way?

Jeter: No question. I mean, the boss would get rid of you.

Ravech: Right.

Jeter: You know, he would get rid of you and get some big-name free agents. So, we all felt as though we were playing for our jobs.

Ravech: You brought up the boss, and a lot of people who watch the Yankees now, many of them know him. There are some kids who have no idea that Hal and Hank’s dad ran this team and that you had a really unique relationship with him from Saturday night life to contracts to other things. How do you summarize your relationship with George Steinbrenner?

Jeter: We had a great relationship. I think it started with the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry. Yeah, he was the big Ohio State guy, big Michigan. We used to bet on the football game every year. But, you know, the thing with the boss is, in my opinion, he’s the greatest owner in the history of sports. I’m a little biased, but, you know, what he was able to do with this organization and how he has been able to make it grow, and we had the same mindset when it comes to winning. You know, if you do not win a championship, then the season is a failure. And, you know, I’ve always felt that way, and, you know, if he had a lot of respect, he commanded respect. But if you don’t make excuses, you play the game the right way, you play it hard, and he would have respect for you. And, therefore, we had a great relationship.

Ravech: There are so many — the flip play, 2000 against the Mets. Is there a Derek Jeter in your mind, sort of a seminal moment for you that would define your career? And maybe it’s one we don’t even talk about.

Jeter: You know, I don’t know. There’s been so many great memories I’ve had along the way, and I’ve been a part of a lot of special moments, and we’ve won five times. One of the moments — I don’t know if it’s fair to say — but it’s precious in my mind, was the last game I played at Yankee Stadium, which ironically is the only game in my career where we were mathematically eliminated. So, it’s the only meaningless game I ever played in Yankee Stadium.

Ravech: How hard is that to believe?

Jeter: Yeah, and the way the fans reacted and responded and, you know, it was like a playoff atmosphere. And I think it just shows the special bond that I was able to have here with the city of New York and the baseball fans.

Ravech: Last two. What does it mean to have the number retired with the Ruths and the Gehrigs?

Jeter: It’s surreal to think about. I don’t know. I’m trying not to think about it. I just want to get there and sort of soak it all in and see how I feel. I don’t want to go in there with any preconceived notions of what may happen. I just want to enjoy it. But, you know, you have a dream to play professional baseball. You have a dream to play shortstop, and the dream to play shortstop for the Yankees. To have your number retired is — was never a part of that dream.

Ravech: Now, you’re a content provider now with the Players’ Tribune and those things, so you understand good content. People that watch TV think good content is to learn more about you. So, in the last question, we’ll do a little rapid-fire word associate. And then, you answer and we’ll be done.

Jeter: I don’t have to answer, though.

Ravech: You don’t have to. Celebrity?

Jeter: Celebrity? Karl Ravech. [laughs] That will probably be edited out, huh?

Ravech: How about fame? Karl Ravech? Same thing? How about fame?

Jeter: Yeah, same thing.

Ravech: Privacy?

Jeter: Extremely important.

Ravech: Success?

Jeter: Winning.

Ravech: Teammate?

Jeter: A lot of great ones.

Ravech: The flip play?

Jeter: Doing my job.

Ravech: Red Sox?

Jeter: Rivalry.

Ravech: Mom?

Jeter: The best.

Ravech: Family?

Jeter: Extremely important.

Ravech: Steinbrenner?

Jeter: The boss.

Ravech: 9/11?

Jeter: Tragic events, you know, I have to give you more than just one word. It was a tragic, tragic event, obviously. That goes without saying. But for us to be in New York and sort of represent the city of New York at that time, it’s probably one of the proudest moments of my career, is how, you know, the people of New York and the family members that we … had an opportunity to meet with lost loved ones, telling us that we were giving them an opportunity to entertain for a few hours and put smiles on their faces is one of the things that I will never forget for my career.

Ravech: Trust?

Jeter: It’s the most important thing I think you can have amongst teammates.

Ravech: Media?

Jeter: Fair. Fair, you know, you may not always like what someone writes about you, and unless you’re in that position and you’re having those feelings, but, you know, looking back, they always treated me fairly.

Ravech: Michael Jordan?

Jeter: He’s like a brother.

Ravech: Art?

Jeter: Art? I have no artistic skills, man.

Ravech: You have paintings.

Jeter: Yeah, no, I missed that. I’m not very good at art.

Ravech: Childhood?

Jeter: Close family.

Ravech: Preparation?

Jeter: One thing that — my biggest fear is being unprepared. So, it’s the one thing that I focus the most on.

Ravech: Clutch?

Jeter: Stems from being prepared.

Ravech: New York City?

Jeter: Second home.

Ravech: Aging?

Jeter: Happens to everyone.

Ravech: Cooperstown?

Jeter: Every player has a dream of being there one day.

Ravech: Rings?

Jeter: Five.

Ravech: Pinstripes?

Jeter: Best uniform in all sports.

Ravech: The number 2?

Jeter: Man, it defines me. I have people that call me two, you know, so it seems like it’s just, sort of goes side by side with me.

Ravech: It’s who you are.

Jeter: Definitely.

Ravech: Are you going to be a good dad?

Jeter: I’d like to think so.

Ravech: Father? And it’s the last one.

Jeter: I said my biggest fear is being unprepared. I don’t know how prepared I am for this, so it’s going to be interesting.

Ravech: Your sister said, “You know what, Derek is going to think that you just tell the baby, poop in the diaper, clean up the diaper, eat at these hours.”

Jeter: I understand it’s going to take a little while to teach that, but I hope that it happens.

Ravech: You’ll be great.

Jeter: Thank-you.

Ravech: No problem. Thanks for coming down.

Zero single-digit numbers in the Bronx? Actually, there’s still one left

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NEW YORK — Now that No. 2 is about to be officially retired in honor of Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees Jersey will no longer have any single-digit jersey numbers available for players.

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Well, except for one, but it’s a number nobody’s worn in the team’s 115-year history: Zero.

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Watch: ESPN

Game Wade Miley Jersey Time: Coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET. The game is slated for 7:30.

Kids Wade Miley Jersey Read more:

? The moments that define Derek Jeter

? Jeter’s No. 2 is MLB’s No. 23

So would a Yankee ever don No. 0? Maybe, but among the current group in the Bronx, the answer appears to be a resounding no. After surveying seven members of the Yankees’ roster, as well as manager Joe Girardi, it’s safe to say none of them is going to wear the uniform anytime soon.

However, we did find one player who likely would — if he were ever to become a Yankee. (More on that in a New York minute.)

So what’s wrong with the No. 0? If you’re going to start anywhere these days in the Yankees’ clubhouse, it has to be with Aaron Judge. Not only is he possibly baseball’s biggest and best story thus far, he wears No. 99.

“If they gave it to me, I guess I’d wear it, to be honest,” Judge said. “It wouldn’t be the first number I’d pick, but if they gave it to me and I got to wear the pinstripes, I’d wear it.”

Growing up, Judge’s favorite numbers were 35, his dad’s number, which is currently worn by Michael Pineda Jersey, 44, 7 and 9. Those last three are out of commission. Judge ended up with No. 99 by chance.

“They gave it to me my first spring training and I’ve worn it ever since,” Judge said. “They gave it to me, why change it?”

Nobody has worn the No. 0 in the 115-year history of the New York Yankees Jersey. We asked if anyone ever will. Diamond Images/Getty ImagesNone of these Yankees is racing to become the first to wear a zero on his back. The injured Greg Bird Jersey wears 33, but it has nothing to do with Celtics legend Larry Bird. As a kid, he liked Babe Ruth and he put his No. 3 together. He said he would decline No. 0.

“Personally, no,” Bird said. “It is technically a number, but it is not a number, right? I never wore zero. I would never wear it. I was never a zero guy. I wore 25 when I was little because of Mark McGwire. I’ve never been a zero guy. I feel like you are or you aren’t.”

Wait, why are you a zero guy or not a zero guy?

“I don’t have many zero theories,” Bird said.

Others aren’t even sure the Yankees would hand out zero if someone wanted it.

“I don’t know why nobody has tried yet,” left fielder Brett Gardner Jersey said. “I don’t know if that is something that they really want to do, but I don’t know if they have tried. Judge has 99 on.”

Editor’s PicksLike Michael Jordan’s No. 23, Derek Jeter’s No. 2 lives on in his sportThe Yankees will retire the Captain’s jersey number Sunday, but Derek Jeter’s legacy continues on the backs of ballplayers across the major leagues, particularly among his fellow shortstops.

The moments that define Derek JeterAs his No. 2 is retired by the Yankees, we relive the sights and sounds of nine iconic plays — and one historic Yankee Stadium speech — that helped cement The Captain’s legacy.

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Girardi said he wouldn’t stop anyone from wearing zero, though he never had the desire to take the plunge himself.

“I personally wouldn’t do it, but I don’t have a problem if someone wants to do it,” Girardi said. “We have a 99. I hate to see the day that we have like 103 on the back of the uniform.”

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said he grew up watching Al Oliver, who wore zero, and would allow one of his players to wear it, too.

“I have no issue with No. 0,” Cashman said. “To me, it is just a number.”

Cashman is generally not involved in handing out numbers, as that falls to equipment man Rob Cucuzza. Cashman would chime in only if there is a free agent who requests a certain number, and he might start the conversation to see what the team can do.

Lefty CC Sabathia Jersey is a big hoops fan. He noted that the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard and former NBA player Drew Gooden wore zero in tribute to their hometown of Oakland, California. Sabathia said if he wore zero, there would need to be two of them.

“Double zero, but not zero,” Sabathia said with a laugh. “A single digit for me is not good.”

It takes a unique personality to wear the No. 0. The Tampa Bay Rays Jersey have one in outfielder Mallex Smith Jersey. In high school, Smith always wore No. 13 because he loves horror movies.

“I’m a fan of Jason so I’ve got a jersey to be your worst nightmare,” Smith said. “That’s the idea behind it.”

Wherever he has gone in professional baseball, though, No. 13 is often taken by someone with more seniority, so he has switched to zero.

“The backstory is, I was sitting around one day and I just thought, ‘I want to wear zero,'” said Smith, who went from the Atlanta Braves Jersey to the Rays this winter. “New team. New look. Different spice. I feel like zero is a weird number and I feel like I’m kind of a weird cat. I’m going zero.”

Maybe one day Smith or another “weird cat” will show up in the Bronx. As for now, it appears there will only be double digits on the backs of Yankees.

Long-term loyalty could pay off for Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper Jersey was 15 years old when he was first on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and after winning an MVP award for what he accomplished in his age-22 season in 2015, he wore a tux for the front of ESPN The Magazine. For that story, he told our Tim Keown, with his typical bluntness, “I will never say anybody’s better than me. I don’t think those words will ever come out of my mouth.”

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Nobody in baseball history has gotten more exposure at a younger age than Harper, and he mostly has handled the attention and scrutiny in the same manner he attacks a belt-high fastball: Bring it on.

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Some teammates noted last year that Harper spent more time in the clubhouse, and wondered if it increasingly became a haven for him — a place where he could go about his day most comfortably, without having to worry about being the caged creature in the zoo.

Game Cody Martin Jersey Even after striking a deal to avoid arbitration, Bryce Harper Jersey shouldn’t discard a chance to stay with the Nationals beyond 2018. Matt Hazlett/Getty ImagesThe timing of his $21.625 million extension for the 2018 season with the Washington Nationals Jersey, which was announced Saturday, is interesting and perhaps a sign that Harper isn’t necessarily devoted to the idea of chasing the biggest deal from the biggest bidder through free agency. And look, the Phillies probably would love to have him. He would be perfect for the Yankees — and for Yankee Stadium, with its short right-field porch.

Kids Cody Martin Jersey If Harper goes to New York, he probably could be a bigger star than he would be if he stayed in Washington, just as Reggie Jackson was, when he signed with the Yankees. But Harper also would have to reprove himself all over again, facing much higher expectations from a Yankees fan base that would turn on him if he generated anything less than an MVP-caliber performance — and that might not even be good enough, if championships didn’t accompany his numbers.

In the end, maybe he’ll want that. Maybe he’ll be drawn to that pressure, that challenge.

But like everybody else his age, Harper might be trying to figure out what makes him the happiest. He knows this: No matter where he lands, he will make plenty of money. The Nationals will be willing to give him a record-setting deal. But he should weigh the relationships he has built in Washington, the safe zone. He has a strong relationship with GM Mike Rizzo, who is, like Harper, under contract through 2018. He’s beloved by Nationals fans.

Harper should call Cal Ripken and ask what it meant to him to stay in Baltimore for his whole career — perhaps for a little less money than he might have made if he had chased every nickel in free agency. Harper should call Derek Jeter and ask why Jeter never bothered testing the market when he became a free agent late in his career, even when Yankees GM Brian Cashman advised him to do so in the middle of a tough negotiation.

Jeter had a home with the Yankees, and Harper has a good thing in Washington. Whether he wants something different is something he’ll have to decide.

But maybe he should draw upon the lesson of Alex Rodriguez Jersey, who became a free agent in the winter of 2000 under the same circumstances as Harper will be: He was in his mid-20s, regarded as one of the sport’s best players, a major star. The Mariners wanted to bestow a unique deal on Rodriguez, for $90 million over three years. But Rodriguez left Seattle to sign a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers. Within weeks after that deal was consummated, Rodriguez was quoted as saying that all things being equal, he would have loved to have signed with the Mets.

Rodriguez could have played anywhere he wanted — for varying degrees of money, of course — and he went to a place where he didn’t necessarily want to be. Three winters later, he and the Rangers divorced, and he was traded to the Yankees. Through circumstances, he never really forged the same kind of legacy he might have had with the Mariners.

The leap to New York worked out for Reggie Jackson, because of the Yankees’ 1977 and 1978 World Series triumphs. It didn’t really work out for Rodriguez, largely because of his two rounds of PED admissions and his yearlong suspension.

Harper can’t know what his New York or Philadelphia experience would be like unless he leaves. What he should know is that he has more peace in Washington than he would have anyplace else.

Harper has always chased challenges on the horizon. He played against older competition while he was still going through puberty, got his high school degree so he could enroll in college sooner than his peers, and slugged his first homer in the big leagues at 19. If Harper follows that habit, formed at an early age, then of course he will become a free agent, to pursue bigger (fame) and more (money). Which would be his right.

But through accumulated wisdom, maybe Bryce Harper Jersey is already learning that bigger and more isn’t always better.

Cubs call up top prospect Ian Happ, who homers for first big league hit

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ST. LOUIS — With several position players ailing, the Chicago Cubs Jersey called up 2015 first-round pick Ian Happ from Triple-A Iowa on Saturday and inserted him into the starting lineup against the St. Louis Cardinals Jersey.

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Happ, 22, wasted no time making his presence felt, delivering a two-run homer in the seventh inning for his first major league hit. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he is the fifth Cubs player in the past 25 seasons to homer in his big league debut, joining Jorge Soler Jersey, Javier Baez Jersey, Starlin Castro Jersey and Willson Contreras Jersey.

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Happ, who played right field and batted second on Saturday, has impressed since appearing in his first big league spring training camp in February. He hit .383 with five home runs in the Cactus League and carried that over to the start of his Triple-A season. He was hitting .298 with 9 home runs and 25 RBIs before getting called up.

Game Nathan Karns Jersey Happ had missed time recently with a bone bruise on his left thumb but came back hot.

Kids Nathan Karns Jersey “It’s good to be healthy,” he said. “Good to come back feeling strong. I’ve been locked in for the last few days. It’s been good.”

Happ likely will be needed for only a few days, but manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t commit to a timeline, as he has several players banged up because of various ailments. Reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant Jersey was a late scratch Friday due to a stomach ailment and was also out of the lineup Saturday. Ben Zobrist Jersey (back) and Addison Russell Jersey (shoulder) are available only for pinch-hitting duties.

“How long is he [Happ] going to stay?” Maddon said. “I have no idea. It could be short; it could be longer than that. I don’t know.”

The call-up of Happ means the Cubs are employing their No. 1 picks from 2011-15. Their starting lineup Saturday included five players with less than a year of experience each. Maddon said he isn’t concerned because they’re all talented, including the switch-hitting Happ.

“Go out there, have fun and compete,” Maddon told his newest player.

Happ, meanwhile, was trying to slow things down for his major league debut.

“Take it in and enjoy it,” he said pregame. “This is one of those situations where you might wake up tomorrow and not remember what happened.”

ESPN.com’s Keith Law had Happ ranked as the 63rd-best prospect in baseball entering the season.

Bryce Harper agrees to $21.625 million deal with Nats for ’18

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The Washington Nationals Jersey have agreed to terms with star right fielder Bryce Harper Jersey on a contract for the 2018 season, the team announced Saturday.

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Harper will make $21.625 million next season, as first reported by FanRag Sports and confirmed by ESPN.

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The four-time All-Star and 2015 National League MVP is hitting .372 this season with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. His batting average is second in the majors to teammate Ryan Zimmerman Jersey.

How rare is Ryan Zimmerman’s Triple Crown start?

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Ryan Zimmerman Jersey’s batting line was even more astonishing a week ago. Last Saturday, after a remarkable 17-game run in which he hit .500 with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs, Zimmerman was hitting .435 and slugging .907. He led the majors in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, home runs (tied with Aaron Judge), RBIs and OPS.

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He didn’t get a plate appearance on Sunday and then went 0-for-4 on Monday, 1-for-5 on Tuesday and 0-for-5 on Wednesday before Thursday’s rainout, which dropped his average to .393. Still, he leads the majors in all three Triple Crown categories. He is tied with Judge and Eric Thames with 13 home runs, and his 34 RBIs are one more than Joey Votto Jersey’s total.

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Ryan Zimmerman Jersey hit typesYearGround ballsPct.Fly ballsPct.Line drivesPct.Popups201513549782859215201616249101316620020174042282927281He has hit 28 fly balls, and nine of them have left the park. That 32 percent rate of home runs on fly balls is not sustainable; Ryan Braun Jersey led the majors last year with a 19.6 percent rate. Zimmerman is hitting the ball farther, too: His average fly ball distance has been 326 feet, compared to 288 in 2016, so he’s barreling up his fly balls more often. In other words, there’s some real improvement here and also some good fortune.

Game Felix Hernandez Jersey Whatever the reason, Zimmerman’s start has been remarkable. I thought it would be fun to compare it to some others since 2010 and see if his early Triple Crown chase is truly unprecedented.

Kids Felix Hernandez Jersey Through May 12, 2016 (33-35 games)Batting average leader: Daniel Murphy Jersey, .409

Slugging percentage leader: Manny Machado Jersey, .691

Home runs leader: Nolan Arenado Jersey, 13

RBIs leader: Robinson Cano Jersey, 33

OPS leader: Murphy, 1.110

These guys all ended up with terrific seasons. Murphy was hitting .397 through the end of May but went 1-for-12 his next three games and dropped to .379 just like that. He finished at .347 and tied Votto with the best OPS in the National League at .985 (David Ortiz Jersey led the majors at 1.021). Machado hit .318 in the first half but slumped to .266 in the second half after hitting .204 in July. Arenado tied for the NL home run lead, with 41, and topped the majors with 133 RBIs. He was at 31 on this date.

Through May 12, 2015 (32-34 games)Batting average: Dee Gordon Jersey, .412

Slugging percentage: Nelson Cruz Jersey, .754

Home runs: Cruz, 12

RBIs: Bryce Harper Jersey, 31

OPS: Cruz, 1.155

Remember that start by Gordon? I watched video of all his hits around this time, and there was a ton of good fortune involved, as you would expect, with infield hits and bloopers that were dropping. He remained above .400 through May 19 and held on to win the batting title with a .333 mark. Cruz finished with 44 home runs while hitting .302/.369/.566, and Harper parlayed his hot start into an MVP season.

Through May 12, 2014 (37-40 games)Batting average: Troy Tulowitzki Jersey, .395

Slugging percentage: Tulowitzki, .766

Home runs: Jose Abreu Jersey, 14

RBIs: Giancarlo Stanton Jersey, 42

OPS: Tulowitzki, 1.263

This was the last great stretch of Tulo’s career. This was a pitching-dominated year, and he was above anybody else; Jose Bautista Jersey was the only other hitter at this point with an OPS above 1.000, at 1.002. Tulowitzki actually climbed to .400 on May 17, but a slump at the end of the month dragged his average down to .352, and he was hitting .340 on July 19, when he injured his hip and ended his season. Victor Martinez Jersey ended up the OPS leader, at .974, the lowest MLB-leading figure since Wade Boggs’ 965 in 1988.

Through May 12, 2013 (35-37 games)Batting average: Miguel Cabrera Jersey, .379

Slugging percentage: Chris Davis Jersey, .664

Home runs: Justin Upton Jersey, 12

RBIs: Cabrera, 40

OPS: Davis, 1.069

Cabrera won his second straight MVP award after finishing with 44 home runs and 137 RBIs while leading the majors in average (.342), OBP (.442) and slugging (.636). He did not win the home run or RBI title; Davis claimed those, with 53 and 138. Davis had 11 home runs on May 12 and then went on a tear, slamming 26 over his next 58 games heading into the All-Star break. The streaky Upton finished with just 27.

Josh Hamilton Jersey’s early performance in 2012 made it look like the first Triple Crown since 1967 was in sight. It was, but Miguel Cabrera Jersey, not Hamilton, earned the honor at season’s end. Andrew Dieb/Icon SportswireThrough May 12, 2012 (31-34 games)Batting average: Josh Hamilton Jersey, .402

Slugging percentage: Hamilton, .877

Home runs: Hamilton, 18

RBIs: Hamilton, 41

OPS: Hamilton, 1.334

Oh, man, peak Josh Hamilton Jersey was something, wasn’t he? He did all of this over a remarkable 31-game stretch that included a four-homer, eight-RBI game May 8. This put him on path as a potential Triple Crown winner, the first since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. We did end up with a Triple Crown winner, but it was Cabrera, not Hamilton. On May 12, Cabrera was hitting .282/.336/.481 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs. He finished at .330-44-139. As for Hamilton, it was, sadly, the last great stretch of his career. He hit .252/.325/.493 the rest of the way, signed with the Angels in 2013 and never again was an impact player. By the way, third in OPS on this date: Bryan LaHair. He turned that hot start into an All-Star appearance.

Through May 12, 2011 (36-38 games)Batting average: Matt Holliday Jersey, .390

Slugging percentage: Jose Bautista Jersey, .760

Home runs: Curtis Granderson Jersey, 12

RBIs: Ryan Howard Jersey and Lance Berkman, 32

OPS: Bautista, 1.275

Bautista ended up the league’s best offensive player in 2011, with a .302 average, while leading the majors with 43 home runs, a .608 slugging percentage and 1.056 OPS. Granderson ended up leading the American League in both runs and RBIs and finished fourth in the MVP voting. Matt Kemp Jersey would lead the majors with 126 RBIs but lose out to Ryan Braun Jersey in the MVP voting. Cabrera led with a .344 average.

Through May 12, 2010 (33-36 games)Batting average: Andre Ethier Jersey, .385

Slugging percentage: Ethier, .738

Home runs: Paul Konerko, 13

RBIs: Ethier, 37

OPS: Ethier, 1.182

This is fun: Casey McGehee was third in RBIs at this point, and Jorge Cantu was fourth. Ethier had a 30-game hit streak in April and May 2011, but in 2010, his average was just him being red hot. Unfortunately, while hitting .392 on May 14, Ethier broke his pinkie finger. He missed just two weeks but hit .260 upon his return and finished at .292. Konerko had a big season, hitting .312 with 39 home runs, while Hamilton led the majors with a .359 average and edged Cabrera in OPS. This was Bautista’s breakout, 54-homer season, but he had just seven through May 12.

Some other notable performances through May 12 in the years 2000 to 2009:

Evan Longoria Jersey, 2009: 45 RBIs in 32 games. Over a 13-game span from April 27 to May 9, he drove in 28 runs. He finished with 113.Lance Berkman, 2008: .393/.470/.800, 13 HRs, 38 RBIs in 38 games. He finished at .312 with 29 home runs and 106 RBIs.Alex Rodriguez Jersey, 2007: Led in HRs (15), RBIs (39) and slugging (.728). Derrek Lee led in batting average, at .393.Albert Pujols Jersey, 2006: 18 HRs, 44 RBIs, .839 slugging, 1.313 slugging.Clint Barmes, 2005: .395! What, you don’t remember the Clint Barmes .400 watch? He got up to .400 on May 7 after a 3-for-4 day but slid under .300 by season’s end.Barry Bonds, 2004: This gets into the Bonds Silly Stat Era. He was hitting .356/.621/.849 through 31 games on his way to a .362/.609/.812 line.Barry Bonds, 2002: .345/.593/.833, 12 HRs though 33 games. Sammy Sosa had 15 home runs.Manny Ramirez, 2001: Hitting .406 with 44 RBIs. He remained at .400 through May 26 but fell to .306 by season’s end. This was the year Bonds set the home run record, but Luis Gonzalez actually led him 17-15 on this date. Gonzalez hit 57 and Bonds 73.Todd Helton, 2000: .408 average. He was last at .400 on June 10, was at .370 on Aug. 2, then surged again and was up to .399 on Aug. 18, after a 34-for-58 run over 16 games. He was still at .397 on Aug. 28 but hit just .274 in September (granted, with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs). He finished at .372.

Matt Harvey’s return doesn’t end well, but Mets see a silver lining

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MILWAUKEE — Too much of the chatter around the New York Mets Jersey’ Matt Harvey Jersey over the past week has been about what he needs to do as a person and a teammate. With his outing Friday in a 7-4 New York loss to the Milwaukee Brewers Jersey, he showed he also has a lot of work to do as a pitcher. And he knows it, which might be the silver lining in all this.

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Harvey made his first start for the Mets after serving a three-game suspension earlier this week, handed down when he failed to show up for New York’s game last Saturday against the Marlins. To say it didn’t go well might be an oversimplification. Yet to say it went well would be flat wrong.

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Matt Harvey Jersey surrendered three homers to the Brewers in his return from suspension on Friday. Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsLet’s start with the negative: Harvey went five-plus innings, allowing five runs, striking out six, walking five and giving up three homers. On the last front, perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on Harvey; after all, the Brewers’ 59 homers lead the majors. But the homer total matched Harvey’s career high, as did the walks. Harvey was chased after giving up a single followed by back-to-back homers to Eric Sogard Jersey and Orlando Arcia Jersey to start the sixth.

Game Mayckol Guaipe Jersey “My job is to go out and keep the game tied and give us a chance to really open things up after that,” Harvey said. “I got behind in the count and left the ball in the middle of the plate. I left the ball out in the middle of the plate and that makes things difficult.”

Kids Mayckol Guaipe Jersey Harvey was crisp in the first inning, dispatching the Brewers on just 10 pitches, but lost command during a marathon second inning that saw him burn through 34 pitches. According to ESPN Stats & Information, his struggles were as bad as they’ve ever been. He threw first-pitch strikes to just 11 of the 27 hitters he faced, the lowest rate of his 89 career starts.

“Second inning, third inning, he really struggled,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Fourth inning and fifth inning, he threw the ball great.”

All three homers Milwaukee hit against him came after a first-pitch ball, a common theme in Harvey’s recent struggles. He’s already allowed 10 homers over seven starts, more than he allowed during three of his first four big-league seasons.

“Location, when you miss down over the plate and you’re behind in counts, you’re going to give up home runs,” Harvey said. “They’re professional hitters. It’s what they do. I think there is a lot of work to be done. We’ll start tomorrow and try to get things back on the right track.”

The lack of control was startling to see from Harvey. After all, this is a pitcher who in 2013 and 2015 — seasons sandwiched around his Tommy John surgery — had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.6-to-1. Yet on Friday, his strike rate of 55.1 percent was the worst of his career.

“It’s hard,” Collins said. “You feel for him. It’s like anything, when you see a guy who has set the bar so high for what you expect out of him … the game is hard. You’re coming off surgery and it’s a process to get back.”

Another 2017 theme that continued for Harvey was his inability to consistently put hitters away when he did get ahead. When Harvey burst onto the scene in 2012, he struck out 50 percent of opposing hitters once he got two strikes on them. This season, that numbers is down to 29.5 percent.

“The past two or three starts have been pretty terrible,” the 28-year-old said. “Obviously there is work to be done to get things back on track, which is the main goal right now.”

Nevertheless, to say that Harvey’s outing was without redeeming qualities wouldn’t be fair, either. Through five innings, he had battled out of several jams, limiting Milwaukee to just two runs, and he entered the bottom of the sixth with the game tied 2-2. That was the upside for Collins.

“Fifth inning was his best inning of the night,” Collins said. “We were hoping we could get through the bottom of the order so we could worry about the matchups later on. But couldn’t do it.”

With the Mets’ bullpen taxed and with closer Jeurys Familia Jersey out for several months, New York needs to get more innings out of its injury-ravaged rotation. The Mets particularly need more innings out of Harvey, which is why he returned to the mound for that sixth inning even though he had thrown 97 pitches.

“We could certainly have taken him out at that time,” Collins said. “I thought the way he was throwing the ball, we could have gotten another inning out of him. Then it really would have been a positive.”

Harvey’s fastball had also lost some zip. According to Statcast data from baseballsavant.com, Harvey’s average four-seam fastball clocked at 94.3 mph or better during the first three innings. By the fifth and the sixth, that number was down to 92.6 mph.

So consider it a first step. Harvey was in the clubhouse early Friday, sitting quietly with teammates and preparing for his start. His postgame media session was also drama-free. All the talk was about baseball. The conversation was back where it needs to be. But now, the results need to follow.

“This guy is one of our top pitchers,” Collins said. “We’ve got to get six innings out of him. I thought after the fifth inning, he was really starting to get it down. I’m sure he’s upset about the sixth.

“But he limited the damage. I hope he takes that.”