Appreciating Derek Jeter

It’s not an easy time to be a legend.

I feel redundant saying this, since it’s become a common refrain among sportswriters when discussing star players, but we live in skeptical times. It’s too easy to blame it on the steroids scandal from the late 1990s and early 2000s.  The problem is more deeply rooted than that. Simply put, we live in an age of technology and information – and in such an age, it becomes more difficult to believe in something as abstract as a hero.

We live in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, where small stories become huge scandals. It’s an age where computers and social networks have come to dominate our lives. An age where stats determine whether we keep our jobs, and where a  computer algorithm promises us we can find true love. We have free and easy access to more news than our great-grandparents could have dreamed about, yet we can’t help but crave more information. We’ve truly reached the Information Age.

Yet in this age of instant information, can legends survive? It used to be that legends would grow from hearsay, from people passing around stories by word of mouth. Still, no story can survive for long in these days without being dissected, torn to shreds and stitched back together. If Babe Ruth’s Called Shot happened today, would baseball fans 80 years from now still remember it? Almost certainly not – there would be hundreds of reporters covering the story, searching for quotes and digging up new information and angles. The very mythology of the story would be sucked dry. Heroes and legends often don’t stand up to close scrutiny – they thrive best on uncertainty and myth and the power of a child’s imagination.

We’ve come to know this all too well, as icon after icon has had their names thrown in the mud in recent years. Tiger Woods. Roger Clemens. Lance Armstrong. Michael Vick. Brett Favre. LeBron James. There are few star athletes these days who don’t have negative comments surrounding them, and it feels at times as though fans love to dislike stars. It’s almost as though we’re jealous: “No, you can’t possibly be that successful. I need to see you fail.”

And so, I understand why there’s been so much negativity tossed at Derek Jeter as he’s approached 3,000 hits. That’s simply how things go these days. Jeter’s among the biggest sports celebrities of the past 15 years, and it’s become cool to hate him. Heck, I used to laugh at the snarky things written about him over at Fire Joe Morgan back when there was such a divide about his defense.

It’s become natural to react with snark and sarcasm when people write about a sports figure in an overwrought, idealized way. And Derek Jeter has spurred more hyperbolic writing than any other athlete in the modern era: He’s a living legend. A winner. The Captain. The possessor of unquantifiable intangibles. He makes a team better by his mere presence.

And every saberist will say, “Yeah, right.”

But you know what? We – as a collective whole – need to re-examine our Derek Jeter hate. Yes, he’s declining on the field. Yes, his contract overpays him for his production on the field. Yes, if he were anyone else, he wouldn’t be hitting leadoff or playing shortstop. And yes, there are many people who still refer to him as a demigod. But there’s something to be said for appreciating a legend in action.

Why do we feel the need to tear Jeter down? Love him or hate him, he’s a hall-of-fame player – a first-ballot kind of guy. He’s among the youngest players to reach 3,000 hits (sixth), and the first player to reach this milestone since Craig Biggio did it in 2007. There are many great players who never reached 3,000 hits – Babe Ruth pops to mind – making it an impressive accomplishment. Jeter is putting the finishing touches on a historical career, and it would be a pity if we were too intent on tearing him down to appreciate this moment.

Growing up, what was it that made you a baseball fan? For me, it were those incredible stories and the history that made baseball, well, Baseball, with a capital “B.” I grew up a Yankees fan in the mid-90s, and the mythology grabbed me: larger-than-life players like Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, the breathtaking accomplishments like Roger Maris’s 1961 season, and the oddball characters like Mickey Rivers and Ryan Duren.

And the same was true for baseball as a whole. There wasn’t a book in the library about baseball that I didn’t read — but the more I read, the more I wanted to find out. Willie Mays and “The Catch.” The Shot Heard ‘Round The World. Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell and Oscar Charleston. Branch Rickey, Connie Mack and Bill Veeck. Baseball has created its own mythology, its own version of the Greek myths of old, and that’s what drew me – and many other young fans, I’m sure — into the game. It’s a sport filled with magical moments and players. It’s that magic reached out to me.

Of course, the magic disappears as we grow older. I found myself drawn to advanced stats since they kept feeding into my desire for more knowledge, but it’s worth reminding ourselves every now and then about those heroes — those legends. Just as I grew up reading about Mickey Mantle – my dad’s favorite players as a kid – my children will grow up reading about Jeter. Like it or not, his career fits right in with the magic of baseball – the postseason victories, the hall-of-fame career, and (of course) The Flip.

More than anything, I wish I could go back and watch Ted Williams and Satchel Paige play ball. I’d give anything to see those men in action. But remember that we have our own legends – players who generations of children will be reading about and wishing they had seen. Chief among them will be Derek Jeter.

Today was one of those magical moments; Jeter turned back the clock for the afternoon, racking up five hits and leading the Yankees like the Captain of old. So kudos Jeter – congrats for finally reaching this milestone. I, for one, am looking forward to watching the remainder of your career, no matter how long or short it may be.




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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.


162 Responses to “Appreciating Derek Jeter”

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  1. Hasan Paliwala says:

    Nicely said, Steve.

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  2. Bret says:

    Ask people in Toronto why they hate Jeter (or just go to Ken Huckabee) and you’ll get one solid answer, at least.

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  3. Yardisiak says:

    Ken who?!? Gimme a break..

    Back to the topic at hand, Jeter has flaws but has had perhaps the 2nd best career at shortstop… Ever. He isn’t perfect as is sometimes the narrative, but he is still a great great player. Let’s applaud that, we can go back to bitching about his d tomorrow…

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    • AA says:

      Wagner, Ripken, A-Rod, Smith? Definitely not the second best.

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      • Go To War Miss Agnes says:

        A-Rod has only played half of his career at short, and it’s not very difficult to argue Jeter’s had a better career than Ozzie (he has more fWAR, for instance). Don’t really see any great argument for him being better than Wagner (a fairly impossible argument) or Ripken (a pretty huge stretch), but I don’t think it would be all that difficult to make a case that he’s the third best SS ever, unless I’m forgetting someone.

        Look, I don’t like the guy and never have. I’m an O’s fan, and the Jeffrey Maier home run (Jeter hit it) is easily one of the worst sports moments I’ve experienced. But the dude is a fantastic player. He’s not as good as the public perception of him always has been, but he’s a no-doubt-about it hall of famer, and deservedly so.

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      • Preston says:

        Wagner is first. Alex was a SS for 9 years and is now in his 8th at 3b (with 6 years left on his deal). In the end I think he will be looked back on as a 3b (and might dethrone Michael Jack Schmidt as the best ever).
        Ripken .276/.340/.447
        Smith .262/.339/.328
        Jeter .312/.383/.449
        Now I say this fully understanding that Derek Jeter’s career offensive numbers will continue to decline and that defensively Ozzie>>>Ripken>>Jeter. But there is still a debate about defensive metrics so I’m hesitant to just list career WAR’s because depending on how you evaluate defense and weight it can completely change the total. But from the difference in offensive production Derek Jeter is definately the best offensive player of that group.

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      • JD says:

        Don’t forget Arky Vaughan

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      • A guy from PA says:

        Seriously, Arky Vaughn might be the most underrated player OF ALL TIME!

        Top 5 shortstop undisputed. Laughable that he doesn’t get more recognition. There are 3 main reasons I see he doesn’t.

        1. He didn’t win championships
        2. He wasn’t the best shortstop in his franchises history
        3. He played in a small market.

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      • AA says:

        A-Rod won’t dethrone Schmidt because he can’t sniff him defensively.

        A-Rod SHOULD still be the SS. Jeter should have been the one to move positions, because Rodriguez was clearly the better defender.

        As for Ozzie – his fWAR was artificially held down by La Russa’s Royce Clayton obsession.

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      • SDiaz says:

        You can’t just compare Jeter to shortstops of the 80′s and early 90′s or any other era by simply looking at their triple dash lines. We have to consider the offensive output by these players relative to their peers. Using OPS+ is helpful, but not perfect and that has Jeter at an OPS+ of 118 to Ripken’s 112. Considering that Jeter’s final line will most likely be worse than what it is currently, plus the fact that he clearly was an inferior defender to Ripken, I have trouble saying that Jeter was a better SS than Ripken.

        Of course I also think it is kind of silly just to base judgment on a players career solely based on their cumulative stats. It’s pretty clear that Ripken kept on playing well after he was still a good player, and the same may very well be true for Jeter when we look back at his career when he finally retires. Rather such players should be judged on some combination of their peak value and end of career value.

        So what I guess I am saying is this; Jeter is definitely one of the best shortstops in history, but that placing him as number 2 on that elite list may be a bit aggressive. My apologies for rambling.

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      • tom s. says:

        speaking as a cardinals fan who grew up watching ozzie do his backflips and a special penchant for criticizing tony la russa, i don’t know how royce clayton or tony la russa had any more than a marginal impact on ozzie smith’s career WAR total.

        ozzie smith was 42 in 1996 when royce clayton joined the team and, shortly thereafter, ozzie left it. till what age do you think an undisturbed ozzie would have played? 44? 45?

        in 1995, when royce clayton was still a Giant, Ozzie put up a -0.4 WAR season. in 1996, he was worth 1.3 wins in about a half-season of PAs. the best case scenario is that Ozzie might have had 2-3 more average-ish seasons left in him. the very real possibility is that age was catching up with Ozzie, and he could have put up a few more 1995-type seasons that would have HARMED his career WAR.

        i love me some Ozzie, and i love to criticize Tony, but you’re barking up the wrong tree here. i think Tony (and probably Ozzie) could have worked towards a more graceful exit for a St. Louis sports icon, but Ozzie was clearly about done. royce was certainly a comparable and probably a better shortstop in the mid-90′s, so Tony’s preference for him was hardly irrational.

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  4. JETER RULES says:

    In an age where all teams do is wait for the 3 run home run and clog up the bases, Jeter played the game the right way. 5 championships, numerous clutch plays (the flip really comes to mind), and the gritty determination to win you just don’t see in other guys with his talent level.

    He has to be in consideration for the greatest SS of all time. Definitely one of the most complete – he has the gold gloves, a career .312 batting average, the rings and now 3,000 hits. What more could you possibly ask for from your Captain?

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    • AA says:

      Joe Morgan? That you?

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      • JETER RULES says:

        I don’t know why Joe gets so much flack on here. The guy was one of the greatest 2B of all time – he knows ALOT about the game.

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      • jim says:

        AA- shut up and enjoy the moment you douche

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      • allan says:

        i did not see the word “consistent”, so i don’t think so.

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      • Anon says:

        Morgan is one of those people who cannot explain what made them so great at what they did. Johnny Miller is like this as well. Some of the stuff he says on golf broadcasts makes me wonder how the hell he shot 63 at freaking Oakmont in a US Open.

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      • AA says:

        Joe gets flack because he is as bad an analyst as he was a great player. He has no idea what makes players great. Not even what made him great.

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      • A guy from PA says:

        What makes it even funnier is that Joe Morgan did just about everything that saber people say a player SHOULD do with his skillset. He had amazing plate discipline and could take a walk very well, was one person you could actually feel VERY comfortable about stealing bases because he was amazingly successful at not getting caught, even better than Henderson at avoiding the out. He was flat out one of the best at what he did, and somehow he doesn’t realize that what he advocates is to basically ignore the advanced stats that prove he was an AMAZING player, it’s quite humorous. He doesn’t realize that his great analyzing of what a pitcher would do while he played actually LED to his stats. He seems to like to believe that stats ignore process and only look at results when in fact process generally, (but not always) leads to results.

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    • Mr. Met says:

      Have you actually played The Game? Unless you played The Game don’t talk to me.

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    • Highway 61* says:

      Ryan Howard’s page misses your posts.

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  5. Tommy says:

    i like the keith law pragmatic approach to 3,000 hits. its not more important that 2,999 or 3,001. we only find it to be significant because we have 10 fingers.

    if only we had 11 fingers so 3,003 hits would be a milestone. now that would be an accomplishment.

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    • Go To War Miss Agnes says:

      I don’t think you’ll find any rational person who would argue that 3,000 hits is more significant than 3,001, but that’s not really the point either, is it? It’s pretty hard to get to 3,000 without being a fantastic player, and most importantly, I just can’t see how you can really enjoy baseball without being able to pause and admire milestones from time to time. Fact is we do have 10 fingers, and it’s pretty fun to set gold standards and watch some of the best players of all time cement their legacies by accomplishing them. I wouldn’t want the game to be any other way.

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    • Jason461 says:

      If we had 11 fingers, it would be probably be 2,662 hits that was the milestone. Since that is 2000 in base-11 math. Alternatively, 3,993 would be 3,000 in base-11.

      3,003 is 2290 in base-11. That isn’t a fun number at all.

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      • Dean Travers says:

        2288 is 3000 in base-11

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      • Jason461 says:

        No, you’ve got that backward. Base-11 numbers are smaller than base-10 numbers. That’s what happens when you go to 11. 2288 in base-11 is 3000 in base-10. So, in conclusion, if we had 11 fingers, Jeter would have gotten is 2288 hit today. #nerdfight

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      • Tommy says:

        boy my statement sure got turned up to 11. am i rite????

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      • maguro says:

        I prefer to use hexadecimal (base 16) to track baseball stats, so Jeter reaching BB8 doesn’t move me at all.

        Once he reaches BBB – 3,003 to you bsse 10 types – then I’ll really get excited.

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      • ToddM says:

        Dead horse beating nerd fail.

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  6. Horned Owl says:

    He was the highest WAR player on 3 championship teams (1998,1999, 2009). Seems like it shouldn’t be hard for a stat nerd to appreciate what he brings to the table. The myth of Jeter is at times absurd, but it’s also at times deserved.

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    • NBarnes says:

      Well, the myth of Jeter is that he’s The Captain, who makes his entire team better just by playing the field, etc, etc. Which is ridiculous. What’s real and what we should appreciate is that he was a fantastic hitter who managed a passable shortstop defensively. That’s not the legend of Derek Jeter, but his stat-based achievements are very real.

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      • NEPP says:

        Don’t dismiss the human factor. Locker room presence does matter on teams…maybe not as much as some would have you believe on guys like Jeter but there’s a huge difference having a leader on the field and off like Jeter instead of having a guy like Hanley Ramirez. Hanley could be an inner circle Hall of Famer if he gave a damn.

        That all said, the hype around Jeter and the resulting backlash by naysayers gets old.

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      • dnc says:

        “Hanley could be an inner circle Hall of Famer if he played on the late 90′s Yankees”

        also correct

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  7. Toby Flenderson says:

    Jeter has undoubtedly been the best player in the game over the past decade, on and off the field. I remember so many games when ARod, Giambi, etc., would plod around getting random hits here and there only to have the Yankees down in late innings, and seeing Jeter save them time in and time out, performance when it counts. Sure Jeter doesn’t have the monster numbers over the past few years like a Pujols or Bautista, but his contributions to winning go far beyond the numbers. How can anyone not like Jeter? He’s a normal looking guy doing normal looking things — only better.

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  8. Preston says:

    We do live in a desensatized snarky culture looking to trash everything. Yet the reason so many people love to hate Jeter is that in the midst of that mindset he has become “legendary”. His career is defined by moments, not his stat line. The Jefferey Maier HR, Mr. November, The Flip and diving face first into the stands, getting his 3000th on a HR amidst a 5-5 game and collecting the game winning hit. I know it’s unpopular on this site to discuss things in such abstract and anecdotal terms but the guys got the market cornered on intangibles. If nothing else when he retires he will lead the league in nostalgia.

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    • TheBigDawg says:

      Many Yankee fans like to talk about how clutch Jeter is. He has “big moments”. Well, if he is so great, why does he slack the rest of the time? Why doesn’t he play at a high level all the time? Why does he wait for moments to “rise to the occasion”? That’s my definition of a mediocre player who is very lucky.
      For the record, any high school coach would have sat Jeter’s butt for being so far out of position on The Flip that he might not play again for a week. It was a lucky play that was immortalized by Jeremy Giambi’s non-slide and ESPN’s highlight reel.
      You can’t argue Jeter’s numbers. They are very good over a long career and he has earned his plaque in Cooperstown. But his legend is bigger than the actual play on the field.

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    • RPS says:

      Market cornered on intangibles? But if there’s a market, they must be tangible. A system of valuation exists on tangible intangibles.

      ERROR!!!!

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  9. Grant says:

    I think the main reason why people in the sabermetric community tend to strongly dislike Jeter is because of how much he’s elevated over similar guys. Sure, no one is doubting that he’s had a great career, and that he should belong in the Hall of Fame someday, but in terms of WAR he compares very well to guys like Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, and Bobby Abreu, yet no one idolizes any of those guys close to Jeter’s level. It’s annoying as a fan of other teams to know that there are players on your team (Rolen/Jones/etc) who are performing just as well but not getting nearly as much recognition because sportswriters aren’t infatuated with their phony “intangibles”, “heart”, and “clutch”.

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    • joe says:

      Shouldn’t they dislike the people (media) elevating him as opposed to disliking the player?

      Seems like an irrational and emotional response for a community that is ‘objective’

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    • noseeum says:

      You can’t be serious wondering why Jeter gets more accolades than those guys.

      This is why:
      http://isospoet.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/yankees-derek-jeter-rings2.jpg

      And that picture is one short.

      More specifically:
      -Chipper Jones gets plenty of accolades. I don’t think he’s hurting in this department, and I expect he makes the hall of fame
      -Scott Rolen is a great player, but too much of his WAR is tied up in defense. Not saying I agree with this, but you can’t blame this on Jeter. It’s been the way of the world since baseball started. Plus, 3Bs always get the shaft in the appreciation department. They’re compared to first basemen instead of shortstops. Sucks for them.
      -Andruw Jones. See Rolen
      -Bobby Abreu. No rings. Silly good player, but his skillset remains underappreciated. But still, he was only truly elite for about 8 years. That’s not enough for him to be in the conversation with Jeter.

      Too many SABR oriented folks think rings should have no bearing in assessing someone’s career. The rest of the world rightly disagrees with this viewpoint.

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      • Grant says:

        The “rings” have no bearing on the quality of player those guys are. Jeter has won a bunch of championships because he consistently plays in a stacked Yankees lineup.

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      • noseeum says:

        The beef is not how good those guys are. The beef is that Jeter is such a star compared to them. And that’s ridiculous.

        What about Abreu’s career makes him deserve to be a star? He got plenty of money and played good baseball. He won nothing. That’s not his fault, but walking around with a world series ring on your finger certainly helps in the fame department.

        And besides that, Jeter is most definitely a better player than Abreu.

        Jeter is a key player in baseball history. Abreu is eminently forgettable.

        Chipper, Rolen, and Jones have all had their moments, and I think all have a shot at the hall, but they don’t have 5 rings, and they weren’t the best player on a team that won three in a row. Doesn’t make Jeter a better player, but it certainly goes a long way to explaining him being on a much higher plain in the accolades department.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Comparing Chipper and Jeter isn’t even close. In 18 seasons Chipper has 81 career WAR. In 17 Jeter has 70.5. Chipper’s triple slash is above the .300/.400/.500 line, which anybody will tell you means he’s a pretty damn complete hitter. Jeter’s is .313/.383/.449. Sure SS isn’t the production position 3B is, he has had a few good SB seasons but his D isn’t very good. Chipper’s D isn’t amazing either, but it’s better than Jeter’s. Chipper has -2.3 dWar over his career, Jeter has -13.7. Chipper has an MVP award, Jeter doesn’t.

        If Chipper played in New York, and Jeter in Atlanta, Jeter would probably be a backup by now and Chipper would be a bigger legend than Jeter. Switch hitter, complete hitter. Jeter is one dimensional at the plate and could kinda steal bases once he got on for a few years.

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  10. kycubsfan says:

    Thanks Steve. When someone finally comes up with the formula to define all parts that it takes to make a baseball player they may do it by studying players like Jeter instead of breaking them down into just “WAR”.

    I hope Jeter sings tonight
    WAR, huh, yeah
    What is it good for
    Absolutely nothing
    Uh-huh

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  11. futurecfo says:

    A fantastic article- concise, succinct, fair-handed. It is good now and again to remember that baseball is not just about stats- its also about passion and an appreciation of history. Congrats Mr. Jeter…

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  12. Phantom Stranger says:

    Many non-Yankee fans resent the fact that Jeter has been elevated in the media to the superstar level of true inner-circle HOF greats that played for the Yankees like Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth. For most of his career, he never was even the best player at his own position. There is a sense of desperation or need for current Yankee fans to inflate Jeter’s importance over his actual value. He is a HOF, but everyone knows if he had been on almost any team other than the Yankees, that virtually no one outside of his home team would know him.

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    • Sultan of Schwinngg says:

      That’s Yankee hate. It has nothing to do with Jeter, except that he’s a Yankee.

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      • TheBigDawg says:

        Get into the WayBack Machine and go back in time to 1994 and swap A-Rod for Jeter. With A-Rod playing SS for the great Yankee teams of the late-’90′s, we would be reflecting on the two like this right now:

        ~Alex Rodriguez is worth every penny of his $50MM per year contract. It’s too bad that the meniscus tear will keep him out as he closes in on homer #763.

        ~Derek Jeter had a nice run in Seattle as a solid hitter, but he doesn’t hit for much power and his defense just isn’t good enough to keep him around any longer and his 2000th hit yesterday was always in question.

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      • dnc says:

        TheBigDawg pretty much nailed it.

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      • Scott says:

        BigDawg- How does playing in Seattle rob Jeter (not a HR hitter) of 1000 hits? Hyperbole much/

        That said, Jeter is not an inner-circle HOFer as he is often described as. He’s only one step below, however, above the likes of Biggio, Larkin, Yount and other similar players.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Scott, he’s saying that Jeter wouldn’t be an everyday starter this long and thus wouldn’t have a chance for that many hits. Jeter gets hits, doesn’t hit for power and has awful D at a premium D position. He wouldn’t be starting this long anywhere else.

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  13. Sultan of Schwinngg says:

    Ironically enough. On the whole, America doesn’t hate Jeter (I definitely appreciate him and I don’t personally know a single person who isn’t envious of his accomplishments), New Yorkers do.

    Ain’t that something.

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  14. No one hates Jeter outside of the completely irrational. People just hate the local media, the new york media, and the national media. I’m sure the same people that dislike the coverage that Jeter receives also dislike the sensationalism of Cable News.

    By hating or loving Derek Jeter, you’re falling into the trap that the folks churning out the stories want you to fall into.

    By the way, I think we could agree in unison that old-timey baseball people cannot be matched when it comes to telling stories but because of this, they really have no damn clue about value and care more about the storytelling than they do about a handful of statistics.

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  15. Chris says:

    I do find it interesting that Jeter is too “hurt” to play in the ASG but can go out and play great just 4 days before the game. He also did not deserve what so-ever to be voted in as a starter, just shows again that the fan vote doesn’t work. If you are voted into the ASG, you have an obligation to show up to the game and play an inning if at all possible. He owes that to the fans that voted him in however misguided they are.

    Typical Yankee elitist mentality.

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    • jim says:

      or maybe he just doesnt want to go and have it be all about him and his 3K when he’s struggling this year and probably knows he doesnt deserve to start, and will let cabrera, who does deserve it, get the nod.

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    • David says:

      So basically you’re saying that if he plays, he an asshole, and if he doesn’t play, he’s an asshole. Yeah, definitely seems like Jeter’s fault here, and not just that you’ve rationalized some completely absurd story to make your Yankees vitriol seem anything but petty.

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      • SDiaz says:

        Yeah, I am tired of All-Star game selection nonsense. It’s a shame that certain players got overlooked, and its laughable when the managers pick players that should not be considered All-Stars, but Jeter was voted by the fans. People watch the all star game because its a spectacle. They want to the stars and legends of the game play in a meaningless fantasy baseballesque exhibition game. I like Yunel Escobar, but lets be realistic, the typical fan had hardly any idea who he is. They would rather see a guy who will be a first ballot hall of famer play.

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  16. TheTallOne0602 says:

    The notion that Jeter has had the same career as Andruw Jones is laughable. Are his quantifiable contributions roughly similar? Yes. And believe me, I screech in agony when some commentator talks about Jeter’s sterling defense at short (as a small tangent: I have never gotten why non-saber-minded Yankee fans are so upset by the idea that Jeter’s defense is not particularly good. When you watch him, his defense looks outright awful. It isn’t like the stats and the eye-test disagree on this one…).

    But to say that he would not be the same legend if he didn’t play in New York is like saying he wouldn’t be the same player if he wasn’t born with a strong arm and the crazy hand eye coordination that all MLB hitters need. Yes, things would have been different if not for the Flip, the five championships, the Jeffrey Maier home run, the foul pop that no one caught in ’96, the dive into the stands….

    But all of that stuff did happen. Much of it might have involved high degrees of randomness (although some of it did not), but complaining about that is pointless. All great seasons are, to a certain extent, exceptions. All great careers, similarly, are exceptions. All legends are exceptions that could not possibly be expected to have turned out that way. Derek Jeter was not responsible for everything that made him a legend, but so what? When people laud Michael Jordan, does anyone mention that if he had been born 6’0″ instead of 6’6″, none of it would have happened? Or that without Scottie Pippen, none of it would have happened?

    Of course much of it was out of Jeter’s control. That doesn’t make it any less awesome to watch, experience, and remember. Find me another player who has had as many memorable moments as Jeter. Odds are, he’s a legend, too.

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    • JamesDaBear says:

      This is so ridiculous. What does the city he plays in have to do with his physical attributes? The city he plays in has a huge impact on the attention he gets, the money he makes, the opportunities he received, etc… Taking away his memorable moments isn’t the same as cutting off his right arm. Taking Michael Jordan’s teammates into account isn’t the same as cutting off his legs at the knees.

      I give him a lot of extra credit for his success in those moments, but it doesn’t mean he gets all the credit, and it doesn’t take away from his failures. Everything you talk about is just extra credit, it doesn’t make him a superior baseball player to his peers because he got to play in New York, on teams with $200m payrolls and make ridiculous sums of money himself doing it.

      He should have memorable moments. You shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer without them. Removing them when judging him against his peers, who weren’t as fortunate to have the Yankees draft them, isn’t the same as removing his left eye. These arguments are just odd.

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    • Sultan of Schwinngg says:

      And believe me, I screech in agony when some commentator talks about Jeter’s sterling defense at short (as a small tangent: I have never gotten why non-saber-minded Yankee fans are so upset by the idea that Jeter’s defense is not particularly good. When you watch him, his defense looks outright awful. It isn’t like the stats and the eye-test disagree on this one…).

      Screech away.

      Have you ever read of a GM, coach, or scout describe Jeter as a terrible defender? I doubt it. They know baseball far more than the scribes you bow down to, yet you ignore their opinions. Why is that, besides your naivety and penchant for being easily led?

      Defense isn’t all about range, it also entails sure-handedness, throwing accuracy, proper instinct and execution. Those are all “tools”, and as those tools go, Jeter has excelled with the majority of them. He has not been a poor defender throughout his career.

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      • deadpool says:

        OK, that’s a fine point. Jeter hasn’t been a poor defender throughout his career. Neither has he been especially good. You point to things that make Jeter a consistent fielder. That doesn’t make him good. Other guys are either as consistent with more range, or have more range and make up for less consistency by getting to more balls. Its a sliding scale.

        The problem is range makes up for lack of consistency much more easily than consistency makes up for lack of range, so rangier SSs probably have an edge over Jeter. BTW, the debate over Jeter’s defense historically hasn’t been that he’s poor excepting a few years when everyone admits he was, its that nobody could understand why he was winning Gold Gloves.

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      • AA says:

        Everyone understands why Jeter won Gold Gloves – because he was a good hitter who got tons of attention. The reality is that he was the worst of the famed “Big 3″ as a defensive player from the time they came into the league.

        Anyway, Jeter didn’t “have all those tools.” Jeter was error prone early on and never had great range. His “instincts” and “execution” obviously weren’t great, because a bigger, slower guy like Ripken absolutely destroys Jeter when you compare them defensively. Jeter’s only real defensive tool has been his arm, which is above average, which is why he should have been the guy to change positions.

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      • Sultan of Schwinngg says:

        the debate over Jeter’s defense historically hasn’t been that he’s poor excepting a few years when everyone admits he was, its that nobody could understand why he was winning Gold Gloves.

        Everyone understands why Jeter won Gold Gloves – because he was a good hitter who got tons of attention

        Exactly. It’s not that Jeter was a “terrible fielder”, it’s just that some don’t appreciate how GG are awarded. Not unlike other MLB awards, the GG is 60% substance and 40% popularity.

        Understanding that, who should have received those GG’s instead of Jeter? Young (1)? Tejada (0), Cabrera (1)?. Those three weren’t good defenders either.

        Jeter won those GGs because he was hands down the best SS in the AL while he was winning them.

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  17. Robbie G. says:

    Derek Jeter has a very decent shot at winding up ninth all-time in career hits. Ninth! After today’s 5-for-5 performance, he’s at 3,003. Paul Molitor is #9 all-time at 3,319. Jeter keeps himself in excellent condition and is getting paid an insane amount of money through 2013, and it’s pretty safe to say, I think, that he will be allowed to play every day at SS for the Yankees through the end of the 2013 season. Let’s say he gets another 70 hits this season. He’d then only have to average 123 hits/year in 2012 and 2013 to tie Molitor for ninth place. Hell, Cap Anson, #6 all-time in career hits, is at 3,435, who he’d catch by averaging 181 hits/year in 2012 and 2013 (again, assuming he gets another 70 hits this season). He got 179 hits last season, so even Anson is within reach. Tris Speaker, #5 all-time with 3,514, seems safe, though.

    And to those who have been annoyed by the even more than excessive Yankees coverage than usual lately because of Jeter’s “Quest for 3,000″: Alex Rodriguez will likely be reaching the 3,000 hit plateau in, oh, around August or September, 2012. And A-Rod probably will end up catching up to Jeter on the all-time list and has what appears to be a pretty decent shot at catching Speaker.

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  18. Blue says:

    Derek Jeter has the huge rep for one reason and one reason alone–he played his whole career for the Yankees. Put him in KC, or Colorado, or San Diego and he has the same rep as a Biggo.

    Is he HOF? Of course. Is he inner circle? No way, not even in the top half.

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    • kick me in the GO NATS says:

      Biggio for the Hall Of FAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Frankly I believe Biggio was better than Jeter. WHy? Because it is easy to hit and score when 5 of the 10 best players in the game hit around you, and your already up by 5 runs. Biggio was great despite the talent around him for many years. Jeter is great (in part) because of the guys around him But they both deserve the hall.

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      • NEPP says:

        Lineup protection is a myth.

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      • JamesDaBear says:

        You’re right… but it does effect greatly the number of times you come up to the dish if you are constantly surrounded by All-Stars.

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      • cuck says:

        Do the names Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman ring a bell?

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      • Sultan of Schwinngg says:

        NEPP and TheTallOne0602 are BFF

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      • kick me in the GO NATS says:

        lineup protection is not a Myth; I think no one has found a good way to prove it yet. The fact is that most teams have enough talent to provide most guys with decent enough protection, but it does matter. Here are three reasons

        1. It is unlikely a pitcher pitches around a good hitter to get to a .600 slugger when the game is close, but you do if next guy slugs .300. Your not going to hit as often when your consistently pitched around. Now since most managers know this it does not come up often as most teams have a guy who can slug well enough following their better hitters, but when they do not, then it matters a ton.

        2. The more often a player is successful the more confidence he gains in his abilities. Good lineups provide more opportunities to be successful. This is subtle but I think it matters over a long term like a few years.

        3. Most importantly, nearly every hitter hits better with runners in scoring position, and/or nearly every pitches worse out of the stretch. The more chances for these opportunities the better a batting average will be relative to otherwise.

        The above information leads me to believe that lineups have to matter, but no one has proven it yet.

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      • AA says:

        Well, Biggio was better defensively at his position and faster and played half his career in the bat-destroying Astrodome.

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  19. Grumpy says:

    I hate the Yankees and absolutely refuse to appreciate any of them!!

    OK, maybe this once………

    *mumbles* But, I am not watching his induction speech

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  20. ryan says:

    It would appear as though tom verducci essentially just plagiarized this entire article for si.com

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  21. Are we really bothering to talk about a stat (career hits) that rates Pete Rose better than Ty Cobb, Paul Molitor better than Babe Ruth, Harold Baines better than Lou Gehrig, and Bill Buckner better than Ted Williams? This stat has more variables outside of player skill than pitcher wins.

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  22. Matty Brown says:

    This was the best piece of “journalistic” writing I have read on this amazing site. kudos sir.

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  23. This was very well written, Steve. Definite kudos.

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  24. I’m a huge Yankees fan and I write for Pinstripe Alley. Trying to ignore my bias is difficult, but today was incredible. I was lucky enough to be in attendance.

    I agree that some of the Jeter love is over the top, but as stated, he’s a legend, and he’s part of the reason we watch Baseball.

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  25. TBD says:

    “And so, I understand why there’s been so much negativity tossed at Derek Jeter”

    no, apparently you don’t….he’s an overrated phony and douchebag who, like Cal Ripken, was more concerned with cultivating an image than anything else….”WHAT? I’M NOT WORTH 6 YEARS AND $150 MILLION AFTER A .710 OPS YEAR? OMG OMG!!!” – (there you saw the real Jeter for a few days)

    and i really had to chuckle when i heard the clowns on ESPN Radio this morning making a big deal out the overpaid has been….they sounded like Chris Matthews with that tingle up his leg and apparently don’t realize that the rest of the nation is yawning… nobody cares….

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  26. A guy from PA says:

    Doesn’t it feel strange to realize if Jeter put up the same performance in New York that he did in Pittsburgh, he’d only be the 3rd greatest shortstop in franchise history as a hitter? I don’t think many people would dispute that who looked at the numbers. Arky Vaughn fun fact, the man walked OVER 3 TIMES MORE OFTEN THAN HE STRUCK OUT. Jeter, more K’s than BB. Arky Vaughn has higher BA. Arky Vaughn, higher OBP, higher SLG, and if you want to adjust for era, Arky Vaughn’s Wrc+ is 14 or 15 points higher than Jeters.

    Jeter is one of the top 10 hitting shortstops of all time, and a hall of fame guy, but as this guy named Vaughn who most here probably have only heard of in passing at most can show, the teammates and media can change an amazing player into a legend, and turn an even greater player into just a name by their failure to build up a player over the years.

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    • A guy from PA says:

      One more think to hype Vaughn, his 1935 season Wrc+ is higher than season in Derek Jeter’s, Ichiro Suzuki’s, Alex Rodriguez’s, or even Albert Pujols’ career. A .385 average, a .491 OBP, and a ,607 SLG for a .494 wOBA. What’s funny is he lost the MVP that year to a Gabby Hartnett, a catcher whose stats that year were quite spectacular, but not up to Arky’s. Hartnett was inferior in OPS, wOBA, and even the traditional MVP categories of the time like BA, RBI, hits, runs, home runs, and stolen bases.

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      • AdamM says:

        Gabby’s Cubs won the pennant, and Arky’s pirates finished 28 games back

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      • joe says:

        It was a different era… you saw pitchers far more often (shorter rotation and less teams) and you didn’t see 3 or 4 pitchers on any given day.

        Comparing walk rates and averages of a guy in the 30′s to someone in the ’00s is a ridiculous exercise that any person even slightly savy with statistics should understand.

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      • A guy from PA says:

        That’s why I used wRC+, cause you know, it adjusts for league average so you CAN compare in a way players from different eras. It wouldn’t be fun if I only mentioned that though.

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      • joe says:

        Yes but then you went on with one good season of OBP, SLG, and average…. AND YOU SEEM TO THINK WRITING IN ALL CAPS ABOUT STRIKEOUTS AND WALKS (as if that makes your argument stronger) is really important… and that is a major difference between the era’s they played in.

        Also even comparing RC+ across different era’s can be problematic… are the RC distributions similar? If not the comparison is somewhat questionable…Was the distribution of players in the 30′s as tight as it is today?

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  27. cuck says:

    Another kudos from me Steve, I thoroughly enjoyed reading one positive article about Jeter on here.

    In my experience people hate Jeter because of A-Rod. They both get booed when they come to town. However, when people clarify their feelings on the Yankees as just hating Jeter and A-Rod, they typically don’t know anything about Jeter. Everybody can spout off that Jeter has overrated defense, but no one knows that he has been amazing offensively. They know he was good, but peple are ignoant that he is one of the elite players of all time and a first ballot HOFer.

    His legend is what angers sabermetricians the most I think. People who hate him know nothing about him and people who love him are over the top infatuated and will hear nothing against him. Jeter’s “aura,” if you wll, leads people to believe that he is an inner circle HOFer, with the likes of Mays, Ruth, and Aaron. People who know that he is not are frustrated by this and, becaue he is a Yankee, are ld to hate him.

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  28. pft says:

    As a Red Sox fan I have always felt Jeter deserved more credit than he deserves, and still do. However, he is a HOF’er.

    His greatest asset has been is durability, consistency and ability to get on base and run the bases well. Not much defensively or power wise.

    The legend is a bit inflated being from NY and the national media who want a bigger piece of the NY market, and the fact he played on some great teams. No surprise there.

    Jeter is past his prime now, and the declining years are always tough on fans watching their star fade, but he should not be judged what he has done the past 2 years and going forward, but what he has done from 1996-2009.

    Great way to get 3000 hits BTW. That was the best game I have seen Jeter play in quite awhile. Maybe he has a bit more left in the tank than I thought.

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  29. Jon says:

    Leaving aside Jeter for the moment, the assumption of the statheads on this site that leadership and personality don’t matter because we don’t have good metrics for them is unfounded. Players on the same team share a dugout, a clubhouse, hotels, airplanes, nights out, practice, the training room, and 162 games a season – that these interactions would have no effect on performance is implausible. Before good fielding metrics were developed, the opinions of observers represented the best evidence, and there’s now considerable data to suggest that those opinions were mostly accurate. While we’re unlikely to ever develop good data on “intangibles,” players affect each other’s mental states, and this is likely to influence performance. As to the extent and quality of that influence, the best information we have are the opinions of other team personnel, and that evidence is almost certainly better than nothing.

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  30. Thomas says:

    Jeter gets hyped so much because he plays in new york, someone said he’s in the running for best shortstop ever. LMAO! Wagner and Vaughan both blow him away and Ripken beats him too.
    comparing those 4 shortstops
    http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?playerid2=1013377&playerid3=1013485&playerid4=1010978&playerid5=826

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  31. Ben says:

    Great article Steve! I’m a big Yankee fan, and I never get the anti-Jeter opinions. He is a great hitter, his defense isn’t THAT terrible (why do people make more fun of his defense than, say, Big Papi or Manny Ramirez), he is a great leader, a great guy who I don’t think has ever gotten into a fight, and one of the best players under pressure. What’s wrong with that? Why don’t people hate guys like Ty Cobb, a known racist who liked to spike people with his spikes, instead of a great player who is also a great guy?

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    • A guy from PA says:

      Well, to say he is one of the most “clutch” players is quantifiably wrong if you try to look up how he does in “clutch” situations. With runners in scoring position, with the bases loaded, and with a runner on 3rd and 2 outs, he performs worse than he does with nobody on. He does best with 0 outs as opposed to 1 or 2 outs. In high leverage situations, he is worse than his career rates. His best inning is the 4th inning followed by the 1st. In games against Boston, (which are all hyped games, thus each at bat is a big spotlight at bat) he is 19% worse than his career numbers. When he comes up to bat in a late and close game per baseball-reference, he does worse than his career rates, but hey, when he comes up with RISP and 2 outs, he is a a whopping 3% better than his career numbers, and his ALDS numbers are better than his career numbers, (though his ALCS numbers are worse, and his WS numbers are almost identical).

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      • Garrett says:

        You’re not adjusting for competition. Identical postseason rates are significantly better than regular season rates.

        Thanks for making a bad post though.

        PS: I’m unsure why regular season games matter more than others. Perhaps you’re just buying into the “hype”.

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  32. Thank you, Steve. That was great.

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  33. BillHiggs says:

    Welcome to Fangraphs where a simple kudos to a significant achievement devolves into a discussion of Arky Vaughn and the validity of the WAR stat.
    We need to re-examine our expectations towards players in the twilight of their career. Without the PED’s performance drops off quickly. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jeter resisted the steroid temptation. A local TV ad shows Jeter working out – in one shot it appears Jeter has been replaced by a more muscular substitute for a headless shot. That wouldn’t have been necessary for a Biggio ad – just sayin’.

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  34. Derek says:

    I just read every comment, and one thing is clear: Yankee fans are absolute idiots. Take off the herpes-colored glasses and accept reality.

    Jeter doesn’t walk on water, he doesn’t make others better just by being there, he’s a selfish puke who should have moved to second when the Yanks acquired a better shortstop, and he should accept a move to 7th in the batting order. Because he didn’t and doesn’t it took a club outspending the rest of MLB by a wide margin NINE years to finally win another title. It might take another nine.

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    • BillHiggs says:

      Exactly what color would herpes be?

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    • Steve P says:

      I think recently there have been rumblings about Jeter being selfish, even in the NY media with regard to his contract negotiations and his declining performance. However, these are rumors and speculation as he’s never come out and publicly said he won’t drop down in the order, switch positions, or hold out for more money. In fact, if anyone is to blame for Jeter not being dropped in the order or moved to another position due to skill deterioration it’s Yankee management themselves. Whether it be “respect” for Jeter, fear of angering the fan base, or whatever, they’ve never put him in that position. And he has never publicly complained to the media about anything like so many other stars (in any sport) are prone to due. For that, he does deserve some type of kudos.

      As for the comment about moving to second when the Yankees acquired A-Rod, I gotta say him staying there probably worked out better for the Yankees. It’s A-Rod, not Jeter, who has been battling nagging hip, knee, and back injuries. It’s questionable whether A-Rod would have been able to handle shortstop for more than the first few seasons that he was in NY. And if Jeter had moved to second for A-Rod, Robinson Cano would have been blocked. Hindsight is 20-20, but leaving Jeter at short and making A-Rod change positions worked out very well for the Yankees, and after all isn’t that the goal when running a team? Put the best possible lineup together out of your available resources, that is.

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      • Garrett says:

        I think they wanted him to move to CF.

        The idiots commenting about A-Rod moving to SS when he was an average fielding 3B and gained a ton of weight were comical a few years later though.

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  35. Really? says:

    What a shit article. Nowhere did it make any sort of coherent argument as to why Jeter deserves more attention than comparably valuable players (Rolen, Bagwell, Chipper, etc.). Instead, it basically resorted to, “He’s a legend, get over it.”

    Actually, I’m giving the article TOO MUCH credit. It started by pointing out that with modern day technology/analytical tools, there’s no need to base player deification on misinformation and “hearsay”. Then it argues; let’s go back to being unevolved!

    How did this guy get a job on Fangraphs?

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    • noseeum says:

      If you don’t understand why he’s a legend, why are you even a baseball fan? Why don’t you just watch the WAR spreadsheet change on a daily basis? Who even needs to watch the games now that we can just look up WAR?

      Perhaps we can someday come up with MLE stats for every high school league, and we can use those to create xWAR. And then we can just cancel baseball altogether and put guys in the hall of fame after their senior year of high school.

      What a dumb post. Why he gets more attention is about as obvious is what color the sky is. Much of it has nothing to do with his quality of play, but that doesn’t make him a bad player. You know those games at the end of the season that a lot of people who don’t pay much attention to baseball watch? Jeter’s played in a few, and his taken a number of rides down the Canyon of Heroes. all in front of the largest media market in the country.

      So there are millions of Americans who might not know who Scott Rolen is, but they know who Jeter is. That’s not Rolen’s fault, but it’s not Jeter’s either. It’s just reality.

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      • Really? says:

        “So there are millions of Americans who might not know who Scott Rolen is, but they know who Jeter is. That’s not Rolen’s fault, but it’s not Jeter’s either. It’s just reality.”

        And it’s the job of a statistically oriented analysis site to perpetuate ignorance? Jeez, when did hype become the new value?

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    • Same way he got that GG last year, pull with ESPN. He fit the narrative.

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  36. Hummer says:

    “Jeter’s played in a few, and his taken a number of rides down the Canyon of Heroes. all in front of the largest media market in the country.”

    Jorge Posada- legend!

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  37. Jake Jarmel says:

    Derek Jeter epitomizes all that sabermagicians hate about baseball. And that is the skills and abilities that can’t be written into tidy little equations or formulas or discovered in a test tube in the lab you work in your mother’s basement. No, Derek Jeter is a leader, winner, and proven champion.

    The hardware alone this guy has won over his career is staggering. The only reason the lamestream sports media tears him down is because they’re just jealous of how much better he is than you.
    As for his contract, I feel that Jeter is severely underpaid. You just can’t put a price tag on being a “gamer” or hustling every play on the field. Not to mention how he mentors and makes everyone else on his team better.

    You wanna talk about defense? Well I got 3 words for you: the jump throw. ‘Nuff said. Jeter is one of the top 10 players to ever touch a baseball, and it’s about time that he get the recognition and respect he deserves.

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  38. Jake Jarmel says:

    Just to be clear, I’m not the same guy that was posting on Ryan Howard’s player page, or even the guy that posted as Toby Flenderson.

    I just enjoy obscure characters from Seinfeld…I’m not that huge of a fan of The Office though.

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    • Slugger27 says:

      whats obscure about jake jarmel? he was a prominent character in multiple episodes

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      • Jake Jarmel says:

        Well he was only in there for what like 4 episodes? I just meant obscure as in not one of the main characters.

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    • ToddM says:

      Just to be clear, you’re functionally identical, and since we’re not actually watching you type or asking you questions about your satirical opinions, you might as well be the same dude.

      …which you probably are anyway. If not, find your own schtick, lame ass. Over-the-top, borrowed-character-name, ignorant traditionalist is taken.

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  39. Robbie G. says:

    Did you guys see that 12% of voters on some dumb Yahoo poll think that Derek Jeter is “The Greatest Yankee of All Time”? Good god. I am not a Jeter hater (it’s not his fault that idiots keep giving him the Gold Glove) but Babe Ruth needs to be getting 100% of those votes, obviously.

    Had Jorge Posada not been blocked by Joe Girardi and Jim Leyritz in 1996-97, he might be looking like HOF material, as well. Incredible how many HOFers and borderline HOFers have been prominent Yankees in recent years.

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    • Robbie G. says:

      Posada should finish as one of the top 12-14 catchers of all time in WAR when he’s finished, right there with Brian Downing and Gene Tenace in that tier of catchers right behind the Buck Ewing-Mickey Cochrane-Ted Simmons-Gabby Hartnett tier (and only Simmons is not in the Hall among these four). It’s surprising that a New York Yankee could possibly be underrated.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      How is it incredible? Most teams have to gamble on players in their early 20s. The Yankees gamble on players in their mid-late 20s after they’re pretty proven. What’s incredible is that after about 100 years of having by far the most resources they’ve only won about 1/4 of the titles. The Yankees should have way more given their extreme advantage.

      Nothing is impressive about the Yankees. Saying the Yankees having a lot of future or past hall of famers and titles is impressive is like saying it’s impressive if I beat up a 6 year old.

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  40. RPS says:

    Derek Jeter = Barry Larkin

    Amount I hear about Derek Jeter >> Amount I heard about Barry Larkin.

    Therefore, screw Jeter. Even though I have no reason to personally dislike him whatsoever.

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  41. Moe says:

    Phenomenal article, could not agree more.

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  42. Jonathan says:

    Discussions like this bring out the best and the worst in this community of “statheads” and in its interaction with the broader baseball community. I think the two have a lot to learn from each other. This article reminds us that professional baseball is ultimately a game played for the purpose of winning baseball games–for achieving excellence in team sport.

    Sure, if you swapped 1994 Jeter with another SS in the league, that other SS might today be the one getting the accolades. That’s possible. Of course it’s also true that Jeter has accrued fame outsized to what we might call his “true talent.” No one could make a compelling case against these contentions. One is a hypothetical world we will never know, and the other has mountains of support in the data.

    But baseball is not played on a stat sheet, and it doesn’t care much about counter-factual worlds. Baseball isn’t a matter of lining up WARs against WARs and then choosing a winner based on the larger number. Baseball is played in real life. In real life, people must actually perform in the midst of the contingencies and vagaries of the world around them. We use stats to try to understand – to theorize, to digest, even to try (I say, TRY) to predict – what happens in this real life. We become more effective at these tasks every day. But none of our success changes the fact that real, live men play the games, and they are bound by neither the statistics that make up their past, nor those that will make up their future. They live in an open-universe of possibilities. The next out, the next hit, the next home run, the next career-ending injury–each of these possibilities weighs on their world.

    Derek Jeter may be just a plain old HOFer by his stat sheet. He is almost certainly not the greatest Yankee of all time, or the greatest SS of all time. He also benefitted from being in the right place, on the right teams, at the right time. It’s all true. We must remember, however, that no matter whether he got there by mere contingency, divine intervention, or the power of the Yankee purse, Derek Jeter played those games for which he became famous, and he played them well. He did it, but he didn’t have to do it. It wasn’t preordained. It wasn’t certain. It couldn’t be perfectly predicted or even concurrently understood. Now that it’s over though, we know that he was a HOF shortstop on one of the most dominant dynasties in the history of the sport. Set aside your bias, your Yankee hatred, your statistical models, your resentment of contingent facts about the world, or whatever else motivates you, and appreciate the quality we all look for when we watch the game: Greatness as it manifests in real life. No matter what forces brought him there, Jeter was great on the biggest stage for an extended period of time. From a lifelong Mets fan, Kudos to him.

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  43. Jake says:

    I was with this article till the last sentence. Derek Jeter is not “chief” among the great players of this generation. Derek Jeter is not as good as Alex Rodriguez on his own team. People who truly appreciate the elite talent in the game know that Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez are the truly great talents of their time. The problem that people have with Jeter is the idea that his teammates talent has somehow lead to us being force fed some belief in his magical powers. Derek Jeter is not a winner, he’s a great player who also had great teammates. What I will remember 15 years from now is that Nomar Garciaparra in his prime was better player than Derek Jeter and that there’s a lot to be said for simply remaining healthy.

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    • The Iron Horse says:

      Wow. In 15 years, all you’ll remember about Derek Jeter is that Nomar was a better player? Way to show you’re a Red Sox homer.

      Nomar wasn’t a better player in their primes. But lets leave that opinion that you passed off for a fact alone. Instead, lets focus on all that Jeter has accomplished. The guy was a human hilight reel, with many great moments. Yet, some Sox homer will remember Nomar when he thinks of Jeter.

      Some of the posters on this site are ridiculous.

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      • AA says:

        Nomar actually was better when healthy and in his prime. Better hitter, better fielder. The problem Nomar had was actually staying healthy.

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  44. Lyle Schweik says:

    Punch Jeter and Lou Whitaker into the wargraphs site. The similarity between their careers is uncanny. So why then aren’t we also talking about Whitaker as a surefire HOFer? If Jeter belongs in the HOF (which he does) then what is keeping Sweet Lou out? It’s not Jeter’s fault that he played for the Yanks but doing so sure didn’t hurt public and media perception of his career.

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    • objectiveobserver says:

      “Punch Jeter and Lou Whitaker into the wargraphs site. The similarity between their careers is uncanny.”

      Which says more about wargraphs than is does about Jeter or Whitaker.

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  45. The Iron Horse says:

    The reason why Jeter is more famous than “insert player X” is because the nation tunes in for the playoffs. Everyone is watching the World Series, and everyone knows who won. People tend to pay more attention to the stars of the winning teams. Jeter has been in the WS a lot more than other players.

    Is he a product of his situation? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve all the attention. It doesn’t make his accomplishments any better or worse. However, since the goal is to win the World Series, it makes those post-season moments the thing that sticks in everyone’s head.

    The failure to understand why he gets so much attention speaks more to your ignorance about how fame works than anything else. He gets more press because people are more interested in him because they see him every October succeeding on the big stage.

    He may have been lucky to be surrounded by so many great players, but he is the one who had the big moments that people remember. Success and failure are magnified in the playoffs, and those that succeed are the ones who people bestow fame upon.

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  46. adohaj says:

    Best article I’ve read on this site for a long time

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  47. Cal still better says:

    I was about 8 when Jeter hit the Jeffrey Maier home run, and it broke my O’s fan heart. He’s been my least favorite player every since.

    Yes, he deserves to be a hall of famer. I’m still allowed to point out that he is the worst defensive shortstop to play a bunch of seasons at the position and that the praise he gets is over the top.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m an O’s fan and I have an irrational hatred of Jeter, but I don’t hate him for the Maier homerun. Benitez got Jeter to fly out. End of story, except for a seemingly incompetent umpire (and current Yankees’ season ticket holder, Rich Garcia. He deserves the blame.

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  48. MikeD says:

    Is it possible to be overrated and underrated at the same time? I think it is and that’s Derek Jeter. It depends on the community doing the rating. The general mass media has always gotten carried away with the intangibles part of his game, which I always thought was a bit insulting since it ignored his overall game. The sabermetric community has spent the last decade plus trying to point out what he can’t do, which is unfortunate. In the process, they’ve missed an incredible career. Their loss.

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  49. Shaun Catron says:

    Its very sad though, we are witnessing the decline of an all time great.

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  51. mike wants wins says:

    Jeter is a great baseball player. Is he perfect? No. I’m a “stathead”, mostly. But there is something to clubhouse presence. I know that from my 20+ years of work, that the personality of your co-workers does make a difference. I have no idea how to measure that. I used to ask “If Cuddeyer really makes other players better, what player would hit / field worse if he wasn’t there” is some snarky way….but now I’m left wondering, does personality make a difference of some kind?

    For me, I don’t hate any athlete. I don’t understand hating anyone, mostly. I do hate the coverage Jeter receives. It seems hyperbolic to me in a way that I find tiresome and difficult to listen to. Mostly, now, I just ignore sports coverage that annoys me. There are plenty of other things to pay attention to, so I just mostly ignore the Jeter worship (or Favre coverage).

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  52. mike wants wins says:

    Oh, I forgot, I agree with the premise that legends and heroes are so much harder to keep on a pedestal these days. Part of that is that I’m older and don’t really worship anyone anymore, but I see it in many kids these days too. There is just so much information out there now, that mystery is somewhat disappearing.

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  53. shibboleth says:

    Great article, Steve. Thanks for posting it. For or against, one thing should be indisputable: Jeter has managed to be New York’s player for over a decade and he has done it while keeping his nose clean. This is no small accomplishment… lesser players in lesser markets have been vilified for off-field antics, locker room comments, lack of on-field hustle… this has never really been the case with Jeter. This is an accomplishment in an age where the media is very quick to highlight anything abnormal about an athlete (a-rod eating popcorn… really?)

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  54. CircleChange11 says:

    DJ has received far more credit for those title teams that he deserved due to him being the final piece of the puzzle.

    It always drove me crazy to hear from the media how previous champions like Paul O’Neill looked to a rookie/neophyte Derek Jeter for leadership.

    It also drove me crazy that DJ’s leadership abilities decreased when the talent of his teammates increased.

    However, he really has had an outstanding career. I spent quite a bit of it rooting against him and pointing out that if he played in MIL he’d be about half as famous (if that). But, at some point, the more I rooted against him, the better he did, so I threw in the towel. One just gets tired of hearing about him.

    I agree with Mike D. I think he’s over and under rated at the same time. His leadership, etc is vastly over-rated. His actual performance is under-rated, and sometimes we make it sound like his defense is just horrible, and it isn’t. It’s as if Jeter’s Defensive Metrics are the saber communities “greatest battle”, when it’s one we won’t win.

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  55. Eminor3rd says:

    My problem with Jeter is that he’s been such a jerk over the past few years. No one likes it when a megalomaniac gets the attention he wants.

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  56. Curious George says:

    “we live in skeptical times”

    I think you mean cynical times. Nothing wrong with skepticism.

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  57. MikeM says:

    For me, most of the “Jeter Hate” (of which I contribute to plenty) is really media-hate in disguise. Anybody who watched Yankee playoff games in the late 90′s/early aughts when Bob Costas had his lips firmly planted on Jeter’s behind for 9 innings at a time couldn’t help but roll their eyes and yell at the TV screen “He’s not THAT good!”

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  58. johnny says:

    hey toronto haters, you’re welcome. if boston and new york didn’t fill your stadium 18 times a year you might not even have a team. And if ken huckabee gets a break from pumping gas any time soon tell him to eat a bag of assholes.

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  59. Antonio Bananas says:

    If Jeter was ugly would he be as great of a player? He’s a handsome guy who has won a lot in a huge media market. I bet if he was ugly he wouldn’t be considered as great.

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  60. Bill says:

    “Have you ever read of a GM, coach, or scout describe Jeter as a terrible defender?”

    Have you ever read of a GM or coach describing any player as a terrible anything? Let alone a sacred cow like Derek Jeter?

    The next time Derek Jeter fields a ball within 10 feet of second base will be his first.

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