I’ve been struck lately by how much of a class act Derek Jeter, the Yankee Captain, is. In an era of selfish athletes, performance enhancing drugs, and lucrative free agency, Jeter is a model of consistency, professionalism, and team loyalty. He’s been with the Yankees since 1995, won four world championships, never even been remotely connected with steroids, is quick to praise his teammates, and dislikes talking about himself. He is truly a great Yankee, and second to Lou Gehrig for my favourite Yankee of all time.
Jeter is often the recipient of criticism for being overrated both offensively and defensively. I am definitely biased, but I don’t think these criticisms are very well founded. He has won three Gold Glove Awards, and based on several detailed statistical analyses, he has above average range. Offensively, his numbers speak for themselves. He has more hits than Pete Rose did in the same amount of games. While Jeter probably won’t play long enough to break Rose’s hit record, that is still a phenomenal feat.
I was struck by a recent article by one of the Yankees’ beat writers, focusing on where Jeter ranks among all-time Yankee greats. When one thinks of Yankee greats, Gehrig, Ruth, Mantle, and DiMaggio easily come to mind. Jeter is right up there with them. Consider where he currently ranks:
2nd in hits (to Gehrig)
2nd in stolen bases
4th in games played
4th in runs
4th in doubles
5th in batting average
7th in walks
10th in homeruns
Perhaps something I like the most about Jeter is the respect he commands. He is one of the few Yankee players (maybe with Mariano Rivera) that Yankee haters can’t really hate. Most Yankee haters I know have a healthy respect for Jeter. How can you not? When he retires, he will retire as one of the greatest shortstops and Yankees of all time, and the game of baseball will truly miss him.