Derek Jeter: Mr. Overrated?

So here is a sneak peek at a chapter that I have written for my book. The title of the book is Diamond Destruction: How Greed, The Media and Steroids Ruined Our Game. Let me know what you guys think.

This specific chapter is called “Derek Jeter: Mr. Overrated?” which I am sure is going to be a big hit amongst my Yankee friends. Maybe this is my own way of removing the closet Yankee fan label or the fact that I never fell for the Jeter hype in the first place. Not really sure what it was but I never thought he is this superstar that everyone makes him out to be. Just think about Jeter who does not put up any big numbers and plays shortstop – if he put up these numbers for a team like Kansas City Royals or another lower tier team by today’s standings, no one would even know who Derek Jeter is. He was quite fortunate to fall into a perfect place with the Yankees who had stars and he was just a very small piece who didn’t even play that big of a role in their ultimate success.

Anyways, enjoy the chapter. I might release more as I go along but feel free to criticize, point out errors or add any other input you may have on this. If you want to read everything I have, feel free to contact me. So far I would say I have about 50 pages worth written and I’m still looking for more people to read it, rip it to shreds so I can improve on it.

I will not waste much time in making my point very clear regarding this chapter. I have long stated and still stand by the statement that Derek Sanderson Jeter, also known as Mr. November to many fans around the country, is one of the most overrated and overhyped baseball players to play the game in my lifetime. Certainly it does not help that he was drafted for the Evil Empire but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like every single player who has put on a pinstripe. There are plenty of Yankees who I have great admiration for and hoped that they had played for my favorite team.

I will not mention every single player but the list does include Thurman Munson who was a six-time All Star and became the third Yankee catcher to win the MVP award. A player who I obviously didn’t get to see play but from footages shown on YES Network and the documentaries on him makes me truly realize the type leader and Yankee he was. Paul O’Neill is another and fortunately I got to watch him play towards the end of his career. He is one of my all time favorite Yankees and watching him play out in RF, watching him show off his frustration after a strikeout is unforgettable and let’s not forget his farewell. A sold out crowd chanted “Paul O’Neill” for the entire top half of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series which was going to be his last game at Yankee Stadium. O’Neill admitted later on that he had goose bumps and wanted nothing more than to win the game on a homerun to tip his cap to the fans one last time.

He was drafted #6 overall in the 1992 amateur draft by the New York Yankees behind the less than spectacular talents of Phil Nevin, Paul Shuey, B.J. Wallace, Jeffrey Hammonds and Chad Mottola which really goes to show how much of a crap shoot the Major League Baseball draft really is.

Drafted by the Houston Astros #1 overall and playing for 6 other Major League ball clubs, Phil Nevin had an injury plagued career where he was really productive in only two full seasons. A career .270 hitter averaging 17 homeruns and 60 RBIs over 12 seasons only showed why he was drafted #1 overall in 2000 and 2001. In those two years, he averaged to be a .305 hitter and had a total of 72 homeruns and 233 RBIs. 2001 was the lone year he made the All-Star team as well as the only time he finished in the top 10 for HRs and RBIs with 41 and 126. He seemingly compiled a third of his career numbers during that two year stretch and never really got going afterwards. He only managed to play over 100 games in only seven of the 12 years that he was in the big league and 75 games or less in four of them. Interestingly enough, he accumulated 53 of his 112 career errors during the two year run where he was on a tear offensively. So much for the theory that a player’s defense will pick up as his batting gets hot.

I remember moving to the United States during the first month of the 2000 MLB season and in those first two years here Nevin was a hit on ESPN and baseball shows and let us not forget that he was a great asset for anyone’s fantasy baseball team.

Paul Shuey played the majority of his career for the Cleveland Indians from 1994 to 2002 before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002 and attempting a brief comeback with the Baltimore Orioles in 2007 after a 3 year layoff. He never amounted to anything more than an average reliever compiling stats of 45-28 with a 3.78 ERA in 11 years.

B.J. Wallace, a left-handed pitcher, never played a game in the majors after being drafted by the Montreal Expos.

Jeffrey Hammonds was drafted by the Orioles and played 5+ seasons for them before going to play for 5 other teams in a span of 8 years. A career .272 hitter, his one remarkable season came in 2000 where he finished 4th in the league in batting with a .335 average while hitting 20 homeruns and driving in 106 runs even though his Rockies finished 15 games out of the division that year.

Chad Mottola played 5 seasons for 4 different teams but played in two consecutive seasons only once. He made the roster in 1996 for the Cincinnati Reds, 2000 and 2006 for the Toronto Blue Jays, 2001 for the Florida Marlins and 2004 for the Orioles. He played a grand total of 59 games, batting .200 with 4 HRs and 12 RBIs.

Now with all those sure fire Hall of Famers behind us, let me explain why Derek Jeter is one of the most overrated player in the game today, if not the most. First of all, there is no argument that he is a good and talented player. You just don’t bat over .300 for your career with a 162 game average of over 120 runs scored and 80 runs batted in by luck for over 14 years. He’s had a tremendous career so far, winning four World Series Championships in his first five seasons in the Major Leagues is definitely no small feat. He also has a .309 batting average in the post season with 17 HRs and 49 RBI which may look good but put that into perspective. He has played 123 post season games which nearly an entire regular season’s worth of games in the playoffs. I can overlook the HRs because that is right around his regular season average but a mere 49 RBIs? Also, he has nearly a 100 strikeouts compared to only 50 walks. That may look bad for just his post season numbers but his walk to strikeout ratio is just as awful during the regular season. If you take his career numbers and pull out 162 game averages for them, it comes out to 113 strikeouts and only 66 walks. For someone who has batted number two in the order for pretty much his entire career, he has consistently ranked in the top 10 in the league for strikeouts and has had 8 seasons over 100 strikeouts in a season and he was “fortunate” enough to finish another three seasons with 99 on the year. So that is 11 out of the 14 seasons with at least 99 whiffs for Mr. Jeter.

You can make the argument that he should have won the MVP in 2006 when he was barely edged and deservedly so by the Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau. Although Jeter batted 20 points better than Morneau’s .321 and had about just as many more hits and runs, Morneau hit 20 more homeruns, had a higher OPS (On base % + Slugging) and lead a team, who a sizeable $110 million disadvantage in payroll when comparing to the Yankees $187 million payroll, to a division championship and within one game to having the best record in the league. Heck, the Yankees highest four paid players in Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Mike Mussina at $81.7 million made more than the entire Twins 25 man roster who made a mere $73.5 million. Table 1 looks at the payroll differences between the two team from the 2006 year.

I’ve been through his numbers before – .300/17/80/120 for batting average, homeruns, runs batted in and runs scored. Now, let’s take a closer look at his “clutch” numbers for games that are defined as “late and close” where the batting team in the 7th inning or later is tied, ahead by one or the tying runner is on deck. About half way through the 2008 season, Jeter had nearly 1200 career plate appearances that satisfy the definition above. About 1000 of them were official at bats where is only batting .287 with a .802 OPS. That batting average is nearly 20 points below his career average nearly 50 points below for OPS. Listing how many runs, RBIs or homeruns he has in this situation is pointless unless put into perspective. Once again, let’s compare it to the 162 game averages. For his nearly 1200 plate appearances which would come out to 575 regular season at bats after conversion. His career numbers in these circumstances come out 14 HRs, 84 RBIs, and 118 strikeouts. His numbers for runners in scoring position with 2 outs however, are off the charts. After conversion, he would be batting .316 with 122 strikeouts but an astonishing 224 RBIs. His actual numbers for RISP with 2 outs are 335 RBIs in only 828 at bats. So hats off to him there but it is in the clutch towards the end of a game is where it matters more and he fails to deliver his “Jeterian” numbers there.

I’m pretty sure the Yankees would have been just fine over the past decade and a half had Jeter been their shortstop or not. It’s not like he was winnings Gold Gloves year in and out. As a matter of fact, he won his first Gold Glove (in his 10th season) after the Yankees had acquired Alex Rodriguez (who won the award in 2002 and 2003) from the Texas Rangers and converted him to a third baseman. Prior to that, it was Omar Vizquel who over the span of 12 years committed more than 10 errors in a single season only three times. Jeter on the other hand has had only one complete season where he committed less than 13 errors.

Derek Jeter has the distinct advantage of playing in the largest market in the country. His exposure and constant hype is off the charts and his endorsements on top of his salary for a player who is living off of one spectacular post-season play in the American League Division Series against the Oakland Athletics and does not deliver in the clutch are ridiculous. Sure he is a high profile marketable player who has a great personality but leave it at that. Don’t let the personality and all of his off field endorsements inflate his achievements on the baseball diamond. He’s not the Mr. Clutch that he is made out to be. I’m a big believer in the numbers and don’t buy too much into the theory here that a player brings a lot to a club that might not always be seen in the box scores. Yes he could be a leader for the club, he could be their captain but where was the leadership from “El Capitan” when his so called buddy Alex Rodriguez could have needed some support in the clubhouse where was he was left hung out to dry in front of the media as he “struggled” and put up .290/35/121.

Derek Jeter will put up the numbers over the course of his career that will probably land him a spot in the Hall of Fame. He is at around 2400 hits, leaving him 600 short of the elusive mark where if you got to the 3,000 mark you were an automatic lock for the Hall of Fame. He averages about 200 hits a season so you would anything short of a career ending injury in the next couple of years, he will achieve that milestone. He is a middle of the road shortstop and not the power hitting ones that have tried to take over the sport ever since Cal Ripken made it possible to be a homerun hitting shortstop. That probably hurts him a little but he is going to be a career Yankee and has won four World Series championships with them in a span of five years which will probably build him enough of a case to get in. Even if that is the case, I am not sure he would get it on the first ballot anyways.

Originally when I was writing this chapter on Derek Jeter, I had planned to write based on my opinion alone but that was prior to me listening to the result of a poll conducted anonymously of Major League Baseball players by Sports Illustrated. They conducted a survey of about 500 major leaguers that resulted in Jeter getting the highest tally for being the most overrated player at 10%. Although I can agree with Jeter and even J.D. Drew being voted in the top three by their peers, who apparently had a lot to say, I have to seriously bring into question the validity of the poll that puts Alex Rodriguez as the third most overrated player in the game today. A guy who is going to become the all time homeruns leader in the game, a three time MVP winner, finishing runner up for the award twice, I just do not understand how 7% of the players who voted (good enough for tie for third) would vote him as overrated. Is there a hint of jealousy amongst the players who were asked to vote? I am sure you can bring up the lack of success for Alex Rodriguez in the post season as a detriment but certainly everything that he has accomplished in the regular season in this tainted era of baseball but still manage to do it while being “clean” speaks volumes about the talent that he possesses. A result like that certainly brings the accuracy of the survey into question and forces you to reassess whether these results really carry any weight. Even for me, who would like nothing more than a survey result which backs my opinion on Jeter being overrated, I will take this Sports Illustrated poll with a grain of salt for now but I guess that is what one should expect from anonymous polls being conducted in clubhouses around the league.

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