If there is one silver lining to all of the bad news that's enveloped the NFL, jacked the 24 hour news cycle, and smothered our Twitter feeds over the last couple weeks, it's that the Derek Jeter slurp-fest we all assumed ESPN would be conducting as the Yankee shortstop's career winds down this week has been, at the very least, subdued, if not muted.
The Worldwide Leader (and to be fair, many of us in the media) are inclined to take star players, especially star players in New York, and push them to the moon. It's what we've done with Jeter for nearly two decades, in part because he was on winning teams early in his career, and in part because he's been a very good (not great) player.
Also, most heterosexual men are completely impressed with the list of models, actresses, and generally beautiful females with whom Jeter has fornicated. This matters to many of the
us savages out there.
So this week, amidst the trickle of Jeter coverage that found its way onto my radar, I began asking myself "Just how good was Jeter?" He always felt overrated to me, but can I quantify that?
And just as I was ready to engage in four hours of exhaustivebaseball-reference.com study, Keith Olbermann dropped this bomb on his ESPN night show:
Not only did Olbermann save me four hours of study time, he confirmed everything I thought I felt and condensed it down to about seven minutes -- a seven minute sock full of pennies (and actual statistics) right across the cheek of the greatest baseball media darling of the last 25 years.
If you don't have seven minutes to watch the whole video, here are the highlights and some thoughts:
1. At the 0:40 mark, I thought a few of the names Olbermann rattled off as sarcastically being "not as great" as Derek Jeter were interesting, including "Nettles" and "Mussina". I'm sure there are some Kurkjian-ian statistical thresholds that make a case for the greatness of Graig Nettles and Mike Mussina, I would love to hear Olbermann's long form argument that those two are definitively greater than Jeter, especially Nettles.
(The "Kurkjian-ian" label is named after ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian, who can seemingly come up with a set of statistical parameters to support anyone's Hall of Fame candidacy. "Do you realize that Tim Bogar is the only player in MLB history with [fill in random thresholds for twenty innocuous statistics here]?", at which point you're like "Daaaaang man, THAT BOGAR BE PRETTY BOGARY!")
2. Olbermann is so right about the commemorative Jeter patches on the hats and jerseys that the Yankees are wearing. Hell, that Jeter himself is wearing. It's like the last month has become one giant eulogy played out on a diamond, and the corpse is actually one of the spectators. It's creepy. Olbermann is right.
3. The statistical disemboweling of Jeter is sublime. There is no sport that is more encapsulated by and enthralled with its own set of numbers and their significance than baseball. None. And yet here we are canonizing a guy for an entire season who has led the league in a statistical category -- ANY statistical category -- just three times (1998 Runs, 1999 Hits, 2012 Hits)....
3a. ...also, in 19 seasons, he led the Yankees in a statistical category -- again, ANY statistical category -- 17 times. That's it. On his own team! Also....
3b. ...no MVP's. Three top three finishes, that's it....
3c. ...also, we go next level stats and realize that Jeter has roughly the same amount of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), 72.1, as Scott Rolen. SCOTT ROLEN!
3d. ...RED RUFFING!!
3e. ...he is at the back end of the statistical line for the 19 players with greater than 12,000 plate appearances, ranking no higher than 12th in any category, except one -- STRIKEOUTS. He's number one there.
3f. ....defensively, he has the worst defensive WAR among primary shortstops in the modern era at -9.4, behind Ricky Gutierrez who is next on the list at -7.0. Also, he has -156 Defensive Runs Saved since 2003, twice as many as the next player.
4. Olbermann closes his verbal nuke by painting Jeter as a selfish diva for not taking himself out of the lineup this season, asking to move down in the order amidst career worst stats, and pretty much showing up at all to play baseball in 2014. He closes by saying if Jeter were truly great, he'd retire after the final home game Thursday.
(This is the one point I disagree on. Olbermann tried to pull this same crap with Cal Ripken when he broke Gehrig's record, that he wanted Ripken to symbolically sit himself down the night he tied the record or broke the record or something stupid like that. Symbolically sitting out of a game for any reason is dumb. You signed up to play, the Yankees want you to play, you play.)
5. My final thought, and most relevant thought to Astros fans, on this is "What does Jeter's pending retirement and MLB's collective salute to him mean to Craig Biggio's Hall of Fame candidacy?" It's generally thought that Biggio is on the cusp of induction, missing by just a few votes this last go round. Baseball-reference.com rates Biggio the most statistically similar player to Jeter EVER. I don't think one effects the other, I just find it interesting that in the sea of MLB players historically, Jeter and Biggio land on the same statistical dot. For all their numerical similarities, the difference between the two from a perception standpoint is obvious.
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Five rings and the Big Apple.
Actually, if you're a baseball fan, and don't have seven minutes to watch this video, find seven minutes to watch this video. It's a true tour de force.