The Best Lies From ESPN’s ‘The Captain’ Documentary

While 'The Captain' does a great job telling the story of Derek Jeter, there is more that meets the eye with some of the stories told.

COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 08: Derek Jeter looks on during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Clark Sports Center on September 08, 2021 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Lying is awesome. It’s not something we, as a society, like to admit, but it is frustratingly true. And especially when it comes to the world of baseball, it often elicits a level of hilarity you can’t get from many places.

Sammy Sosa conveniently forgetting how to speak English? All-timer.

Francisco Lindor saying his and Jeff McNeil’s tunnel incident was due to a raccoon debate? Also an all-timer.

And while they may not be as iconic as those, ESPN’s latest sports documentary The Captain — the seven-part story covering Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter’s illustrious career — gives us plenty of fallacies to salivate over.

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Now, I’m not necessarily calling Jeter or anyone else in the documentary a liar, but — in the words of the great American philosopher, Josh Nichols — I ain’t calling them truthers, either.

Although it doesn’t quite stick the landing, the documentary itself is fine (much better than ESPN’s last baseball documentary Long Gone Summer, which made the confounding decision of only spending 10 minutes covering the steroid scandal), but a straightforward review isn’t nearly as fun. Instead, The Captain deserves proper adjudication for the best lies told by not just Jeter, but any others involved.

But remember! This is a celebration of lies, NOT a condemnation of them.

The General Illustration of Jeter’s Defense

If you’re at all someone who frequents the realm of Baseball Internet or even sports media in general, you’re likely familiar with the batch of folks who enjoy making “Derek Jeter: overrated” their personality trait. It’s a waste of time trying to talk to petulant sports fans, but one thing that is fair to say is that Jeter…wasn’t the best of defensive players. He has an iconic jump throw, as well as some truly memorable singular plays, but the defense itself left a lot to be desired.

The Captain, predictably, tries to sugar-coat this fact or plainly skate past it for the majority of its runtime. A lot of time is spent praising his drive to be better and how poor his defense was in the early days of his minor league career, but quickly throws a bandaid over the actual question. It’s a sneaky lie, because The Captain doesn’t directly call Jeter a great defender, but it certainly tries to elude to it.

I do give the documentary credit for including a scene in which Jeter says his father, Charles, always mocks him by saying he was a better defender than he was. There’s definitely some evidence of self-awareness here, which is commendable albeit not nearly as fun as it would’ve been to see a total commitment to Jeter firing back at his critics.

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2 out of 4 Liar Points

He Had Nothing to Do With the Team Getting Rid of Chad Curtis

One thing The Captain deserves a ton of credit for, asides from its excellent lies, is how it truly does cover everything from Jeter’s career. One of these everythings is his whole spat with teammate Chad Curtis over his relationship with then-Mariner Alex Rodriguez, and how affable the two were when their teams got into a brawl.

Jeter mentions that he didn’t have a problem with Curtis, and had nothing to do with him being sent to the Night’s Watch (the Texas Rangers) following the end of the season.

I love me a thick, creamy, double-stuffed lie. This thing feels a lot like a poor man’s version of the Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas Team USA beef. The idea that Jeter — who was just beginning his ascent into the upper stratopshere of super-fame — had nothing to do with Curtis’ departure is shaky, at best.

Did he go out of his way to want the guy gone? Doubtful. But did he potentially…let it slip…that the guy who apparently — according to teammate and close friend Jorge Posada — had a problem with Jeter playing hip-hop music (definitely not a baseball cultural problem thing here, nope!) in the clubhouse wasn’t his favorite? You decide.

Well, actually, you don’t get to decide. I’m literally the one giving the score. I am the law.

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3 out of 4 Liar Points

The Temperament of New York Fans

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. A major topic in The Captain is Jeter’s genuinely remarkable ability to handle the spotlight of being the face of New York’s most popular franchise. When it comes to pressure of of playing in New York given their passionate fanbase, Jeter takes a moment to describe them as incredibly attentive and a deeply knowledgeable batch of folks.

If New Yorkers — the same entity that includes Michael Kay ranting about Joey Gallo having the audacity to be human — are knowledgeable and attentive, then I’m the world’s foremost expert on dating.

4 out of 4 Liar Points

Not Knowing How the Media Works

We’ve had an analytics lie, a double-stuffed lie, a protective-lie, and now we have an adorable lie. This is just so cute. In episode three of The Captain, Jeter recounts the story in which he laughed so hard that his belly button popped out. He then very adorably looks at the camera and innocently states “That story probably isn’t going to make this.”

Sir, you know damn well you’re at the level of fame where a silly story like this is something people will gobble up like Taco Bell after a Saturday night bar crawl. Jeter was so secretive that this moment of pure humanity might already crack his top-five most iconic stories. Of course this could’ve just been sarcasm, but I like reading into things and contriving drama.

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1 out of 4 Liar Points

Not a Bat Flip, But a Bat Throw

Not every lie is about Mr. Jeter, though. Also from episode three, we have the famously-truthful Roger Clemens discussing the time he threw a broken bat towards a player. And not just any player or any game, but against Mike Piazza in the WORLD SERIES!

Clemens claims — which is also supported by Jeter — that he thought he was throwing the ball. The same guy known, as the documentary itself attests to, for pitching inside and even hitting batters quite often.

Perhaps the greatest pitcher in the history of the game momentarily forgot the difference between the weight of holding a baseball vs a lengthy piece of lumber. Sure! Just like that time Zaza Pachulia accidentally forgot how to close out properly and obliterated Kawhi Leonard’s ankle.

4 out of 4 Liar Points

No Problems With the A-Rod Trade

It’s difficult to explain the tumultuous nature of Jeter and Alex Rodriguez’s relationship, so I’m not going to try (I do recommend Secret Base’s Beef History for the cliff notes version). But generally speaking, the two went from being buddies to extremely-not buddies. So when it was announced that the Yankees would be acquiring Rodriguez who, at the time, was playing shortstop — Jeter’s position, in case you weren’t aware — there was some drama!

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Upon being called about the news that the Yankees would be making this move, Jeter claims in the documentary that he really didn’t have a problem with it. A likely story!

But Jeter also goes on to defend this lie, saying that management made it very clear that A-Rod would be moving to third base and shortstop would remain his. Jeter elaborated further by saying even if he did have a problem with it in the moment, he wasn’t just going to say it.

So, yes, Jeter definitely is lying here and had at least somewhat of a problem with the team making the trade. But, there’s also some genuine believability here. Not just with the assurance the Yankees gave him, but I can also imagine he understands what a tremendous asset A-Rod would be for the team’s overall success.

1 out of 4 Liar Points

Buck Showalter Didn’t Groove a Pitch for Jeter in His Last Game

I’ve mentioned my affinity for Buck Showalter before and his appearance on The Captain, although brief, only adds on to that. But in an effort to change things up, I’m actually going to defend Buck here.

In response to the idea that he might’ve grooved a pitch to Jeter since it was his last game, on top of once being his coach, Buck said people who thought as much “don’t know me very well.” Perhaps this is a Ryan Braun-level of lie, but I believe him!

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The Orioles were awesome in 2014, so the idea of potentially giving up a game-winning hit — not a second-inning hit, or a We’re Beating You By 11 Runs So Why Not kind of hit — is fairly implausible. Instead, I take his word that he knew the last thing he could do was walk Jeter in this scenario. Perhaps that was Buck’s way of showing respect: opportunity. And it’s not like Jeter at this stage should’ve been walked, considering he was obviously past his prime and was mostly there for ceremonial purposes.

0 out of 4 Liar Points

The Gift Basket

The creme de la creme. The magnum opus. The bees knees. The Platinum Pinnochio. This, my friends, is the most elite lie of all elite lies. It’s a genuine masterpiece. Derek Jeter, prince of New York, alleged by the fine folks at the New York Post, would gift his dates some signed memorabilia. In The Captain, Jeter defiantly refutes the story.

“You know, you see it, and then it’s like, how the f**k did people come up with this? You know, basically, that’s it. And who would believe this s**t? And you believed it!”

Pure, mint-condition gold. Some would say that I’m constitutionally required, even if its the NYP, as a ~media~ person to believe their side of the story. But, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that is not my reasoning.

I believe it not just because the Post and the story’s author, Emily Smith, haven’t backed off the story even after all these years. I believe it not just because of Jeter’s passionate refutal of the story. I believe it not just because, for a person as famous as him, that he wouldn’t have at least one odd “scandal” to show for it. I believe it because it’s fun.

There’s a degree of ridiculousness here that’s too good to ignore. I could certainly see it being untrue, but I think there’s at least something odd that occurred. Perhaps Jeter, being nuclear-level famous, just had a little brain fart being so used to signing various items that he was just on mental auto-pilot. It’s totally possible! But one thing’s for sure: this is one of baseball’s most delightfully weird stories of all-time.

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And on top of that, Jeter telling the story of when he called a fan a f*****g idiot for saying they were inspired by Jeter and did their own gift basket for a date was hilarious. It only adds on to the lore of this masterpiece. Thank you, The Captain, for giving the people what they want.

4 out of 4 Liar Points