I realize this is a super-timely post now, what with Derek Jeter‘s number retirement/monument park ceremony being…around two weeks ago now. I’m not a timely guy.

But anyway, I wanna wade right into the midst of a nice, civil, objective, and totally not at all hyperbolic subject: The over, under, or properly-ratedness of one Derek “#re2pect” Jeter.

The Numbers:

.310/.377 /.440

119 wRC+

71.8 fWAR/71.9 bWAR

30.5 WAA

57.0 JAWS

-159 DRS

-76.1 UZR

First of all yes those are not good DRS and UZR numbers. Every Jeter hater loves to talk about how terrible he was in the field and how he should have played 3rd while A-Rod played SS (to the point of it being a sign of a deeper personality defect) and how he was so bad in the field that it actually negates any good things he did at the plate and on and on.

But I don’t think any of that is really so true. Yes, he has a lower dWAR and overall WAR than Cal Ripken and Alex Rodriguez, but that’s setting the bar very high, and Jeter’s JAWS is only 5.8 lower than Cal’s. The Yankees wouldn’t have run Jeter out there as an everyday player for 19 years if his glove was that much of a liability.

(Also, just personally I am fine with bat-first players. I got to sit through Pete Kozma, Dean Anna, and Brendan Ryan, et al when the Yankees decided they wanted a glove-first SS and no thanks.) 

But the comparisons to career WAR for guys on other teams, or to players from history miss the bigger point: Jeter’s number was retired by the Yankees. His plaque is in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees don’t, and more importantly, shouldn’t care what Ripken’s career WAR is. It’s completely immaterial to the issue at hand.

So this all brings me to what is probably my real thesis here: Most of the negative reactions to Derek Jeter night were misguided for one (or both) of two reasons:

  1. The Yankees are not ESPN, and vice versa
  2. Monument Park is not Cooperstown

Now to address these, I’m gonna go totally off the rails for a bit here.

Yeah, ESPN is bad.

ughhhhhhhhhhhhh

This shouldn’t even really be a debate at this point. “ESPN has a bias towards the coasts” “ESPN overhypes stuff so much” “Nobody outside of New York cares about this ceremony.”

Yeah, fine, whatever. I agree with all of that (well maybe not the last point.)

ESPN is a bad TV channel. I never watch it unless there’s a game on that I have to see. I don’t need 8 hours of SportsCenter, ever. I need a negative amount of hot take pundits in my life. They’re preposterous. Stephen A Smith, people of that nature.

But here’s the thing: None of this has anything to do with the quality of Derek Jeter or his career. Not one iota. The Yankees don’t dictate their schedule, and if they want to televise the ceremony, fine. I fail to see how that’s a negative mark against the man being honored. If you don’t want to watch it, change the channel. If you’re mad that it’s pre-empting something else on ESPN, you have no credibility anyway.

Derek Jeter isn’t the greatest shortshop ever.

For the record, I friggin’ love A-Rod (Bob Rosato, SI.com)

Again, I agree. I’ve already outlined that Ripken put up better numbers over his career. But like I also previously noted, Monument Park isn’t Cooperstown. Ripken was never a Yankee. A-Rod also put up better numbers, but he didn’t spend his entire career in New York, he only won a single World Series title with the team.

Derek Jeter is #5 all-time for WAR in Yankees history, between Joltin’ Joe and Yogi Berra. He won six World Series rings. He was named the 11th Captain in 2003.

To say that he somehow is not deserving, without hesitation, of this type of honor by the only team he played on for his entire career, is ridiculous. It’s unsupportable by practically any metric, objective or subjective. Individual teams do (and should) have control over who they honor and why. The idea that a player needs to be inducted into the Hall of Fame before their number can be retired seems overly stringent to me. Why should the team in The Bronx care about what happens in Cooperstown? Exactly none of their games are played there, regular or post season.

And sure, you can make the argument that the Yankees have gotten loose with their criteria for plaques, and I’d probably agree. But you can make a solid case for every single retired number, because it only has to be framed in terms of their contribution to the New York Yankees, not baseball as a whole.

The case for

This makes me feel really old for some reason.

But I’m going to go further and say that even if you do insist on HoF cases to be made for every player you retire or otherwise honor, Jeter still makes the cut, since he’s a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer.

57.0 JAWS puts him 12th all time for shortstops, ahead of guys like Barry Larkin. But even beyond the numbers, the Hall of Fame takes into account the intangibles, and I think that’s a good thing. Just sorting a spreadsheet by WAR with a minimum for games played is pretty boring, as flawed as HoF voters are.

Jeter was a fantastic ambassador for the sport of baseball. I think the best, biggest, most obvious example of that is the amount of MLB players who wear the number 2 because of him, among them are names like Tulowitzki, Bregman, and Bogaerts. Even beyond that, players like Todd Frazier and Hanley Ramirez (who used to wear 2) have spoken about how they looked up to Jeter as kids and worked hard to emulate his performance on and off the field as they made their way to the bigs.

And as one parting note on Cooperstown: They still care about counting stats more than they probably should, and…