If you want easy clicks from a content standpoint, here is something to try. Find any random Derek Jeter defensive highlight and put between quotations a sarcastic statement as innocuous as “Derek Jeter wasn’t a good shortstop.” Tweet that out.
The results are absolute insanity, which break down into barbaric Twitter spats as if we’re talking about Medicare for All or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Just look at the comments section of each of these posts when I did it.
This was half troll, half me putting my flag down in the Jeter’s-Defense-Doesn’t-Matter camp. This isn’t because my heart is devoted to Jeter, though. If I can be completely honest, Derek Jeter isn’t my favorite baseball player of all-time – though, if he is for you, that’s a very good favorite to have. (I am a complete weirdo and on my personal list Andy Pettitte and El Duque rank higher.) Even still, my personal tastes do not get in the way of recognizing just how important Derek Jeter was to the Yankees and New York in general.
If you don’t think Derek Jeter is important then you haven’t been paying attention. Jeter has been injected in every aspect of New York sports culture – or just culture in general considering he hosted SNL. Just look at some of the narratives we’ve heard over the years in the Kingdom of Flushing.
Here are headlines where, for whatever reason, writers covering the Mets felt the need to compare very good athletes on their end to the captain:
So why are these comparisons important in all this? On the outset comparing David Wright, Jose Reyes, Ryan Braun or Dustin Pedroia are meant to stir up debate. This is what all of these publications are really saying though:
“Derek Jeter is the gold standard and we pray to the baseball gods that maybe our guys can touch upon his greatness.”
There’s a reason why nobody in Milwaukee is writing articles about why Braun isn’t the next Pedroia, Reyes or Wright. As elite as they all were in their primes, none defined excellence better than Jeter in our lifetime.
It’s true that Derek Jeter’s defensive metrics are not great. Here is where he stands over the years”
2002 – 2014: 23225.2 Innings at Shortstop with a -152 Defensive Runs Saved
It’s not great by any means. Even still, does it really need to dominate the conversation the way it has? 3000 hits, a career .300 hitter, an OPS over .800 from 1995 to 2014 and an accumulative fWAR of 73 and still, I’ve heard more about Jeter’s range in Twitter debates than any of this.
Think about other Hall of Famers in sports with flaws. Brett Favre is in Canton, but do we talk about his interceptions? Favre led the league in picks three times and finished with a total of 336. That is barely ever brought up with him though and it certainly wasn’t mentioned much in the conversation surrounding his Hall of Fame legitimacy. Favre was great and that was all that mattered. When the picks were mentioned, they certainly weren’t spoken of with the vitriol that surrounds Jeter’s glove.
In terms of ability, a player similar to Derek Jeter who was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2015 is Craig Biggio. Just like Jeter, after a long career Biggio amassed 3,000 hits. His crutch was also defense. Biggio was a negative defender at second base to the point where he was moved to the outfield. (Something that would have happened to Jeter if he didn’t fight it.) In the outfield Biggio was also a negative defender.
Still, with Biggio, when we think of him, we think of the fact that he was able to slap a ball to any side of the field coming out of the womb. Defense was never a thing.
How about Mike Piazza – another staple of New York baseball in the 90’s. Mike was a bad defensive catcher and was so bad, at one point he was moved to first base. Defense doesn’t surround his narrative either. Just that he was a masher – and at the end of the day all that matters are the things that made our heroes great.
TO BE SHOCKING
Before podcasts or any political correctness movements, there were radio shock jocks. You had your Opie and Anthonys and your Howard Sterns. These guys were nationally syndicated broadcasters who made their bones by just saying the most ridiculous and shocking things. I grew up on both of these shows and was even able to Intern for Opie & Anthony back in 2010.
I’ve gotten a good gauge on pinpointing what’s actually coming from somebody’s heart and what is just a statement made for shock value, and these Derek Jeter defense truthers are essentially just sports shock jocks. The statements made by them are just here to incite riots and for the most part, they don’t even believe what they say.
I already know this is the case when you don’t see conversations about interceptions with Favre, or defense with Biggio and Piazza. These points never come up but it doesn’t exactly spark intense debate.
Look I get it. It’s fun to tear down greatness. I did it all year by showing the side-by-side stats of Gio Urshela compared to Manny Machado or Mike Tauchman and Bryce Harper. Harper and Machado are bonafide superstars that 32 out of 32 teams in the league would happily embrace on their team.
For as great as Tauchman and Urshela were for the Yankees, it will be quite shocking if they keep up their 2019 paces five years from now or even a year from now. Maybe they’ll be the Yankee versions of Justin Turner but man, baseball is so damn hard. You just can’t bank on consistency.
Here’s the thing. When I do it I’ll at least admit what I’m doing is partially in jest. It’s just fun being annoying to other fan bases. I don’t actually mean it.
This is why when I see somebody go off about Jeter’s “range” or that any good shortstop could pull off the flip play, I laugh. It’s like: “Ahhh… Cool gimmick bro. Please go on.” It must be fun to be the wrestling character whose whole schtick is to have bad sports takes.