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Derek Jeter's Image Takes a Hit

By Jon Friedman   |   Monday, 20 Sep 2010 01:41 PM

If Derek Jeter gets away with committing a deception on the baseball diamond, should we regard the transgression as cheating or a heads-up play?

Jeter earns roughly $19 million a year from the Yankees and millions more in endorsement deals that are predicated on his great sports skills and goody-two-shoes public image. No way will you find Jeter's name on a police blotter for domestic violence, drunk driving, speeding, or using steroids. He's too image-conscious to slip up.

But Jeter was caught in the act of putting one over on the Tampa Bay Rays the other night, with the home plate umpire acting as his accessory to the crime of stealing first base.

Yes, you can, by the way! Jeter did. It seems that a pitch nicked Jeter's bat but didn't actually hit him. But the umpire blew the call when Jeter influenced him with a little acting job designed to persuade the powers that be on the field to let him take first base. The next Yankee batter, Curtis Granderson, hit a home run, as fate would have it.

Jeter looked pretty shrewd.

But what if a guy who rides the bench tried the same ploy? Would the ump give him the benefit of the doubt, too? Fat chance.

I guess it is called Life Lesson 101: The rich get richer. Jeter is being criticized widely on talk radio stations for setting a bad example for kids and for contributing to the impression that all pro athletes are cheaters and sleaze-bos. Even Jeter, Mr. Clean.

When we do something like that in life or in politics — and subvert the system by cutting corners — are we cheaters or are we demonstrating a heads-up move?

P.S.: The Yankees — MY Yankees, I should hasten to add, in case you think I am a habitual Jeter-basher — lost the game, 4-3. Tampa took over first place that evening.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.

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