Derek Jeter is probably the best offensive shortstop in the history of the game. Full stop. You can take your Honus Wagner Dead Ball era nonsense and go tell it on a mountain. Derek Jeter is one of the best shortstops to ever play the game. Full stop.
And now, by announcing his intention to retire at the end of the 2014 season, Derek Jeter begins a farewell tour around the league. One of the best known and, begrudgingly, beloved players in baseball history will walk away from the game at 40.
Derek Jeter was both the beneficiary and victim of a veritable hype tornado. The New York media inflated his worth beyond that of any ballplayer, which served to only distract from his true place in the pantheon of great players.
His defense left a great deal to be desired but took on a life of its own. Wins Above Replacement takes a huge chunk out of Jeter’s career total because of his defense, a number so extreme it deserves at least a small amount of skepticism. For much of his 30s, we could probably agree his defense failed the “eye test.” Yet his Yankees still managed 90 win season after 90 win season with a limited defensive player at the heart of their defense.
Career Offensive WAR (hitting, base running, positional adjustment, playing time) for shortstops, 1920-2014
|8||Pee Wee Reese||55.4||2166||9470||2170||126||.743|
For two decades, Derek Jeter featured prominently in all post-seasons save two. He played in the World Series an unbelievable seven times, all of which coming in the unpredictable wild card era. His fingerprints all over some of the most memorable games and plays in modern baseball history. We all remember the blown call from the Jeffery Maier, though many of us forget that Derek Jeter a) had four hits that day, including the fateful home run b) hit ninth for the Yankees and c) was 22-years old at the time. The legend grew because of accomplishments, not myth.
The soft-focus features will come and the victory lap around the league will wear thin sometime in June. You will read more Jeter baseball eulogies in the next eight months than your poor psyche can stand. Once all the “classy” and “professional” and “right way” buzzwords fade away and the air slowly deflates from the hype balloon, Derek Jeter will waltz into Cooperstown the author of one of the finest careers in baseball history.
That he did it all with one team — the highest profile — team doesn’t change the facts in either direction. Derek Jeter was the face of baseball for nearly two decades for one reason – he earned it.