The pro-Derek Jeter backlash

It starts here. Just because he's overhyped and overpraised doesn't mean he's not an all-time great.


King Kaufman
September 23, 2008 3:00PM (UTC)

Let's do a little mailbag about Derek Jeter. Not to pick on letter-writer mboehm for his/her response to "Historic Yankee futility," but he/she represents what I think is a pretty common view in a certain crowd, which is to say contrarians. That is, my crowd.

But I'm here to start a backlash. A backlash against the Jeter backlash, which is a backlash against the Jeter hype. So it's an anti-anti-hype backlash backlash. Jeter. Backlash. Or something. Anyway, take it away, mboehm:

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mboehm Jeter is a very good player (and a likely Hall of Famer) but to use the term "any player so great" is going too far.

Well that was kind of part of a joke, that part. To bring those of you who didn't click the link up to speed, I'd wondered if any player as great as Jeter had ever won so few championships. The joke there, see, is that Jeter's won a lot of championships.

But I'll stand behind the part about Jeter being great.

You've been surprisingly duped by the New York-Boston centric ESPN that dominates the way we think about sports.

So here's the part where I argue that it isn't me that's been duped by the ... what you said. It was you, Charlie. You've reacted to the years of Jeter hype by underrating Jeter. Just because he's been praised beyond the limits of ridiculousness doesn't mean he's not great.

If he'd spent his entire career in, just to name a place, Seattle, my hunch is you'd be railing against the New York-Boston ESPN cabal that would have kept this all-time titan from getting his due, while a merely good shortstop such as Orlando Cabrera of the Yankees -- he ended up in New York as a result of the ripple effect of the alternate universe that put Jeter in Seattle, follow? -- is treated like a deity.

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You should be writing a column about Ichiro Suzuki, who has achieved 200 hits for all eight of his seasons in MLB, matched by only one other player in MLB history.

Thanks for the tip!

Jeter is maybe a slightly above average career fielder.

I think he's below average, actually.

He's a singles hitter.

Really. But I should be writing about Ichiro. Let's go to the blockquote:

Career slugging percentage
Jeter .458
Ichiro .431

Percentage of hits that are singles
Jeter 73
Ichiro 82

Plate appearances per extra-base hit
Jeter 13.5
Ichiro 17.8

On-base percentage
Jeter .387
Ichiro .377

Ichiro, the guy you want me to write about instead of Jeter because Jeter's just a singles hitter, is a singles hitter. He gets more hits, but fewer extra-base hits, than Jeter, and he also makes more outs. Ichiro's also a superb base-stealer, while Jeter's only very good.

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Ichiro's a very good fielder, though he's only spent a little time at a premium position. Jeter is below average, but at a premium position. That can't be discounted. Jeter has been adequate at shortstop while hitting like a third baseman or corner outfielder. That's huge, and it blows a guy like Omar Vizquel -- great fielder, useless hitter, and mentioned by you in a part of the letter I didn't quote -- out of the water.

Jeter is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. Not quite inner-circle, but solidly qualified, not at all borderline, and he's probably got five years to add to his counting totals. He's easily a top 15 shortstop all-time, maybe top 10.

The pro-Jeter backlash starts here.

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King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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