In another long-awaited episode of "Two Things Can Be True," it's my duty to inform you that Derek Jeter was not the greatest baseball player in the game's history. Oh no!
The good news, though? No one living on this beautiful planet believes that to be true, but he was -- if you can believe this -- incredibly good and incredibly important to the game.
But, unfortunately, according to no one who matters, Derek Jeter was actually overrated. They'd LOVE you to know this. They came up with this themselves, actually. And it's a pretty airtight case, if you like arguing with straw men.
"Jeter was overrated" is the most annoyingly common argument on earth. Congrats on the opinion, man. Want to talk about "Die Hard" being a Christmas movie?
Among sane fans with a keen eye for statistics, it's possible Jeter is actually...the most properly rated player in league history. Everyone knows about the defensive deficiencies, but everyone saw the defensive flash first-hand.
All baseball fans are well aware he wasn't Barry Bonds or Prime Pujols at the plate, but he's firmly ahead of the curve on offense, as a shortstop.
"Clutch" isn't real, and Jeter didn't hit .900 in the postseason, but the entire sports world watched him make seven World Series and 17 postseasons in 20 years and, as we know, making the playoffs annually is the most overrated thing you can do.
Sometimes, I enjoy engaging with this argument because I like to break ardent believers in its veracity down to their core nub. If you pry one level deeper, these Jeter scabs will tell you that, sure, he made the playoffs, and sure, he won titles, but buddy, he had a LOT of help. That's true -- like most title-winning teams, Jeter's Yankees did, in fact, feature more good players on their 25-man rosters. Quite a few, actually! Mariano Rivera was great. Andy Pettitte was nails. Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Roger Clemens...talented, all of them. Of course, "he had help" because...that's how championship teams are built.
Haven't seen a lot of people talking about how Stephen Strasburg "had help" -- he handled his business this postseason, but he also had Juan Soto, Howie Kendrick, Max Scherzer...plenty of unrelated other players also played on his team! Haven't seen anyone talking about how the 2018 Red Sox had help, or the 2017 Astro-- ok, you know what, one bad example.
But the point stands. I'm supposed to devalue Derek Jeter's postseason contributions (career .308 average/.374 OBP/20 homers) because he also played with a Hall of Fame closer? What...what does that mean?
"Help" is rarely mentioned in this sport because baseball is designed differently. In the NBA, a superstar can't win a ring without inherent and direct support. Kobe had Shaq, LeBron had Kyrie, Kobe had Dwight Howard -- all legendary duos! They fed the ball to each other. They worked in tandem. In baseball, the onus falls on your shoulders. A great hitter bats four times per game. He cannot choose when he arrives at the plate. He cannot pitch. You say Derek Jeter had "great players hitting behind him"? Sure. And he was chosen as the table-setter for those great hitters because his unique blend of contact hitting, speed, and occasional pop was perfect for the role. That's...that's how strong lineups work.
Is Mike Trout "better" than Derek Jeter? Hell yeah, he is! Mike Trout has had almost a null set of support throughout his career. He's made the postseason once, and went 1-for-12. When Mike Trout's Hall of Fame career is wrapping up (with more playoff appearances packed with more success under his belt, I'm sure), will anyone be complaining about how much help he had? No. They'll be thanking the world that he got to smell October.
Jeter wasn't the greatest of all time. What he was was the linchpin of the most successful modern iteration of the country's most successful sports franchise. But what about if he played in, say, Milwaukee? Would anyone have noticed or cared? So goes one final Jeter-disparaging refrain you'll often hear. It's perfect, you see, because there's absolutely no way of knowing what would've happened! Perhaps he would've been Robin Yount, toiling in obscurity. Perhaps he would've torn his ACL on a storm drain. Or perhaps he would've led Milwaukee to 10 straight division titles! After all, all we've ever seen him do is win.
Derek Jeter was an average fielder. Derek Jeter was a great baseball player. Derek Jeter mattered. He won't enter the Hall unanimously because that...does not happen. And it certainly does not happen twice.
Nobody thinks he's among the greatest hitters in the game's history. If you think people think that, you're creating that argument just to be angry at something that doesn't exist.
Like...the Mets being in the postseason every single year from 1995-2012.