Last night the New York Yankees retired the jersey number 2 and placed a plaque in Monument Park in honor of former captain Derek Jeter. Next stop Cooperstown.
That Derek Jeter is a first ballot Hall of Famer is undeniable. We all know about the hits (3465), 6th all time and the World Series rings (5). Of course, as we’ve been told it wasn’t about the stats with him. It was about the intangibles. Which works out well since statistically he doesn’t measure up. His name doesn’t belong anywhere near the Ruths, Aarons or Griffeys. The two least productive outcomes a batter can have are striking out and hitting into a double play. He is tied for 14th in strikeouts (1840) and 13th in double plays grounded into (287). He lead the league in hits twice and runs once. Other than that there is no black ink on his resume in any of the major offensive categories. And no MVPs.
Intangibles are the God argument. If you believe no amount of facts will change your mind. But, if there is takeaway from the years of accolades and adulation of Jeter it is how perception becomes reality.
There is the widely accepted belief that Jeter was an amazing teammate and leader. That he was unselfish. Only winning and the team mattered to him. But just because we have been told this for nearly 20 years, is it so? One man proves these beliefs to be untrue. That’s right Alex Rodriguez.
Prior to joining the Yankees Roger Clemens was a despised figure in the Yankee clubhouse for the number of times he drilled Yankee players. But when the Yankees got him in exchange for David Wells, Jeter welcomed him into the Yankee family.
When Jason Giambi & Andy Pettitte found themselves embroiled in PED controversy, Jeter stood by them. That is what you expect of a leader & teammate. Keeping everyone together for the greater good.
However when the Yankees brought Alex Rodriguez in did Jeter help ease him into the fold? When Rodriguez was dealing with the fallout from his (first) PED trouble, where was Jetes? He left Arod out to fend for himself. Did team first Derek offer to switch positions for the good of the team when they acquired a superior shortstop in Rodriguez? That’d be a no.
And why? Because years earlier Rodriguez dare to speak the truth. Saying in a GQ article that teams were never worried about Jeter beating them? The personal grudge against Arod was more important to the Captain then what would’ve been for the best of the team. Are these the actions of a great leader?
For years we were told how important winning was to Jeter. After the 4 titles in the first 5 years of his career the Yanks hit a dry spell. After Martinez & O’Neill were gone the atmosphere changed. The team took on Jeters tightass demeanor. In the seasons that followed when the Yankees failed to win it all, including the greatest choke it the history of sports to the hated Red Sox, all the blame fell on Arod. And during his struggles did Jeter ever say its not all on one guy? And when they did win in 2009 it was attributed to two things. One the heroics of Rodriguez. And the clubhouse culture becoming looser thanks to new acquisitions CC Sabathia & Nick Swisher. If Jeter was so influential why did the team chemistry need a shake up?
Another popular Jeter myth is how he never wanted things about him. Really? Was anyone else introduced by the deceased Bob Sheppard? Can you imagine the outrage if a certain teammate did that?
Then there was the retirement tour? Did a struggling and washed up Jeter ever attempt to make things easier on his manager and suggest dropping him in the lineup? Or not play him everyday? Sure you can say its not fair. That it is not the players responsibility. But I’m not the one who put him on this pedestal. You placed unrealistic and untrue virtues on him.
Sure it is easy brush these things off as the ramblings of a hater. Just remember it was his peers who according to Sports Illustrated polsl voted him the most overrated player in the game on a near yearly basis. These are also wealthy men who were living a simliar lifesytle, not a much of bitter Joe Sixpacks.
Less than 1.5% of major leaguers make it to the Hall of Fame. Derek Jeter will join that exclusive club shortly.
But the reality is he never was and never will be the Greatest Of All TIme.