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Does Derek Jeter have anything left to prove?

Sep 11, 2009, 9:22 AM EDT

SI’s Tim Marchman has a good piece up this morning in which he breaks out what the numbers and career progression would need to look like in order for Derek Jeter to pass Pete Rose for the all-time hits record.  Upshot: it almost certainly won’t happen, but it’s not impossible.

Personally I’d like to see it simply because Jeter is way more likable than Pete Rose ever was.  Of course that character is probably what will keep him from doing it because as Marchman notes, it takes a pretty shameless guy to hold on for as long as Jeter would need to after his prime in order to make it, and Jeter doesn’t seem like a Pete Rose or Brett Favre kind of guy in that respect.

More interesting for our purposes, though, is Marchman’s discussion of Jeter’s legacy. If you guys think I was disrespectin’ Jeter yesterday by simply saying that he’s overhyped, try this on for size:

What is an issue, more than the hits record he isn’t going to break or the controversies over his inevitable move off of shortstop and his contract that aren’t going to materialize, is Jeter’s legacy. For such a revered winner, Jeter has presided over a lot of failure as captain, from the worst collapse in playoff history to a nearly decade-long run during which absurd payrolls that routinely neared or exceeded $200 million bought not one world championship.

All of this is less his fault than anyone’s, but there are probably college freshmen with no clear memories of the last time Jeter won a ring. It would be nice to think he doesn’t have anything left to prove. But is it really true?

Before you go crazy, do know that Marchman prefaced all of this by saying “let’s stipulate that Jeter is great, as winning a winner as ever won.”

With that out of the way, I’ll say that I don’t think Jeter has anything left to prove.  To the extent the Yankees haven’t won a championship in the past several years it has been a function of (a) chance; and (b) less-than-ideal roster construction by the front office, and it’s not like Jeter could control either of those things.

And let’s remember: despite people complaining that New York is in some sort of title drought, winning a championship in a 30-team league is really tough, even with all of the Yankees’ inherent advantages.  That Jeter found himself on teams that won titles in four of his first five seasons is the anomaly here, not the fact that they haven’t won any since.

I think the only thing left to determine insofar as Derek Jeter’s legacy goes is whether he is “merely” great, as a typical decline between now and the end of his career would establish, or if he’s inner-circle great, as a multi-year continuation of his 2009 resurgence would show.  When you get to that level, however, you’re really splitting hairs, aren’t you?

  1. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Sep 11, 2009 at 10:33 AM

    I don’t understand the press’s fascination with blaming the Yankees’ drought on anything other than the atrocious pitching that’s occurred. Since Game 4 of the ’04 series, the yanks have played in 18 playoff games.
    In those 18 games, they’ve received quality starts (yes I know the joke about QS, but bear with me) in exactly 3(!) of them. In fact, they’ve had more starts where the SP went 3IP or less (5) than QS.
    If your pitchers are routinely giving up 4-5 runs a game, you’re going to lose. That’s why they picked up CC and AJ. Hopefully the pitching nightmares of ’06 and ’07 postseason are a thing of the past.

  2. Chris - Sep 11, 2009 at 12:53 PM

    Jeter is by far one of the game’s greatest players. Look at his body of work over the course of his career. For any kid growing up during the 90s and 00s, we do not know baseball without Jeter.

  3. Mac - Sep 11, 2009 at 1:17 PM

    Derek Jeter may not have anything left to prove, but you can be sure he will do so for as long as he plays baseball.
    I was particularly moved by Tampa Bay coach Jon Madden, after his 4-2 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday, “I’m very happy for him, he carries himself in a manner that’s worthy of passing Gehrig.”
    That’s the kind of ballplayere Jeter is; that’s the kind of ballplayer we’ll see for many more years to come. It’s useless to talk about whether or not he has anything more to prove; the bottom line is he will continue to prove to all of us what kind of person he is, and what made us admire him from the beginning.
    Derek Jeter is the real thing.

  4. bronx bomber fan 5 - Sep 11, 2009 at 1:48 PM

    Looking at the Yankees all-time career stats this morning. Jeter is #4 or #5 career hitter on the team, depending on the stat. What I’d like to see is Jeter moving up to #3 on total bases. He’s currently #5 and he’ll pass Dimagio this year and has a shot in ’10, but more certainly in ’11, to pass Gehrig. That leaves him only behind Ruth (#1) and Mantle (#2). If that happens, I think he’s a solid #3 all-time Yankee hitter. Even if he doesn’t, he is a great baseball player!!!

  5. joes - Sep 11, 2009 at 2:11 PM

    I just finishted Joe Torre’s book….his praise for Derek not only stems from Jeter’s ability, but his hard work ethic. Derek speaks softly but carries a big stick….well-respected, self-motivating and a true leader in the clubhouse and on the field.
    When his career is over, he will go down as one of the all-time, great Yankees.

  6. Mike - Sep 11, 2009 at 2:27 PM

    Derek Jeter will have only one thing left to prove and that is he did not use any enhancement drugs that allowed him to accomplish all of his baseball feats. Of course, so does every other player who puts up great statistics during this steroids era of MLB. That is truly a shame too!

  7. Gregg - Sep 11, 2009 at 3:48 PM

    Jeter is so good year in and year out! What’s left to prove?

  8. JPF67 - Sep 11, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    Derek Jeter has been the same consistant great player who hits over .300, steals 25-30 bases, has a .400 on-base percentage, and plays hard no matter what since 1995. In the most recent years when the Yankees haven’t won a World Series title it’s basically due to one of three reasons:
    1.) Joe Torre burned out the bullpen year after year. He never let any pitcher pitch out of his own jam.
    2.) No Yankee pitching prospect was ever groomed under the Joe Torre era. He has little tolerance for young pitchers; and when the Yankees did have guys who looked and played the part, like Ted Lilly, they traded them.
    3.) Yankees starting pitching either so-so, terrible, or simply lacked a true #1.
    It has all been about pitching since 2002; and if you remember that 2003 World Series–some of the worse pitching moves were made ever by a World Series manager.

  9. Subway Squawkers - Sep 11, 2009 at 3:52 PM

    I disagree. He needs at least one more world championship, as I’m sure he’d agree. If Jeter and the Yankees never get another ring for the rest of his career, then the four rings will mean less and less as time goes on.
    You write: “To the extent the Yankees haven’t won a championship in the past several years it has been a function of (a) chance; and (b) less-than-ideal roster construction by the front office, and it’s not like Jeter could control either of those things.”
    If, as you say, Jeter can’t control such factors, then how can he possibly be hailed as such a great winner for the four rings in five years? You can’t have it both ways.
    And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to note, as Marchman does, that Jeter also has the worst collapse in the history of baseball on his resume.

  10. mikeb24 - Sep 11, 2009 at 7:03 PM

    What other players in the last 15 years (other than Yankees) have 4 championships? To say that he needs another championship to prove himself is a ridiculous statement. Being a Yankee fan I would love for him to have more championships before he retires, but to suggest that he needs another is just absurd. Being a great player or winner extends beyond just his on field performance particularly in the “steriod” era. Jeter conducts himself in manner that MLB should be forever grateful for, setting an exemplary standard of behavior on and off the field for all young baseball fans who will be the future of the game.

  11. WK Jacobs - Sep 11, 2009 at 7:35 PM


  12. Steve - Sep 11, 2009 at 8:56 PM

    Jeter is a good shortstop and any team would love to have him. But, let’s face it he has always played on great teams, he may have led teams but he never had to carry teams. I wonder what everyone would say about him if he played for the Nationals or the Royals

  13. bohoops - Sep 12, 2009 at 7:33 AM

    Worst collapse in Baseball history. Your dreaming. Maybe the worst collapse in the new playoff system? The worst collapse in history was the Red Sox in 1978. Or the NY Giants losing a 13 game lead on Aug 11 to the Dodgers in 1951. here’s others
    And if you think about it, the Cardinals lost 0-4 in the WS to the Sox. That’s worse than 3-4.

  14. declan moore - Sep 12, 2009 at 8:25 AM

    In 2004, they were ahead with 2 outs in the ninth …and a 3-0 lead in the series. Couldn’t get it done. The Sox won the game and won the series. You can’t just blame pitching for that fold.
    But, back to the main subject: Derek Jeter has been, and is, one of the great players in the game. Now in his mid-30s and still playing shortstop, he is still putting up hall of fame numbers at the plate.
    So, no, Derek Jeter has nothing left to prove, but he’s still proving it anyway.

  15. Declan Moore - Sep 12, 2009 at 8:34 AM

    Ahead with two outs in the ninth, leading the series 3 games to zip, and 4 losses later, you’re at home watching the Sox play the Cards on your big screen TV. There’s nothing in modern sports which compares with it, no matter what the NY Daily News says.
    The Cards’ got whipped, which is painful. They Yankees lay down and died like dogs, which is pathetic.
    There’s no comparison.
    But Derek Jeter is a great player, who is having (another) great year. I just wish he didn’t play in New York.

  16. brianK - Sep 12, 2009 at 10:35 AM

    If the Yankees recent lack of a World Series win is because of (1) “chance, and (2) “less than ideal roster construction,” then I would suggest that Jeter has four rings because of (1) chance, and (2) ideal roster construction.
    Can’t have it both ways. He can’t be part of the solutuin, but never part of the problrm.

  17. Rod Armitage - Sep 12, 2009 at 2:10 PM

    I guess Jeter’s biggest fault (?) is that he doesn’t pitch! I sure he could have done a better job than some of the stiffs who took the mound for the Yankees since 2002. 10 years without a championship compared to the droughts experienced by other teams, Cubs, Red Sox etc, is just nothing.

  18. V... - Sep 12, 2009 at 2:33 PM

    You wrote… “…in order for Derek Jeter to pass Pete Rose for the all-time hits record. Upshot: it almost certainly won’t happen, but it’s not impossible….”
    During the game last night when Jeter passed Gherig, they actually flashed a comparison statistic of Jeter and Pete Rose (of how their stats matched up at Jeter’s current age VS Rose at the same age) Jeter was ahead in all the numbers they showed, I believe it was hits, avg, and RBI’s. Jeter has stated he plans to play for another 8 to 10 years… So your statement of it almost certainly not happening, is almost certainly bullcrap.

  19. Enetric - Sep 13, 2009 at 2:51 AM

    OK…I have read enough. Its time to put things in perspective here. From the articles to the comments all I read is extremes. Bottom line? Both the writer of the article and many of the comments made are so far one sided its just out of control.
    Lets start with the writer. Its hard to find any honest and by honest I mean impartial credibility from someone writing a sports column who has three articles in two days with the following titles:
    “Does Derek Jeter have anything left to prove?”
    (and the comments made and quoted are scathing)
    “Mariano Rivera is not worthy of the Cy Young”
    “Enough with the Derek Jeter coverage already”
    I am sorry…but its not enough to throw a couple of nice unarguable comments in an article and then rake a guy or his supporters over the coals through the entire piece and pretend you are impartial. Why not just slap a Met or Red Sox logo…or whatever team you root for in your jealous animosity filled rant right on the top of your articles so at least we can all see it coming.
    It reminds me of Mad dog Russo sucking Barry Bonds ass year after year as he sucked nuts in the playoffs and failed to win a ring…and then roast the Yankees after they missed a few years in a row following 4 wins and 6 trips to the series in less than a decade. And I am talking long before steroids.
    So? Can you come up with something new? Yankees have this huge payroll they reinvest back into their product. As a Mets fan that infuriates you why? You have had the highest payroll in the National league for 20+ years and haven’t won a ring in all that time. Red Sox? Second highest payroll in the game for years. You won two in 90 years…Yankees have 26.
    When you find someone who has better success than the Yankees long term or the short term lets talk. Until then…all you have is whinny obscure angles to work that honestly make you sound like a cry baby. 6 trips in 14 years is amazing. I don’t care if it was year one through six or the last 6 years. I am sure Ted Williams would have liked a piece of that. I would name a Met if I could think of one career long legend you have ever had in your entire history but their isn’t one. Why Mets and Red Sox? I just have come to expect its likely you root for one of the two teams…as that the hypocritical fans of other big market teams whine far more than any Brewers or Pirates fan I have ever met.
    Its possible you are a fan of a small market team…but unlikely. You root for a rival…you lack impartiality in your comments and it is extremely obvious.
    Here is the reality if I haven’t summed it up. Angling to diminish this guys career accomplishments in terms of winning or losing is absurd so long as you cant find anyone remotely close in the last 20 years. Not a baseball franchise…not a player moving around as a hired gun. And even if he never wins another ring…doubtful you will find a franchise or player with more wins…more big wins than he has had already by the time his career ends.
    We can ignore payrolls, and managers…how the pieces fit together…and just see the obvious. Make the playoffs…you can win it all. More so than any other sport…being the best team…or having the most talent…winning to most games…having home field…means so little. Just look at the success of wildcard teams compared to football. How about the NBA where 16 teams make the playoffs. How often do you see a team who isn’t a 1 or 2 seed win the championship?
    Why is that? Its because…in baseball anyone can beat anyone on a given day. Is it a shock that Jason Kidd’s Nets spanked the Knicks something like 30-3 in games Kidd played? Good teams with great players beat weak teams in other sports. In baseball…a 100 win team can lose a series to a team in dead last…happens all the time.
    30% in baseball is HOF good. Since guys go 0-20…and then 20-40…should tell you…its possible to have a bad playoffs. Take a look at the WS MVP’s. And the playoff MVP’s. When you see how many non HOF guys dominate those lists…and compare it other sports…it truly highlights how hard it is to win it all. No matter the so called advantages. And again…the money? How is teams with bottom 15 payroll can win it all…and the Mets cant sniff wild card spots year after year.
    One more thing to the writer…your Mariano comments? Lame. Look, want to argue no relief pitcher should ever be eligible for the CY…fine. But since relief guys have won it…its not like it would be absurd. Its an individual award. If a guy domiates…and there isn’t a dominant starter…its absolutely reasonable for him to be in the conversation. My beef is you made it a Mariano rip. Uncalled for even if you say he is your favorite Yankee. Mighty generous of you big guy.
    OK my point made at length about your bias. Now…lets get to the other one sided guys. The Yankee fans who exaggerate Jeter.
    The one thing I agree with is Jeter compared to Rose in some regard. Why? Because both were great players. HOF caliber careers. (Rose being held out has nothing to do with his on field game)But the reality is…both were overrated. Yes…it is possible to be great….and be overrated….which means RATED BETTER THAN you actually are, it does not mean you aren’t great.
    Example of overrated? Michale Kay talking about a Yankee Mt. Rushmore and Jeter cracking the Yankee all time top 5. First off, Mt Rushmore is only 4 guys numnuts…and next…when you have Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio and Yogi on your list of team players…being a consistent yet not spectacular 1 or 2 contact hitter should not even be in the conversation. Not with 2700 hits…not with 3000 and no Michale Kay…he wouldn’t be #3 all time with 4000 hits.
    Why would I say that? Because I can say easily…Rose was not better than Mantle or Dimaggio….why would Jeter magically be better?
    Reality? How many seasons has Jeter been the best player on his own team? He has been consistent. He is going to the HOF deservedly so…he is beloved for his intangibles the way Rose was…but Arod won 2 MVP’s in 3 years. Tex has been off the charts this season. There were plenty of seasons where a Bernie or Paul O’Neill were every bit as good or better.
    And this conversation ends if we open it up to pitchers. Mariano is ahead of Jeter on the so called Mt Rushmore list and he has had the better more impressive career. Mo is the greatest at what he does in HISTORY. In what capacity is Jeter the greatest at anything? Being consistent…and beloved is not enough to say greatest…and ignore better players.
    I would love to see Jeter get the hits record. To stay good enough, long enough to be in that conversation. But…we have seen better “hits” guys…guys who weren’t dominant power hitters who were better than Jeter. Had Boggs not been kept in the minors for all those years due to a Carney Lansford at 3rd base for the Sox…and he had 3600 hits when he retired had he come up earlier…maybe he sticks around. Gwynn was better than Jeter too. Don’t get me started on Rickey Henderson…not a traditional hits guy but he did get his 3000. Not a traditional power guy…but an all time top 10-15 great player who didn’t do it by being defined with the long ball like the rest of the guys on that list not named Ty Cobb.
    Jeter is special. Jeter is beloved. Jeter has had a great career. But like Cal Ripken, or Rose is is possible to overrate these guys when you talk about best ever. Murray was better than Ripken. Schmidt was better than Rose…ditto to a few others in a given season with the Reds see George Foster and so on.
    Just love Jeter in his proper perspective. Rose is a great comparison. On par with a Paul Molitor…great comparison. And before you scratch your head at Molitor…realize that he was underrated.
    And lets give you another guy. A guy playing right now. Ichiro. The guy destroys Jeter. Not close.
    The biggest problem is when you get into Gehrig, Mantle and Joe D. conversations…you are fueling the fire of silly articles like this one.
    Sorry for the length…but it had to be said in both directions.

  20. Craig Calcaterra - Sep 13, 2009 at 8:40 AM

    This is quite entertaining, Enetric, but let’s look at the three articles you referred to:
    1. The Mariano Rivera one: it was an analysis of his worthiness of the Cy Young award. I think he’s not worthy on an objective, baseball basis. Is that “raking him over the coals” or evidence of bias on my part? You say I made it up to rip Mariano. Baloney. There were multiple articles written that week talking about Mariano for CY. I was reacting to those. As for other relievers winning the award in the past, who cares? I don’t think they should have either.
    2. The “does Derek Jeter have something to prove” question was echoing a question the guy in the linked article — Tim Marchman of SI — asked and putting it to NBC readers for their consideration. If you read it, you’ll see that I actually disagreed with Marchman and believe he has nothing to prove. I ended it by saying that the only question left with Jeter is whether he’s inner circle great (an inner circle that includes Ruth, Williams, Aaron, etc.) or whether he’s “merely” great. If you think that’s an insult, you need to readjust your Yankee fan sensitivity. If you think he’s already “inner circle great” than your pro-Jeter bias is way stronger than any anti-Yankee bias you believe me to have. Jeter is a great player. He is not in the top 10 or even the top 20 of all time. I’d make an argument for him being the fourth best shortstop, but I don’t know if it would be a winning argument.
    3. The “enough coverage of Jeter already” was a piece of media criticism, not Jeter criticism. His record is what it is. It is not, in my view, worthy of the coverage it received. You may disagree, but I don’t think you have to be a Mets or Red Sox fan to think what I think about it.
    How any of that leads you to the conclusion that I am a Mets or Red Sox fan and that I am “infuriated” by the Yankees and their success says more about you than it does about me. For one thing, it says that you only read headlines and don’t pay attention to the actual content of the articles. Or at the very least you give the headlines way more weight than you should.
    For another, it shows that you don’t read much else of what I write. I don’t think a week has gone by in the nearly six months I’ve been writing this blog that I don’t mention that I’m a Braves fan. And no, not a Braves fan harboring any ill-will for 1999, 1996 or even 1958 for that matter. The better team won in each of those World Series and it doesn’t bother me a bit.

  21. jimborod - Sep 13, 2009 at 11:42 AM

    As a lifelong RED SOX fan I have alway’s hated the Yankees, but I have admired Jeter for a long time.

  22. michele thurlow - Sep 13, 2009 at 9:49 PM

    i am a red sox fan jeter has my respect as a player,he is good but as for other players he is overrated on other networks they all brag about him like he is a god or somthing it gets a little sickening thats all.a red sox fan forever.

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