Ah Yes

I knew it was only a matter of time until someone brought up my little Jeter comment.  Thank you KZ.  I honestly thought it was gonna be my brother, who I’ve gotten into at least 1 or 2 debates with him about this.  But let me plead my case.  I absolutely don’t think Jeter is a bad player.  In fact, he’s one of the only players I respect on the Yankees/the whole steroid era.  He’s never been involved in steroid talk, is a class act, yada yada yada.  But my argument is that he is the most over-hyped because of his actual performance.  Now, I’ve never been in the Yankees locker room, and god forbid I hope that never happens, but I imagine Jeter is the clubhouse guy.  The one who rookies can feel comfortable talking to when they’ve been struggling, the one organizing all the team meetings, the one A-Rod can go to when he’s having girl (guy?) problems.  But in reality, there’s no way we can ever know his influence to a team unless we were actually there.  Look at Tiger Woods.  Two years ago everyone thought he was a just a winner, who was a great guy.  Funny.  The fact is, if something gets leaked out about Jeter being a selfish jerk in the locker room, then his whole reputation gets changed.  What if he gets caught with roids?  I don’t think anyone’s innocent in this whole steroid era.  Except Ken Griffey.  I’d have a heart attack if his name ever got brought up. But Jeter is so well respected because he’s never been involved in any of the off the field stuff.  He’s been the model American for so long.  But we really don’t know any of these guys off the field, so we have to base it on numbers.  I believe in team chemistry and all that, but I think he gets too much credit for being a “leader.”

Sure, he won a bunch of World Series’ in his career, (1996, 1998-2000, and 2009).  Which is impressive.  He’s a winner, no doubt.  But this is what sticks out to me.  Look at the years of the championships.  It’s obvious that he was on a complete dynasty for five years, and won four rings.  Obviously he was important to those teams.  But he was never THAT guy that carried the team to the World Series.  They had different guys for that.  You can argue that, since it was his first full season, that he was the difference.  Well, maybe.  But I think it was more of veteran league at that point…and since his reputation is being a great clubhouse leader, no way was he a leader for his first few years in the league.  That team was full of veterans.  His fifth championship came last year, where they just bought the top two pitchers on the market, along with the best hitter.  So in my mind he wasn’t as big of a part of that team.  He was the best player on the team for probably the last 8 years.  How much did they win?  Nothing.

Now, if I sat down and watched all those playoff games from those years there is a very good chance that I may be critical of everything I just said.  Kind of like how I can’t argue that Honus Wagner, Barry Larkin, Robin Yount, etc. are better shortstops, or how I can’t argue who the best hitter ever was.  Unless you’ve been alive since the start of baseball, there is no way of knowing.  All we have is stats.  Stats don’t tell the whole story.  I’m sure some “expert” will look back in 20 years and make some ridiculous argument about how Jose Bautista should have won MVP this year, simply because of stats.

I’ll tell you what I do know about Derek Jeter’s career in the time that I’ve been an avid baseball fan, and the time that I’ve actually understood the game.  It’s how he was a part of the biggest collapse in sports history (2004), how from 2005-2008, he never made it past the first round of the playoffs.  How it took his GM to purchase the top 3 free agents on the market for him to get back to the World Series.  How, since as long as I can remember, Jeter never had that “It” factor.  What I mean by that is, whenever the Sox were in a close game, in the 6th inning on, every time the “it” factor guy would come to the plate, I would instantly start swearing to myself, knowing that he was probably gonna come up with a big hit.  He’s the guy who you intentionally walk, or the guy who you know if you let him up with runners on base, then he’s gonna deliver.  On the flip side, I knew Ortiz would deliver every time.  Those guys were the GREAT hitters.  I think Derek Jeter is a VERY GOOD hitter.  There are hundreds of very good hitters, but very few great hitters.  I’m not saying Ortiz is better then Jeter, but I’m saying that there is no other hitter on earth that hits all those walk offs that year like Ortiz.  Without him, we don’t win in 2004.  But I look at all those Yankee World Series’ and not one time do I think, “without Jeter, they don’t win this.”  Like I said, however, I don’t remember too vividly those first four Yankee wins, so I would honestly love someone to discuss this with me.  Is there something I’m missing?  Do I have no idea what I’m talking about?  Maybe.  Am I a stubborn Red Sox fan who wishes Nomar achieved the success Jeter had?  Quite possibly.  But please, I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this.

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4 Responses to Ah Yes

  1. Fine China says:

    Yeah, I’m with KZ on this one. You’re right, stats are really all we have to compare everyone in the history of baseball. Jeter has played in seven World Series’ and has only had one bad series (in 2001, when he hit .179 for the series). All of his other BA’s for the World Series are .393 or better.

    And to me, he’s been that guy that you’re talking about. He might not be a home run threat every time he steps up, but this is a career .314 hitter and he still scares me every time he plays. Oh and he fields, at least used to, decently.

    I’d write more but I’m already procrastinating. Just Right Sports comin’ at ya.

  2. JGriff says:

    All I know is Jeter was rock solid at SS in my strat lineup for the 1998 and 1999 seasons haha. Even though I think he may have lost his leadoff spot to Ray Durham a couple of times.

  3. Corleto Bob says:

    My thoughts on Rocco’s post, from someone who has been watching baseball for 50 years. It is difficult to select the best player at a position from a particular era. Many times it depends when you are making the selection. For instance if you were to ask who was the best American League shortstop from 1996 to 2003 in the year 2003 the analysis could go as follows: (i) A-Rod had the most power with Tejeda second in this category, (ii) Vizquel was the best fielder, (iii) Garciaparra was the best average hitter and (iv) Jeter was the best leader – which is by far the most subjective category. Of the five in the year 2003 I would probably have held my nose and selected A-Rod as #1, Garciaparra in a hometown pick as #2, Jeter as #3, Vizquel as #4 and Tejeda as #5.

    But if you ask me today Jeter is #1 and Vizquel is #2, because the other three were juicing, A-Rod is really a third baseman, Garciaparra was the opposite of Jeter with respect to leadership, in fact the Red Sox won a World Series after they traded Garciaparra and Tejeda is a statue at SS.

    As for overexposure of course Jeter is overexposed when compared to athletes in other markets. But what NY athlete is not? It goes with the turf – NY is the biggest city with the most competitive media. For that matter what athlete from a big market is not overexposed. Players in smaller markets seemingly do not get their due. Fielder and Braun would be rock stars in NY. Instead they toil in obscurity in Milwaukee. Or how about the closer for KC whose name I cannot remember – but doesn’t he have the best saves/blown saves ratio in the Major Leagues?

    Jeter is the best shortstop over the past 15 years. I agree with Rocco that Jeter does not strike the fear in Red Sox fans the way Ortiz strikes the fear in NY fanes – or as Rocco calls it – the “It” factor. I have always respected Jeter’s play and his leadership qualities. He may be the best nonjuiced position player over the past 15 years along with Griffey (who would have been by far the best but for injuries) and Thome. Anyone else out who was a top player who was not juicing?

    In closing maybe Rocco and other contributors can come with an All-Star team of non-juicers over the past 15 years.

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