The entire 2014 baseball season, and particularly the last week, became “Let’s push Derek Jeter as the greatest baseball player ever”. That might be a slight exaggeration, but I couldn't flip on the sports programming over the last week without hearing that. But the Derek Jeter insanity goes back further than that. Let me take you back to a time just before the season started. I was sitting down watching ESPN First Take (I know, I know, what was I thinking? Skip Baseless and Screamin’ A. Smith yelling at each other about a bunch of nonsense and Tim Tebow for two hours? I’d rather be hit in the temple with an ice pick than ever be subjected to that crap again), and the “Embrace Debate” question was, “Who was a better player in his sport, Derek Jeter or Peyton Manning?” Obviously, it was Peyton Manning. He’s going to hold all the passing records when he retires, he’s the greatest regular season quarterback of all time, and he’s a five time league MVP. Skip sided with Manning, but he couldn’t articulate a single coherent point as to why he did. Screamin’ A. took Derek Jeter because not only did he wish that he and Jeter could have a child together, but also because Jeter has five rings, and Manning only has one.
That may be the single dumbest thing any sportswriter has ever said. Jeter’s better because he has five rings? He plays baseball, a sport where he’ll probably only get three or four at bats a game, coupled with the fact that he’ll stand in the field of play for nine innings and maybe only have five or six balls hit his way. Couldn’t I argue that the team’s entire pitching staff is way more important than everything that Jeter brought to the table? Jeter played for the New York Yankees for 20 years, a team that constantly pumped money into the team, and were willing to spend and spend and spend no matter the cost, because they just had more money than everyone else. That’s why they won championships. They had so many great players. Mariano Rivera, Roger Clemens (who juiced, but still), Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettite, Mike Mussina, A-Rod (also juiced), Paul O’Neill, C.C. Sabbathia, etc. The list goes on and on and on. The media would make you think that Jeter pitched, caught, played every position in the field, and hit 800 home runs every game. It’s just not true.
And before you think, “Oh, I guess Matt doesn’t care about winning”, please don’t. I do care about winning. I want my teams to win, and the goal of team sports is to win. But if you just say, “This player is better than this guy because he has more championships”, that’s silly. By that logic, Ben Roethlisberger was a better quarterback than Dan Marino, and Steve Kerr was a better point guard than Steve Nash. Does anyone agree with that? Of course not. It takes a detailed analysis of a guy’s career to determine if he was better than someone else. It’s just lazy to use ring arguments, and it demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the history of the game.
You know who Jeter is a lot like actually?
Bryant. Their careers have spanned about the same amount of time, both guys
played for the most popular and marketable franchises in their sports, both
their front offices have been willing to constantly pump money into their
teams, and both guys have had this “winning” and “super competitive” narrative
pushed their entire careers. And they’ve both been given way too much credit
for their teams’ success, and are overrated historically. Kobe
is not one of the 10 greatest NBA players ever. He’s never had a season in
which he shot over 50% from the field, his stats are worse in the playoffs than
they are in regular season, and he’s been surprisingly unclutch (or anti-clutch)
throughout his career (in his playoff career, in games with 10 seconds or less,
on shots that could tie or take the lead, the Black Mamba is a shockingly low
5 for 22. That’s a paltry 23%. For comparison, LeBron, who apparently doesn’t have the
“clutch gene”, is 6 for 14 on such shots. That’s 43%.). He got bailed out multiple
times throughout his career by his teammates (he shot 6 for 24 in Game 7 of the
2010 NBA Finals, yet the Lakers found a way to ugly it up and win, he’s shot
below 42% in the NBA Finals for his whole career, and he also played with Shaq
for 8 years, who was the best player on those first three title teams), yet the
media would never tell you any of that. They just continue to perpetuate the
“he’s a killer, he smells blood in the water, he’s the Black Mamba, a five time
champion who’s super clutch, etc.” narrative. Kobe
We can talk in more detail about
later, but what does that have to do with Derek Jeter? Much like Kobe ,
the narratives around Jeter have always been stronger and more powerful for how
we feel about him as a player than his actual play on the field was. We love Jeter
because he was a “winner”, and because he hustled (his play at the plate
against Jeremy Giambi is one of his most memorable, or the two iconic times when he
crashed into the bleachers on the third base side. You can watch those here and
here). Never mind the fact that he never won a league MVP, or that he’s had
limited range at shortstop for at least the last 7-8 years. He was a good
looking dude, he had a cool name (seriously, his name just reeks of
athleticism), he made some really amazing hustle plays, had some clutch moments
(at least more than Kobe . Jeter did
rightfully earn his clutch reputation. His career World Series batting average
is .321, with two World Series in which he hit over .400), and he played for
one of the most popular franchises in the world, for 20 years, during the
internet boom and the age of expanded media. Kobe
Please don’t misconstrue this as me saying Jeter sucks and shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer. That would be ridiculous. Of course he should be. He was a great player. However, on Friday, I wrote that Jeter wasn’t one of the 5 greatest Yankees of all time. Rather than just have you take my word for it, I thought I'd lay out Jeter’s numbers, as well as the stats of the guys I think are better players.
Babe Ruth: 22 years; 2,873 hits; 2,214 RBIs; .342 Batting Average; 714 Home Runs; .474 On Base Percentage; .690 Slugging Percentage; 1.164 OPS (on base plus slugging) no league MVPs (modern award wasn’t awarded until the 1931 season, when the Sultan on Swat was past his prime. Ruth won the 1923 League Awards MVP, but, according to the rules of that award, he would be ineligible to ever win it again. So he couldn’t win it despite his legendary 1927 season); 2 time All Star (would’ve had more, except the All Star game didn’t begin until 1933), one time American League batting champion; 12 time AL Home Run Champion; 6 time AL RBI Champion; at the time of his retirement, was the home run king, and held that record until Hank Aaron passed him in 1974.
Lou Gehrig: 17 years; 2,721 hits; 1,995 RBIs; .340 Batting Average; 493 Home Runs; .447 OBP; .632 Slugging; 1.080 OPS; 1 League Awards MVP and 1 Modern MVP Award, 7 Time All Star (like Ruth, was hurt by the fact that the All Star game did not begin until 1933, but he made it every year from 1933 until his retirement in 1939); won the Triple Crown (leading the league in hits, RBIs, and home runs in one season) in 1934; 3 time AL Home Run Champion; 5 time AL RBI Champion.
Joe Dimaggio: 13 years (lost 3 full years to military service); 2,214 hits, 1,537 RBIs, .325 Batting Average; 361 Home Runs, .398 OBP; .579 Slugging; .977 OPS; 12 time All Star; 3 time AL MVP; 2 time AL Home Run Champion, AL Batting Champion, and AL RBI Champion; has a baseball record 56 game hitting streak.
Mickey Mantle: 18 years; 2,415 hits; 1,509 RBIs; 536 Home Runs; .298 Batting Average; .421 OBP; .557 Slugging; .977 OPS; 16 time All Star; 3 time AL MVP; 4 time AL Home Run Champion; 1 time AL Batting Average Champion; 1 time AL RBI Champion.
Yogi Berra: 19 years; 2,150 hits; 1,430 RBIs; 358 Home Runs; .285 Batting Average; .348 OBP; .482 Slugging; .830 OPS; 15 time All Star; 3 time AL MVP.
Derek Jeter: 20 years; 3,465 hits; 1,311 RBIs; 260 Home Runs; .310 Batting Average; .377 OBP; .440 Slugging; .817 OPS; 14 time All Star; 0 AL MVPs
As you can see, Jeter’s stats are inferior to these five players. He is the Yankees’ all time leader in hits, and his batting average is greater than Mantle’s and Berra’s, but he comes up short everywhere else. He doesn’t make up for his comparative lack of batting with his work on the bases (358 career stolen bases, or 17.9 a year). It’s also important to point out that Jeter played 244 more games than Babe Ruth, who played the second most games out of everyone I listed. All those extra games allowed Jeter to bolster his numbers (and yet, he's still short of those other guys in a lot of ways, despite the sheer number of games he played). Heck, Jeter played 631 more games than Yogi Berra did! I grant that he’s better than Ruth in the field, but other than that, I don’t see how anyone could look at the numbers and come to the conclusion that Jeter was better than these 5 guys. I’d even argue that Mariano Rivera is a better player than Jeter. I know he’s a closer, and he isn’t on the field as much as Jeter was, but he was the most dominant force in baseball for 15 years. Nobody could hit that guy. His postseason ERA in 32 career series was .70. .70! That’s insane. And I didn’t even mention that he’s a 13 time All Star and has 652 saves. He’s the greatest closer ever, and he had a better career than Jeter.
I’d stick Jeter at 7th in Yankee history, just above Whitey Ford. And I could even be convinced to change that. Whitey was really good.
Like I said before, Jeter’s a great player. He’s a Hall of Famer. But did he, based on his career, deserve the type of send off and celebration that he received? Based on his numbers, I’d say no. But if you based it on how popular he was, then maybe. However, I don’t care how popular someone was. I care about what they consistently did on the field or the court for their entire career. Jeter’s a great player, but let’s not forget the legends that came before him. Let’s not allow what’s fresh on our mind, or what every media outlet tells us dictate how we feel about someone’s career. I appreciate everything that Jeter did. I’m glad he played as hard as he did, and I closely followed his career ever since I could throw a baseball. He’s one of the few players that really mattered over the last 20 years, and he didn’t cheat the game and the fans by using steroids. I appreciated that, and I was overjoyed that someone in baseball was playing clean. But is he the greatest player to ever lace up the spikes? No, of course he isn’t. And let’s not forget that.
Now, I promised a week ago that I’d write about the baseball playoffs. I know a lot of people my age and younger would rather watch paint dry than watch baseball on TV, but believe me when I tell you that the baseball playoffs are exciting. Every pitch matters. I think it’s great drama, and I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. Give it a chance. If you aren’t doing anything tonight, flip over to TBS at and just watch. If you have to do homework, just leave it on while you’re hating your life because you have to write some boring research paper, or while you do some pointless math homework.
Now I must admit, back in July, when the Tigers made the trade for pitcher David Price, I thought for sure we’d have a Tigers-Athletics ALCS, one that would be a pitching duel for the ages for all 7 games. Well, Price didn’t help the Tigers as much as I thought he would, and the A’s faded badly down the stretch, as they went 16-30 in their last 46 games. They surrendered their double digit lead in the AL West to the Angels, who ended up winning that division by 10 games. The A’s still pitched really well, but they stopped hitting, and since they traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester on July 31, they were shut out 7 times. Pitching is the most important thing in the playoffs, particularly having power arms, which the A’s still have. Still, I would pick them to beat the Royals tonight, except there’s such potential for
to show up, get three hits, strike out 15 times, and lose 1-0. So I can’t pick
them. Even though pitching is the most important thing in the playoffs, you
also have to be able to manufacture at least a few runs here and there. Oakland
can’t do that. Even if they win tonight, they won’t beat the Angels in the
ALDS. They have no bats. The Angels have plenty. Oakland
On the National League side, I think the Nationals and Dodgers are head and shoulders above the rest of the league.
has the best team ERA in baseball (3.03), and the Dodgers are 6th
(3.40). Plus, Washington has
Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball, the guy who should be the
National League MVP. I hate counting out the Cardinals, just because they
always seem to get a hit when they need it, or they get a great pitching
performance from someone, but they have to play the Dodgers in the NLDS, and I
think the Dodgers are going to the World Series. I believe in the power of
Kershaw. I recognize that the Dodgers’ rotation is a little shaky after Kershaw
and Greinke, and the bullpen isn’t great (they’re 22nd in the league
in bullpen ERA), but if Kershaw and Greinke are at least good in all of their
starts (which I believe they can be), they get a solid start here and there
from someone else in their rotation (which isn’t asking too much really), and
the bullpen can get into a little bit of a rhythm during the playoffs, I think
they’ll be fine. They’ve got more legitimate hitters than anyone else in the NL
(they’re 4th in baseball at 4.4 runs per game), and they’ll have two
of the best three starting pitchers in that series. Kershaw hasn’t been great
in the postseason in his career yet (1-3 record, 4.23 ERA), but he’s had such a
monster year (21-3 record, 1.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts, 6 complete games) that I
think he’s just going to come out and dominate everyone who comes into his
path. The Dodgers will make it to the World Series. Los Angeles
On the American League side, I’m looking at Baltimore and the Los Angeles Angels over
or whatever they heck they’re being called now as the teams that make it into
the ALCS. I jumped off the Orange County
bandwagon because their pitching didn’t turn out to be as good as I thought it
would be (24th in team ERA, 27th in bullpen ERA), as
opposed to Detroit (7th
in team ERA, 6th in bullpen ERA). Miguel Cabrera had his worst year
in quite some time, and Justin Verlander clearly isn’t as good as he was 2 or 3
years ago. The Angels pitching is average (15th in team ERA, 14th
in bullpen ERA), but they’ve got enough sticks (Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh
Hamilton) to win in the ALDS. Pitching rules though, and that’s why I’ll stick
with Baltimore to win the American
League. As exciting as an all Los Angeles World Series would be, I just have to
side with the team that’s got the better pitching, which is Baltimore .
The Orioles have a league leading 211 home runs, which is a little concerning
because teams that hit a lot of home runs normally strike out a ton, and strike
outs are the worst possible out, but I see that pitching staff locking in and
limiting the Angels bats, allowing for Baltimore to advance to the World
In the World Series, I’ll stick with the Dodgers and the power of Kershaw. The American League has the home field advantage in the World Series because of the stupid All Star game rule, but that ultimately won’t matter. LA is just better. They’ll get it done for the first time since 1988. I’ll stick with the Dodgers.
Like always, feel free to comment, and please share this with someone. And watch the baseball playoffs! It’s great television. Enjoy it, you deserve it.