Feb 15, 2014, 7:05 AM EDT
SOCHI, Russia — Well, the overwhelming thing that is the Winter Olympics has completely thrown me off my 100 greatest baseball players ever schedule. So it goes. We’ll pick up where we left off after I return and recover and get back on U.S. time. I predict this will be sometime in July.
In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about one big mistake I made in the Top 100 list, I’m sure I’ve made dozens of mistakes but one in particular stands out to me. And it relates pretty directly to the biggest baseball news of the last week.
I left Alan Trammell off my Top 100. That’s just not right. And I’ll need to correct that.
When Derek Jeter announced his retirement a couple of days ago, I wrote about how amazing it is — in these times of Twitter and 24-hour sports talk and mean-old defensive statistics and smark-aleck bloggers who invent words like Jeterate — that Derek Jeter will walk away from the game almost universally admired. It is a happy fate that eluded almost every great player of his time. Derek Jeter was a fantastic player, a sure Hall of Famer, a man who played hard every day. For the next six months, people will come to dedicate a portion of baseball immortality on him. It is altogether fitting and proper that they should do this.
But in a larger sense …
In the last last few days someone wrote how there will never be a Yankee who mattered more than Derek Jeter. Someone wrote this tripe about how stat nerds need to shut up because Derek Jeter was, like, the awesomest thing ever. Someone wrote that the Hall of Fame shouldchange its induction rules because Jeter should go in early with his buddy Mariano Rivera. Red Sox players were effusive, Bud Selig, after spending months breaking Alex Rodriguez, wrote the most glowing statement about him. Albert Pujols said he was “pretty close” to Jesus.
And I it hit me: Oh yeah, THAT’S why I invented the word Jeterate.
He was a fantastic baseball player. But you know what? Alan Trammell was just about as good.
Here are Alan Trammell’s and Derek Jeter’s neutralized offensive numbers.
Jeter was a better hitter. But it was closer than you might think. They had similar strengths offensively. At their best, they were .300 hitters with some power and some speed. Both lost deserving MVP awards to players who hit a lot of home runs and had a lot of RBIs. Jeter played in a historically high scoring time which inflated his numbers. Trammell played in a low-scoring time, which depressed his. So their actual numbers diverge. Plus Jeter was much more dependable which is no small thing. Jeter played in 300-plus more games. He played 140-plus games in 15 seasons. Trammell because of injuries and such managed only eight 140-game seasons.
But Trammell has his advantages too — namely defense. Trammell was a much, much, much, much, much, much — can’t put “much” in here enough times — much better defensive shortstop.
By Baseball Reference’s defensive WAR Trammell was 22 wins better than a replacement shortstop. Jeter was nine runs worse.
By Fangraphs, Trammell was 76 runs better than a replacement shortstop. Jeter was 139 runs worse.
You can buy those numbers or you can partially agree with them or you can throw them out entirely, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Trammell was a better defensive shortstop. It’s only a matter of degree. And where Jeter’s offensive strengths and longevity give him a cushion over Trammell, the defense unquestionably cuts into the lead.
More: They were both widely respected players. They were both leaders on excellent teams. They both had great years. It’s fascinating to look at their five best years by Baseball Reference WAR.
Jeter: 8.0 (1999); 7.5 (1998); 6.6 (2009); 5.5 (2006); 5.1 (2001).
Trammell: 8.2 (1987); 6.7 (1990); 6.6 (1984); 6.3 (1986); 6.0 (1983).
And by Fangraphs WAR:
Jeter: 7.4 (1999); 6.8 (2009); 6.2 (1998); 6.1 (2006); 5.5 (2002).
Trammell: 7.7 (1987); 6.9 (1984); 6.2 (1990); 5.7 (1986); 5.6 (1983).
By both of those measures, Trammell was at least as good, and perhaps a tick better, than Jeter when they were both at their best. That’s because Baseball Reference and Fangraphs WAR weigh defense pretty heavily. Like I say, you might not think Trammell’s defense makes up that much ground. You might not even think Trammell was a better defender than Jeter. Baseball is fun to argue about.
All of this can lead to the easy conclusion that Derek Jeter was wildly overrated … and when people are saying he’s pretty close to Jesus or that he belongs on Yankees Mount Rushmore(worst tourist attraction EVER!), yeah, it’s hard to argue. But my point is different. My point is that Alan Trammell was criminally underrated.
There are only a handful of shortstops in the history of baseball who transcended the position. You look at the Hall of Fame shortstops — many of them couldn’t really hit. Aparicio … Ozzie … Pee Wee … Scooter … all of them were, in total, below average hitters. Cal Ripken is viewed as one of the most powerful offensive shortstops ever … but he had lower slugging percentage than Ruben Sierra and Eric Karros. The position is so demanding defensively, so demanding physically, so demanding mentally that very, very few players could play the position and stay on top of their games daily and be great offensive players and run the bases and lead their teams.
Jeter deserves to be celebrated for being one of those shortstops. He was probably the best player on four of the five Yankees World Series champions he played on (he wasn’t in 1996; there’s an argument that Jorge Posada or Bernie Williams was better in 2000). He helped his team in countless ways. I wouldn’t say he was the best modern shortstop but his career has been wonderful.
And so was Alan Trammell’s. Criminally underrated doesn’t even do his career justice. And I’m one of the people who underrated it.
Aug 20, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT
When the Rockies declined their $4.25 million option on Rafael Betancourt and re-signed him to a minor-league deal the assumption was that he wouldn’t be a factor this season following Tommy John elbow surgery last August.
Aug 20, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT
Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez underwent season-ending knee surgery Monday and now there’s some doubt whether he’ll be fully recovered for the beginning of spring training.
Aug 20, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Sanchez’s rehab assignment was previously put on hold when he took a foul ball off the mask two weeks ago and that same thing happened Saturday at Triple-A.
Aug 20, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Milwaukee had already shut down Jim Henderson for the season with shoulder problems and now the Brewers announced that the 31-year-old reliever will undergo a “clean up” surgery on his labrum and rotator cuff.
Aug 20, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
If we all acted the way umps act
Aug 20, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Zack Greinke skipped his usual between-starts bullpen session because of elbow soreness and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly declined to say whether he expected the right-hander to take his next turn in the rotation Thursday against the Padres.
Aug 20, 2014, 9:41 AM EDT
In addition to raising awareness of a good cause, Jeter’s challenge raised awareness of CC Sabathia’s actual existence.
Aug 20, 2014, 9:12 AM EDT
And if he does, he’ll leave $12.75 million on the table.
Aug 20, 2014, 8:43 AM EDT
Another star player reminds us of the dangers of smokeless tobacco use.
Aug 20, 2014, 7:19 AM EDT
And the Giants — in a playoff race — aren’t happy that they lost a shortened game as a result.
Aug 20, 2014, 6:54 AM EDT
A bases-loaded walk helped the Tigers win a game. A walkoff plunking gave the Cardinals the win. And the crew in Chicago couldn’t get a tarp on the field. Can anyone around here play this game anymore?
Aug 19, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
Mets rookie right-hander Jacob deGrom threw all of his pitches in a bullpen session Tuesday in Oakland without experiencing any discomfort in his shoulder and has been cleared to return to the starting rotation Saturday night against the Dodgers.
Aug 19, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT
The Nationals are the hottest team in the majors. Stephen Strasburg yielded just three hits over eight inning of one-run ball and shortstop Ian Desmond went 3-for-4 with four RBI in an 8-1 stomping of the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night in Washington, D.C.
Aug 19, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT
The Orioles’ four-year, $50 million deal with starter Ubaldo Jimenez is already looking like a disaster. Jimenez registered a 4.83 ERA and 1.55 WHIP over his first 20 outings this season and now MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli reports that the right-hander has been demoted to the bullpen for the stretch run.
Aug 19, 2014, 8:41 PM EDT
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported Tuesday morning that the Diamondbacks “currently plan to bring back” manager Kirk Gibson next season. But the club’s new chief baseball officer — Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa — is now denying that anything has been decided on the Gibson front.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:57 PM EDT
Jesse Hahn has been optioned to the minor leagues as part of a planned-out strategy to limit the rookie’s innings total in 2014.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT
Great news here for the second-place Cardinals. Injured catcher Yadier Molina told Jim Hayes of FOX Sports Midwest on Tuesday afternoon that he is hoping to be cleared to begin swinging a bat on Wednesday or Thursday.
Aug 19, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT
Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant sent a scare through the organization on Saturday when he had to leave a game at Triple-A Iowa with pain in his left big toe. But all is well with the budding superstar.
Aug 19, 2014, 5:29 PM EDT
Ryan Raburn’s disappointing season for the Indians now includes a trip to the disabled list with a sore right wrist.
Aug 19, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT
St. Louis infielder Mark Ellis is headed to the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, which tends to sideline players for more than the minimum 15 days.
- Curt Schilling reveals that he was diagnosed with mouth cancer, blames smokeless tobacco 38
- Clown shoes in Chicago: the Cubs grounds crew couldn’t get the tarp on the field 45
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 57
- Tony La Russa denies that Kirk Gibson’s job is safe 19
- Pirates activate Andrew McCutchen from the disabled list 2
- HBT Daily: They’ve dropped six straight, but the Pirates may be the Wild Card favorites 2
- The Diamondbacks plan to bring back Kirk Gibson for some reason 31
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 32
- Mike Matheny addresses turmoil in Ferguson: “It’s a sad situation. It’s a tough situation for our city” (125)
- Jayson Werth clocked at 105 m.p.h. in a 55 zone, is charged with reckless driving (88)
- Here’s today’s dose of barfy Derek Jeter sentiment (82)
- Baseball is dying, you guys (78)
- A vote for Tom Werner for commissioner is a vote to return to the dark ages (78)