In the unofficial biography "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter," the shortstop credited his ability to avoid saying anything worthwhile to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, his former hitting coach with the Yankees. Mattingly said he took that as a compliment.

"Obviously, here and there both, there's a lot of attention about what the team's going through and everybody wants to make a story right then," Mattingly said. "I think you have to be able to avoid that. Basically, say nothing. Or bore you to death."

Smooth on the field

There's little chance of Jeter doing that between the lines, or even outside them. His flip from foul territory to catcher Jorge Posada during the 2001 American League division series to get Oakland's Jeremy Giambi at home plate is regarded by some as the infielder's equivalent of Willie Mays' over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series.

Jeter's walk-off home run off Arizona's Byung-Hyun Kim in the 10th inning at 12:04 a.m. on Nov. 1, 2001, at Yankee Stadium in Game 4 of the World Series earned him the nickname Mr. November, one of several monikers for a player who also went by Captain Clutch because of his sustained postseason prowess. Jeter has hit .309 in 30 playoff series while helping the Yankees win five World Series titles.

"He never feared the consequences of failure," Ian O'Connor, the author of the recently released biography on the Yankees' captain, said of Jeter's postseason success. "He also never let the magnitude of the moment get too big."

Not that Jeter has been a slouch during the regular season. He has had 15 seasons with at least 150 hits, and his lowest career batting average in any month is .296 in May.

Those who marvel at Jeter's consistency say it is partly a reflection of a swing that hasn't changed much since he made his major league debut in 1995.

"Derek has pretty much been the same hitter his whole career," Teixeira said. "You'll see guys who might change their stances, their setup or where their hands are, but their swing is still pretty much the same. Well, Derek hasn't even changed that. His stance, his hands and his setup probably look exactly the same as they did" when he was a rookie.

Though Jeter, who stands at 6 feet 3 and 195 pounds, was not endowed with the physical gifts of chiseled teammate Alex Rodriguez, O'Connor said the shortstop was bestowed with something equally impressive: an inner drive to go all out no matter the situation.

"He sort of honored that DiMaggio credo of playing every game as if there's someone in the stands who has never seen you play," O'Connor said.

Present and future

Jeter's statistics have taken a significant downturn the past two years. He hit a career-worst .270 in 2010 before enduring a contentious offseason in which he signed a three-year, $51-million contract that was widely viewed as more reflective of service rendered than potential future value.

This season, his slump has deepened. Jeter is hitting .260 with two homers and 20 RBIs, putting him on pace for career lows in each category. General manager Brian Cashman has also acknowledged the possibility of moving the five-time Gold Glove Award winner to center field before his career ends if his range at shortstop diminishes.

Jeter said the increased media scrutiny that followed his new contract has not bothered him.

"I don't know what people write," he said. "I really don't. I really don't sit around and read newspapers. I've got other things to worry about."

One thing that has never concerned him is reaching 3,000 hits. O'Connor, who received some assistance from the shortstop in researching his biography, said Jeter's primary goal since joining the Yankees has been to surpass Yogi Berra's 10 World Series titles, a feat that is likely unattainable for a player only halfway there in his 17th major league season.

Of course, that won't keep Jeter from surpassing the expectations of those who have seen him play.

"He'll be right up there with all the greatest players to ever play shortstop in an atmosphere that expects nothing less than playoffs and World Series titles, which makes it doubly tough," Bowa said. "It's one thing to accept the challenge, but to meet it the way he has is another."

Bolch reported from Los Angeles; Van Valkenburg reported from New York. Tribune reporter Dylan Hernandez contributed to this article.

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