Skip to content

No, Jeter’s final season isn’t that much better than Mantle’s, DiMaggio’s and Mattingly’s

Jul 18, 2014, 10:17 AM EDT

Jeter Respect AP

Weird column from Mike Vaccaro at the Post today. In it he looks at Derek Jeter‘s swan song and compares it to Mickey Mantle’s, Joe DiMaggio’s and Don Mattingly’s. The upshot: Mantle, DiMaggio and Mattingly all had their glorious careers end rather ignominiously, with their bodies hobbled and their production a shadow of what it once was. Jeter, on the other hand, is “sticking the landing” better, still being reliable and atoning nicely for his 2013, which was lost to injury:

Could he have a skid like the one that nearly obliterated Mattingly’s last go-round? He could. He’s had stretches of ineffectiveness this year. But again, when you’ve watched Jeter as long as you have, you understand something: There’s no way he will allow himself to become a burden. It seems he’s come to peace with who he is at age 40: a contributor, a leader, a captain, a player you’d certainly rather have on your team than not, a star by reputation rather than repetition. Reliably reliable.

I guess he’s certainly in better physical shape than those other guys were but it’s not like they were chopped liver while Jeter remains some prime contributor:

  • Mantle’s final season by OPS+: 143
  • DiMaggio’s final season by OPS+: 116
  • Mattingly’s final season by OPS+: 97
  • Jeter’s final season by OPS+ 81

I get that the optics were bad for those other guys given that they were hobbled physically while Jeter is not, but I feel like the stories told about the end to their careers — and careers like that of Willie Mays and other major stars — are often misleading. Mantle was still an extremely valuable hitter and most people who say otherwise don’t appreciate how good an offensive season he was actually having in 1968 given that it was The Year of the Pitcher. The other guys weren’t what they used to be, but to say they left on a terrible note says more about what we thought of them in their primes, not what they actually were in their last year.

Jeter really isn’t that different than them. He’s still useful given how thin shortstop is in major league baseball, but he has fallen off just as much if not more than the other retiring Yankees legends have. It’s the same story that can be told about most players when they reach this point, actually. Not a different one in any notable respect.

It just feels like yet another instance of telling stories we want to be true rather than stories that actually are true. We were sad that Mickey Mantle didn’t look like Mickey Mantle anymore so we overstate his decline. We’re generally OK with how Jeter looks now so we overstate the value of his final season.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    The truth, as you eloquently describe it here Craig, will set us free.

  2. chip56 - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    The thing with looking at something like OPS+ is that you have to keep in mind is that, yes, in their final seasons Mattingly, Dimaggio and Mantle all had higher numbers than Jeter does, but they also had a higher number throughout their careers than Jeter does.

    DiMaggio – 155
    Mantle – 172
    Mattingly – 127
    Jeter – 116

    So a more accurate measure might be the drop-off for each player from career average to final season:

    DiMaggio – 39
    Mantle – 29
    Mattingly – 30
    Jeter – 35

    • paperlions - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      I suppose….but that completely ignores the fact that Mantle and DiMaggio remained far above average hitters their last year, whereas Mattingly was roughly average and Jeter is well below average.

      Being much worse than you were be still be BETTER than Jeter’s career average in the cases of DiMaggio and Mantle should not be ignored.

      • chip56 - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:09 PM

        It’s not ignoring it. It’s just pointing out that over the courses of their careers Mantle and DiMaggio were far better hitters than Mattingly and Jeter are so it would stand to reason that trend would extend to their final years as well.

      • chip56 - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:10 PM

        but, at the same time, proportionally their declines were very similar.

      • paperlions - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:19 PM

        Yes, but the comparison is made to make it seem like Jeter was at least as good if not better than those guys, when in reality Jeter has been a below average player this year and DiMaggio and Mantle were above average players in their final year.

        I understand that the better players had farther to fall…but they were still positive contributors to the goal of winning. Jeter is among the least valuable regular SS in the league this year…and it isn’t exactly a golden age for SS right now.

      • chip56 - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        I didn’t take that as the point of the article. I saw it more as a conversation about drop-off.

        I wouldn’t say “among the least valuable” yes he’s 20th in overall OPS but that’s mostly because he’s not hitting for any power – he’s top 10 in both BA and OBP. I’m not trying to insinuate that Jeter’s having a great season; but for a player his age – I’m ok with it.

      • paperlions - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:44 PM

        The actual article most certainly is a comparison between Jeter and the other 3 in an attempt to make Jeter’s final season seem a graceful departure, and paints the other guys as struggling mightily. Those guys might have struggled, but they were still far better players (2.8 fWAR for both Mantle and DiMaggio) than Jeter is right now (on pace for about 1.0 fWAR).

        Well, he is among the least valuable, his defense has graded out roughly average (a step up for him that doesn’t seem likely to last), and the complete lack of power and average OBP don’t amount to much value.

      • dsaverno - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:23 PM

        no, proportionally, jeter has has the most precipitous drop: in percent terms, the drops were as follows:
        Mantle: 16% drop (1 – (143/172))
        DiMaggio: 25% drop
        Mattingly: 24% drop
        Jeter: 30% drop

        This shows that Mantle was actually still one hell of a hitter (OBP does wonders for wRC+)

      • chip56 - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:37 PM

        @dsaverno – I would say that having Jeter, Mattingly and DiMaggio all within 6% of each other is a pretty similar proportional decline.

        Of course DiMaggio is also not a great person to lump into this conversation as he lost his 28, 29 and 30 seasons – have to assume his career averages would have been higher if he had played those three years.

      • shawndc04 - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:10 PM

        How was Mickey a “far above average” hitter his last year when his b/a was .237 and his slg was .398? He had a good obp, but I don’t see where the far above average was.

      • paperlions - Jul 18, 2014 at 2:03 PM

        He had a 145 wRC+ that year, which was 13th among all of MLB. He had the 4th best OBP in all of MLB. Remember, it was the year of the pitcher, it was a really low offensive environment.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        @shawn: Year of the pitcher dude. League BA and OBP that year were 237/299.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 18, 2014 at 4:48 PM

        Exactly … Vaccaro is just extended the career-long overrating of the Cap’n one more season.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 19, 2014 at 12:31 AM

        @Chip …. man, you Jeter fellaters just don’t give up, do you?

    • gatorprof - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      I would hope that no one is trying to say that Jeter is anything but an average SS at 40 years old….WAR = 0.5. Playing SS at age 40 is amazing, period. It is a swan song to a great player.

      I think that the age issue is relevant, so here are ages of the players in their final seasons:

      DiMaggio – 36
      Mantle – 36
      Mattingly – 34
      Jeter – 40

      If you want to compare apples to apples, go and compare to Cal Ripken Jr.’s final season as a 40 year old. Jeter is pretty similar to Ozzie’s final season at age 41.

      Everyone slows down…

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 18, 2014 at 5:02 PM

        Actually, although he didn’t play a full season, Ozzie had a 94 OPS+ his final year, and 1.5 WAR. And, had Tony the Pony not stacked the deck on the SS competition at the start of the year in favor of Royce Clayton, that WAR would have almost doubled.

      • gloccamorra - Jul 19, 2014 at 10:43 PM

        Now you run into the danger of having to compare Jeter to (gulp) Barry Bonds: 28 homers at age 42.

        Then again, Ted Williams hit 29 at age 42 his last year, in fewer at bats than Bonds, and had a better average, .316 to .272, and Ted wasn’t that far off – his teammate won the batting title at .320.

        I don’t think Ted was Juiced – most of that stuff hadn’t been invented yet. Bonds…

  3. raysfan1 - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    Preseason I’d predicted he’d hit .280-ish and would get at least some support for comeback player of the year. I still think I’m right there, and articles like the one linked from the Post make me certain he will indeed get a few votes for that award. Where he has really fallen off offensively is power. It used to be one could count on 10-15 HRs and 25+ 2B from him. 2/3 of the way through this season he has 2 HRs and 9 doubles, resulting in that .322 SLG.

    Of course, whether he admits/realizes it or not, the injury sustained in the playoffs in 2012 is still affecting him. He’d probably show a bit better power numbers next year if he weren’t retiring.

    • raysfan1 - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      To clarify–I’m not saying he will or should win the award, just that he will get some votes.

      • chip56 - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:39 PM

        I agree he will get votes, I’m not sure either if he wins, but if not him who? Melky Cabrera? I’m sure there’s someone obvious I’m forgetting.

      • nbjays - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:58 PM


      • raysfan1 - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        Teixeira maybe.

      • yahmule - Jul 18, 2014 at 3:40 PM

        Kazmir gets my vote.

  4. 461deep - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    Joe lost 39 points but his lifetime average was high at .325. Mantle was done but team needed him to draw fans but he still hit a nice number of homers.. Jeter compares as a singles doubles hitter and many more hits and at bats. All 4 HOF caliber players but Donnie not enough years to get in. Ruth
    tanked worst of all but quit in May after a big 3 homer day a few days earlier. Most great players go out ordinary.

    • chip56 - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      Well and that’s the point – with the exception of Bonds there haven’t been many great players who have gone out still being great. But when you are talking about declining from the levels at which guys like Mantle, Mays, DiMaggio etch played at – even in their final seasons they are still going to look better than most players look in their final seasons.

      That’s why if you want to talk about declining production – I think a more fair way of looking at it than the raw number is to look at the difference between their average season and final season. As pointed out above, Jeter’s final season won’t be better than that of DiMaggio’s, but he will have had less of a drop-off in his game than Joe D had in his.

      • larrytsg - Jul 18, 2014 at 2:13 PM

        Ted Williams….while his 1960 season might not have been stellar, it wasn’t an embarrassment either.

      • gloccamorra - Jul 19, 2014 at 10:54 PM

        Ted Williams’ 1960 season average of .316 looks low, but the batting title was won at .320. Besides that, 29 homers in 310 at bats is nothing to sneeze at, especially from a 42 year old.

    • yahmule - Jul 18, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      It should be noted that Babe Ruth posted a 160 OPS+ as a Yankee @ 39, second best on the team to a guy named Lou Gehrig. Those lying bastards banished him to the worst team in the National League for his swan song and broke his heart.

  5. barrywhererufrom - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Joe D’s did end with a world championship.. Sadly I think Jeets will end like Mickey’s.. Hey you can’t have everything..

    • chip56 - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:11 PM

      Jeter dated the Invisible Woman and Black Widow though – so that’s pretty MARVELous.

  6. happytwinsfan - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    Although Mantle was still a valuable hitter at the end he was a huge defensive liability because he couldn’t throw decently. There not being a DH then it was hard to justify him in the lineup except to pinch hit. I remember that even on Mickey Mantle day, the Tigers took extra bases on him.

    • salvomania - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      What, took extra bases on him while he was playing first base?

      The last game Mantle played in the outfield was in 1966.

      • happytwinsfan - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:50 PM

        I’m remembering Mickey Mantle day 1965. There was also one in 1969, but I believe it was only ceremonial, Mantles having played is last game in 1968.

  7. shawnuel - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    And Jeter has been a defensive liability most of his career.

  8. johnnysoda - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Whoa, a ridiculously hyperbolic article about Derek Jeter? Say it isn’t so!

  9. jimmyt - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    There is still the rest of the season to go. He may have an incredible second half or he may barely make it across the finish line.

  10. ahrmon - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    Hey, look, a snotty anti-Jeter article from HBT. Must be Friday.

    Christ almighty I can’t wait for the season to end so we can stop talking about the horror that was Jeter’s career. I mean, the guy shouldn’t even have ever been called up in the first place. He just plain sucks. What a loser.

    • themuddychicken - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:56 PM

      I think you and I are reading different articles.

      • slappymcknucklepunch - Jul 19, 2014 at 12:35 AM

        I think he was reading a different website.

    • protectthishouse54 - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      That’s a little harsh, but I see what you’re getting at. The Jeter love can get annoying, but the backlash is equally annoying. Let him retire and let Yankee fans enjoy it without a constant reminder that his peripherals suck.

    • pete2112 - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      That’s a very ignorant thing to say. Sorry, but I think it’s pretty hard to say someone sucks with 3,400 hits and five championship rings.

    • bigmeechy74 - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:44 PM

      he doesn’t suck. He’s just overrated

      • pete2112 - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:57 PM

        Other than ARod back in his Seattle days and pre-steroids, name me a better shortstop in the past 15 years.

        Again, I think it’s the things he did that don’t show up in the box score that make him great.

  11. irishdodger - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    So hard to go out on top. Injuries hastened Mattingly’s & Mantle’s retirement. I agree that, were the DH implemented during Mantle’s twilight years; he would have been more productive & maybe even play an extra year or two….but that’s pure conjecture. Hard to think of any HoFer who went out in dominant fashion. Koufax is the exception but he made the right call w/ the pain & damage to his left arm despite being dominate.

  12. pete2112 - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    I think comparing these guys together is a bit of a stretch. Each guy did something a little different with regard to power, driving runners in and where they batted in the order. Out of these guys Jeter had the least amount of power and has always been more of a singles and doubles guy, but hit for average most seasons. I think Jeter had a lot of intangibles that don’t show up in his stats that make him the player he once was.

  13. thomasgarvey - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    Here’s a crazy thought…
    Why not try Jeter at pitcher? He’s in great shape, he’s got to have a better than 90 fast ball, has good accuracy, a better athlete than a lot of Yankees pitchers, and the Yankees need pitching like crazy. Mariano could teach him the cutter. He could work on a change-up. It would surely extend his career. Sort of a ‘reverse-Babe Ruth’, instead of starting as a pitcher, Jeter could end as a pitcher.

    • thomasgarvey - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      Come on, he could be a great middle reliever. Work a couple innings every other day or so.

  14. psly2124 - Jul 18, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    Mattingly. Come he had a three year window then he was done. He was on terrible Yankee teams. How is he a legend again? Because he had a catchy nickname.

    • 22yearsagotoday - Jul 18, 2014 at 6:19 PM


  15. psly2124 - Jul 18, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    Mattingly. Come he had a three year window then he was done. He was on terrible Yankee teams. How is he a legend again? Because he had a catchy nickname.

    • 22yearsagotoday - Jul 18, 2014 at 6:20 PM

      Excellent: I get another guess: Donnie Baseball? (not a guess)

  16. genericcommenter - Jul 18, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    Mattingly was basically an average player after his back injury, which he later revealed was result of a congenital disk deformity. People did not want him to retire at the time, and he had contract offers to return, even after “sitting out a year.” There were teams that wanted him to continue in a DH/1B platoon of some sort. His last season kinda sucked, but he was still hitting .300 w/ doubles-power against RHP and he had experimented and been successful adapting and drawing more walks the previous year.

    Could you see anyone offering Jeter a contract to be a DH in 2016?

  17. 22yearsagotoday - Jul 18, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    A couple of damn Yankees went west to manage the Dodgers. Maybe Jeter will end up in L.A., too. Maybe not.

  18. scyankee64 - Jul 19, 2014 at 9:33 PM

    Jeter spent most of the first half still rehabbing from is ankle. I bet he finishes the year respectably with a BA around .290 or so. He has been hitting better of late.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. D. Wright (2995)
  2. D. Span (2544)
  3. G. Stanton (2483)
  4. J. Fernandez (2446)
  5. G. Springer (2437)
  1. Y. Puig (2337)
  2. F. Rodney (2218)
  3. M. Teixeira (2198)
  4. G. Perkins (2081)
  5. H. Olivera (1961)