The #9 greatest Yankee since 1918:
Derek Jeter: Shortstop: 1995-present
First, the numbers please.
1996: .314/.370/.430 w/ 10 HR, 78 RBI, 14 SB (157 G)
1997: .291/.370/.405 w/ 10 HR, 70 RBI, 23 SB (159 G)
1998: .324/.384/.481 w/ 19 HR, 84 RBI, 30 SB (149 G)
1999: .349/.438/.552 w/ 24 HR, 102 RBI, 19 SB (158 G)
2000: .339/.416/.481 w/ 15 HR, 73 RBI, 22 SB (148 G)
2001: .311/.377/.480 w/ 21 HR, 74 RBI, 27 SB (150 G)
2002: .297/.373/.421 w/ 18 HR, 75 RBI, 32 SB (157 G)
2003: .324/.393/.450 w/ 10 HR, 52 RBI, 11 SB (119 G-damn you Sean Burroughs!)
2004: .292/.352/.471 w/ 23 HR, 78 RBI, 23 SB (154 G)
2005: .309/.389/.450 w/ 19 HR, 70 RBI, 14 SB (159 G)
Add that all together and what do you get?
A lifetime average of .314, an OBP of .386, and 1936 H (he got to 2000 earlier this year). Perhaps not exactly HOF or Yankee great numbers when taken out of context. After all, he only averages about 20/80 per 162. I could go all ESPN Classic and say 5 reasons you can’t blame Derek Jeter for not putting up HOF numbers. No? Alright no. I’ll just state my case for why he’s the 9th greatest Yankee since 1918.
First, it’s important to understand that this list isn’t based solely on statistics. We all can at least agree that one’s greatness cannot be measured only by his stats. In basketball, they’re called intangibles. Clyde’ll tell you that Kurt Thomas had a lot of those. In baseball, as in every other sport, these behind the scene ‘stats’ are extremely important, and it is in these intangibles that Jeter’s greatness lies.
First, we look at DJ’s defense. He’s only won 2 GG, one in ’04 and one last year. But that doesn’t tell the entire story. Schuyla’ can attest to the fact that Maddux’s 63 Gold Gloves weren’t all merited. Before Jeter, there was Ozzie. During Jeter, unfortunately, was a man by the name of Omar Vizquel. Don’t get me wrong, Omah was great defensively, but right around that ’96-’01 range, people just decided that giving it to him was easier than having to make a real choice. I loved his remarkable DP’s, but he certainly did not deserve the 9 straight that he got. On top of this, Jeter patented the away from the base across the body in the air throw that 11 year olds across the nation constantly mimic in their backyard. Compound this with his amazing ability to field way out of his range (more on this later), and the fact that he only makes about 15 errors a year (great for a shortstop. In contrast, Ozzie made about 16/17 a year.), and you have one of the best defensive shortstops of this quarter century, along with Vizquel, Smith, and possibly Larkin.
Next, we find Jeter the captain. Jeter the veteran. Jeter the postseason hero. The Jeter who always seemed to play beyond his years. First things first. He has the most hits in postseason history. Granted, longer series played a factor, but that is still no small feat. Jeter is the foundation of arguably one of the greatest dynasties in baseball history. Old players left and new came, but Jeter was a constant. He doesn’t freeze up on the biggest stage either. Two time World Series MVP will attest to that. On top of all this, he is the ideal leader. He is razor straight, no scuffles, just positive words with even more positive results. He was the center of what is called the best team of all time (’98), and no matter how much he’s supposed to age, he keeps putting up consistently great numbers. Many counted him out after a few sub par years, but here he is this year, hitting for great average, on pace for 90 ribbies. He is their face, their soft spoken Capitan, and most importantly, he ALWAYS hustles. Most of all, he’s as clutch as anyone out there. Will anyone ever forget how he absolutely controlled that series against Oakland in ’01? Not only the Jeremy Giambi play, but in game 5, that ridiculous diving catch that all but sealed the series. Here’s a link to DJ’s ‘top ten clutch plays of all time’.
You gotta love Mr. November.
And finally, it’s his…greatness. The Aura, as I like to call it, that he emanates. He goes out there every day, and he expects to win. To most, never knowing what it’s like to lose could be a weakness, but to Jeter, it’s something that keeps him going. He does not want to learn what it’s like to lose. And he is the driving force behind this team. I am absolutely convinced that without Derek Jeter the 2006 Yankees are not a playoff team. He is one of the only ones left (him, Bernie, and Georgie) that still has the mentality that the dynasty carried with it. And without that mentality, that swagger, this team is exactly what everyone hopes it will be. A dislocated bunch of overpaid superstars. If being the glue holding a dynasty together isn’t great, I don’t know what is. And that’s why Derek Jeter is the 9th greatest Yankee since 1918. (Oh, and also being the ROY and a six time all star doesn’t hurt either.)
Next up on the list, #8.
Whitey Ford: Pitcher: 1950-1967
See ya then, folks.