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This is how Derek Jeter got deified in the first place

Jul 11, 2011, 12:40 PM EDT

Derek Jeter Reuters

I’ve had several conversations with non-baseball obsessives lately about Derek Jeter. Friends. Family. Sports radio hosts who talk about football 97% of the time and are desperate to talk about anything — anything! — besides the NFL labor thing.  Those conversations always come back to the same place: Where does Derek Jeter rate all-time?

At that point I usually don’t actually rate him, but I talk about how it’s difficult to talk about Derek Jeter right now. Because for years he was so overhyped and then lately all of his greatness has been forgotten by many who are rushing to bury him due to his decline. And then it gets complicated again when he approaches the 3000-hit plateau and we lerch back toward deification.  This kind of deification, by Ian O’Connor of ESPN New York:

Jeter didn’t merely become the 28th major leaguer and first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits, and the only man not named Wade Boggs to do so with a homer; he turned the afternoon into a this-is-your-life review of his greatness, claiming five hits and the winning RBI against the Tampa Bay Rays and choking the life out of the non-stop talk of his imminent demise.

One last time, with feeling, Jeter was No. 2 in your program and No. 1 in your heart.

And it just goes on and on like that.

This is what I’m talking about when I say that Jeter gets overhyped. An educated sports observer who watches tons of games and should be expected to have at least an ounce of perspective about Jeter’s place in the universe allows himself — and the readers who trust his judgment — to launch into the starry-eyed stratosphere over hit number 3,000. A great accomplishment, sure, but not one that needs or justifies this kind of prose.

Prose that will soon be forgotten, I’m guessing, when Jeter’s demise as an elite player comes back to the forefront.  My friend Repoz from the Baseball Think Factory website reminded us over the weekend that Jeter’s chances of choking the life out of that kind of talk can’t be any better than Mickey Mantle’s. The same Mickey Mantle, Repoz noted on his Facebook page, who went 5 for 5 — the first 5 for 5 game of his career — on May 30, 1968, which led to a lot of people talking about Mantle being back. After the 5 for 5 Mantle went 2 for his next 24 and retired nine months later saying, “I just can’t hit anymore.”

I’m not saying that Jeter will do the same. And I am certain that we will all one day agree that Jeter was one of the best ever, because it happens to be true.  But he’s a ballplayer. No different in kind than any other ballplayer, and no more immune to the effects of time and vagaries of fortune, both good and bad, than anyone else.  To write about his game on Saturday as if that wasn’t what was happening — that he has somehow slayed a dragon and discovered a fountain of youth, and boy aren’t we blessed to have witnessed it — is a bit much for me. And ultimately does us all a disservice as we try to assess the true gravity of Derek Jeter the ballplayer and hit number 3,000 the accomplishment.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Jul 11, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    Just finished O’Connor’s book “Captain” and was surprised it had as many derogatory interviews as it did. And more empathy toward ARod than I would ever have expected, even if in a “disfunctional personality” kind of way.
    But now, O’Connor is looking to find enough roses to fill the Rose Bowl over a one day accomplishment. Well, anyway the wind blows.
    End result- O’Connor either goes over-the-top or under-the-bottom, and you never get a balanced view from him. He’ll finiash his career as Murray Chass.

  2. shaggylocks - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    (psst, missing a verb in the headline)

    • yankeesfanlen - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:04 PM

      But it has a pluperfect which makes it okay

  3. deathmonkey41 - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    I feel the same way about how people put that snorefest, egomaniac Costas on a pedestal.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:02 PM

      Man, you have a lot of hostility toward Costas. Why is that?

      • deathmonkey41 - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:08 PM

        Because him and Chris Berman- among others- just make watching sports unfun.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:08 PM

        Because he’s an arrogant dbag and deserves all the hate spewed at him?

      • shaggylocks - Jul 11, 2011 at 2:00 PM

        I swear, if you monkeys start flinging your poop…

      • skerney - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:02 PM

        No Costas fan here, (everything comes back to Mickey Mantle in the end) but at least he can maintain his composure in exciting moments. Berman seems to wet himself anytime someone hits a home run. His calling of the Home run deby is unwatchable. “OH MY GAWD, HE HIT THAT ONE TO YUMA!’ Yes Berman, Cal Ripken and Brett Favre were great but they are gone now. You can stop talking about them.

  4. Richard In Big D - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    One of the local radio guys here in Dallas thought it would be a good idea to compare Jeter’s career to that of Michael Young. Given that Young has 5 years less time in the majors, he took Young’s average year, multplied by 5 and added that number to Young’s current total to get a comparable number. The results, while not shocking to me, blew the guy away. Some categories, Jeter was better, Others, it was Young. Most were a virtual tie. I wonder if baseball fans in New York are as sick of hearing about Young as we in Dallas are of hearing about Jeter?

    • ditto65 - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:05 PM

      Michael who?

      • henryd3rd - Jul 11, 2011 at 2:31 PM

        Please tell me how many World Series Championships rings does Michale Young possess? Now repeat after me, I will never put Michael Young in the same category as Derek Jeter ever again. Now go to your room and stay there until I say it is okay to come out

      • jdd428 - Jul 11, 2011 at 6:01 PM

        henryd3rd- I so hate when people bring up championships to compare INDIVIDUAL accomplishments. The fact that Jeter has played his entire career for an organization that has the success and financial ability to surround him with enough talent to win the title has NOTHING to do with his individual merits. I don’t dispute Jeter’s relative greatness (not the overhype), but the Young comparison is a fair one, albeit flawed. But to point to Yankees titles to push the scales in Jeter’s favor is erroneous. If you put Young on the Yankees and Jeter on the Rangers over an equal number of seasons and change NOTHING else, Young would have as many rings as Jeter actually does and vice versa.

    • deathmonkey41 - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      To answer your question, yes, yes we are.

    • yankeesfanlen - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:13 PM

      Nope, we get a triple dose of Beep-beep to make up for it.

    • kopy - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:13 PM

      But is Michael Young a captain?

      • ditto65 - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:31 PM

        And what are his intangibles?

        Seriously, though, as demonstrated by Jeter, you cannot expect the next five years of a 34 year old to match their career average.

    • njlurker - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:14 PM

      As Jeter’s career has shown, take an average year multiply by 4.5. That will give you a more accurate projection. (And I guess you’re assuming that the Rangers will be winning the World Series for the next 5 years)

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:16 PM

      Someone else do the math, because this is what I came up with. Extrapolating Young’s games to Jeter’s (and not including a regression for his decline phase), I get:

      Triple Slash:
      MY – .301/.347/.450 – 108 OPS+
      DJ – .313/.383/.449 – 118 OPS+

      Advantage Jeter

      Counting Stats:
      Hits – 2904 MY to 3004 DJ
      2B – 448 MY to 481 DJ
      3B – 60 MY to 62 DJ
      HR – 200 MY to 237 DJ
      SB – 102 MY to 331 DJ
      BB – 569 MY to 972 DJ

      What stats does Young have over Jeter?

    • Ari Collins - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:18 PM

      Michael Young was a way better hitter than people think. (I remember Ken Tremendous once saying, “Michael Young couldn’t have had 221 hits last year. I would have heard about that, right?”). Some of his numbers are right in line with Jeter’s, especially in the power department.

      But Derek Jeter’s AVERAGE OBP is only 2 points lower than Michael Young’s career high. When you put the overall package together, Jeter has been a much, much, much better hitter than Young for his career. And while I might knock Jeter’s D, Young has always been worse.

      • paperlions - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:46 PM

        Young’s hitting stats are mostly a function of his launching pad of a home park (as shown somewhat by his modest OPS+)

        Career at Home: OBP .375, SLG .495
        Career on Road: OBP .328, SLG .414 (that is barely better than an average AL player in 2011)

    • jmg4314 - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:07 PM

      But too bad Young has to do it for another 5 years. One can not assume that he will.

    • docconan - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:44 PM

      So you added 5 year averages to the beginning of his career or the end of his career?!? Do you not see how ludicrous this effort of your sports reporter is? Michael Young has been involved in what two playoff winning series. Most of his career he’s spent playing for a dog rangers team that was the fourth most-viewed sport in his town. The reason no knows who Michael Young is is because no one cares who Michael Young is! Let him play in a few post-seasons, win a few series, a championship perhaps. 3000 hits is a cherry on top of Jeter’s career, especially the way he did it, but it is by know means the definition of his career: For his entire career, he was the most consistent, durable, dependable, marketable, successful, observed player, on the most successful, observed team in all of sports. And he did it all with class and dignity. Are you really trying to compare that guy with Michael Young?!?

      • ballsout1950 - Jul 11, 2011 at 6:03 PM

        I am not sure it is fair to penalize Young because he has not had a good team around him. If he played for the Yankees, Red Sox, or Braves for instance he wouldhave had more chance to show his metle in the Post Season.

        That said, Young is a solid, sometimes excellent hitter.

        He is not however a one-to-one Mtach for Jeter in Jeter’s prime.

        As someone pointed out, he is a product of his home park with an offensive split home/away that is HUGELY in favor of his home park, one of the great hitters parks in baseball. His OPS this year is a good example. It is nearly .200 higher at home this season than on the road. All but one of his home runs has been hit at home this year. (7 vs 1)

        Jeter’s numbers are much more evenly split between home and the road, essentally Yankee Stadium(s) has been neutural for Jeter.

    • bigharold - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:20 PM

      “…as we in Dallas are of hearing about Jeter?”

      Where is Dallas? Wasn’t the a show on TV about 30 years ago?

    • zzwanda - Jul 12, 2011 at 11:06 AM

      You assume that his next 5 years would be equal to his average year. The last 5 years of a ballplayers career are never that good, unless you’re Sandy Koufax. Ted Williams lost 5 years due to military service in the prime of his career. You could use the average year comparison there, but not, I’m afraid, with Michael Young.

  5. itsacurse - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    I’ll say this about Ian O’Connor: “He gets people talking.”

    I will ALSO say THIS about Ian O’Connor: “He must be one of the dumbest people on Earth.”

  6. Neil Jung - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    Wow, tough day for Jeter. First, Heyman’s proposal to rename the sport JeterBall is losing momentum due to the Captain not gracing the All-Star game with his attendance. Now, this, this disgustingly non-hagiographic post from Calcaterra. I’m starting to think Jeter is underpaid.

  7. Jonny 5 - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    I tried to tell all of you people this was the beginning of Blernsball with all of these “special balls” they fed Jetes this weekend. This is just the beginning! All Hail Bud! All Hail Jetes!

  8. The Common Man - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Actually, Mantle could hit just fine. 142 OPS+ in his last season. The Mick was burned by the league’s downturn in offense, which masked that he was still exceptional.

  9. jeffrp - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here…

    Ian O’Connor wrote a ridiculous piece of fluff about Jeter and the sun rose in the east. What’s funny to me is the self-appointed group of writers (you know who they are and yes, they are all better than O’Connor) who take it as their personal mission to set the world straight about Derek Jeter ( You’d think they could set aside their calling for a day and enjoy what was a pretty cool thing that happened in baseball on Saturday.

    To wit:

  10. drewmunny - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    Deified? A bit strong choice of word, don’t you think? Glorified, perhaps. And, in mine and others opinions, rightfully so. Jeter is, by anyone’s standards, one of the few persons in professional sports that can still be called a hero, a role model, and quite frankly, a continuing breath of fresh air in this world we call professional sports. When so many athletes are focused on media attention, good or otherwise, Jeter is still focused on the game and the team. When so many are arrested daily or make headlines for something other than the game they play, this guy keeps it professional. Is he in what is quite likely his twilight years? Most certainly. And that is what makes this most recent accomplishment and performance all the better. It was a moment that, love or hate they guy, made you glad to be a fan of the best sport on earth, a feel-good moent if there ever was one. And I feel as though maybe some of these writers (other than Craig, of course) can be given a pass for losing some of their objectivity for a moment, and simply relishing in the excitement of seeing one of baseball’s greats “play young again.” (yes, I quoted Posnanski)

  11. jkay1818 - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    If you want to ask where Jeter ranks all time, hes one of the greatest ever. He’s the 4th youngest to 3000 hits, he has 5 rings, possibly more by the end of his career, he has produced numerous times in the offseason etc etc. They made such a big deal about ripken, and when he declined they still saluted him. There will always be #s on how this guy is better, that guy is better, like that michael young argument, but are you kidding me? jeter is going to finish top 10 in all time hits, possibly higher. He’s had over 200 hits in a season how many times? its pretty crazy. i always debate him and ripken, but aside from home runs, jeter is going to have him beat in every single category. runs, steals, obp, avg etc. not to mention ripken if you add his streak would have played a lot more games and jeter has still outperformed him.

    if you want to compare jeter and young, when have the yankees ever moved him from ss, 2nd, 3rd, dh, tried to ship him out and so on. he’s a guy who cant be replaced. There is so much negative talk about him on here, but to know where he stacks up, aside from yankee fans, the biggest praise comes from red sox fans on here, their rival and fans who see him the most aside from yanks fans.

    • jkay1818 - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:34 PM

      i meant postseason….im sure has in the offseason as well.

  12. antiochcat - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    I don’t care what anybody says. The dude sold me when he made that amazing catch in the world series, I don’t even remember the year, but he went head over heels into the seats and came up with the ball. The guy bleeds Yankee Blue and he deserves to be considered up there with Gehrig, Mantle, Maris (and, yes, Reggie). Jeter is The Captain and he always will be in my book.

    • ballsout1950 - Jul 11, 2011 at 5:52 PM

      Sorry, I have to disagree with you here. Maris and Reggie do not even remotely belong on this list.

      Jeter does deserve mention along side Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Berra, Dickey, Ford… Not saying he is as good or better, just deserves to be on the list of greatest Yankees

      Reggie and Maris do not.

      Marris had 2 excellent years and 2 very good years with the Yankees, the rest were either fair or bad (injuries yes, but he is not a Yankee GREAT, just a very good).

      Reggie played for the Yankees for 5 years, had 1 great year, 2 very good years and two so-so years and simply is NOT a Yankee Great. He wasn’t a Yankee long enough.

      Just my humble opinion…

    • Kevin S. - Jul 11, 2011 at 6:15 PM

      Yeah… that happened in July.

  13. madocyankfan - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    I actually thought the piece by Posnanski and the piece in FanGraphs did the best in taking 3000 and adding measures perspective. As a 30 something Yankee fan I probably over rate Mattingly but for Gen Y Jeter is a contemporary they’ve grown up with (literally) he is put on pedestal. Right or wrong in the age of the Internet, blogs, and TMZ Jeter plays hard and has kept his nose clean. Which is something very difficult to do in this day and age. For Gen X’rs like me there were plenty of heroes (lack of a better word) like Ripken, Sandberg, Mattingly Gwynn. Now it is really hard to be elite and be devoid of scandal.

    Just my $.02.

  14. spudchukar - Jul 11, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    The crowning blow for me was when the Yankee announcers were discussing what kind of hit number 3000 would be for Jeter. They actually used the term JETERIAN. Before they can anoint the Yankee shortstop with that moniker they first must create Gehrigian, Dimaggioan, Mantelian, and Berraian.

    • ballsout1950 - Jul 11, 2011 at 6:08 PM

      Jeter is known for his “inside out” swing hitting the ball to right field.

      The announcers (both Kay and Sterling) have been using the term Jeterian for about 10 years to describe that style of hitting much as “a Ruthian blast” has long been used to describe a long homerun.

      That is all that is meant by the term.

  15. jerseydevi1 - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    Here’s all you need to know about Derek Jeter:

    Look at all of the players that have been career Yankees, and their records. Records like that Babe Ruth guy had, and the Lou Gehrig fella. Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle did ok, too and of course Yogi. Now look at Jeter with his 5 rings, and being the only player ever to get 3000 hits for them. Seriously, let that sink in for a second. Joe “56 game hitting streak” DiMaggio didn’t do it. Babe “Synonymous with home runs” Ruth didn’t do it. None of them. Zero, zip, zilch, nada.

    We remember what a great captain and leader Thurman Munson was and love him for it. We do the same for Jeter. We remember Yogi always being there for the championships in the 40’s and 50’s like we think of Jeter for the teams of the 90’s.

    Simply, he fits. He fits with the legends for his on the field numbers, and what he means to his teammates and fans. I know I have missed many more comparisons, but there are many. I have no problem holding Jeter up with them. He is an all-time great New York Yankee, and I am glad to have had a chance to see him play. From that first game in Cleveland (I know he played before then, but get real, that was when his career as a starter began) until the day he hangs ’em up. I now know I have my generations “Greatest Yankee”.

    Until Mo retires of course, then the two of them go right next to each other in Monument Park. C’mon, did you really think that would be left out?

    • jerseydevi1 - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:30 PM

      OK, just realized something. I know Babe Ruth was a Red Sox, but you get the point.

  16. Temple3 - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    This article is absurd. The writer has no fall back position to even begin to assess or differentiate one moment from the next. Hit 2,999 then becomes the same as hit #1 or hit 3000, when clearly they are not truly the same — even though they are all hits. Nothing has magnitude or significance…it’s all an overreaction. A single resulting in no runs scored in the first inning is the same as a game winner in the 17th. GTFOH. Why even bother to watch the game, let alone PLAY?

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