'The Captain' is headed to Cooperstown. Can't you hear Frank Sinatra's "My Way" all the way from the city that never sleeps?
Perhaps you don't like baseball or don't care too much for a baseball Hall-of-Fame that has yet to elect players such as Barry Bonds and Pete Rose (debates for another day). Regardless, we can't ignore the fact that Derek Jeter, longtime New York Yankees' shortstop and sports legend, recently received an outstanding 99.74% of votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the second-highest percentage ever, and is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
Yes, 396 voters were all for a 'Mr. November' plaque in New York, which leaves one mysterious voter who left Jeter off the ballot. Jeter would have been the second player to be elected unanimously, joining his former teammate, relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, who was elected in 2019. But alas, he sits one vote shy of this honor.
Now before a bunch of New Yorkers try to hunt this mysterious writer down like bloodhounds to a New York City hotdog stand, I want you to hear me out. There may be a very valid reason why this voter left Jeter off the ballot. They're a Red Sox fan of course!
I'm only kidding, the only rational defense I could come up with for this decision lies in Jeter's offensive statistics. Not the overall totals, as 3,465 hits, a career .310 batting average, and 1,923 runs scored is incredible for someone who was able to stay healthy enough for a full 20-year career.
He was the captain of consistency for sure. You could always expect number two to give you 150 games played or more, with elite defense, a .300 batting average, nearly 200 hits, and 100 runs scored on a year-to-year basis.
However, Jeter's flaw was that he lacked baseball's "sexy stats". Home runs, RBIs, things that label you at the end of the game as the MVP or bring the crowd on their feet. Jeter was always an elite shortstop, as evident by his 14 All-Star game selections, but I'm willing to argue that there hasn't been a single season where Jeter wasn't offensively overshadowed by another shortstop in the MLB.
Take a look at some of Jeter's most productive seasons at the dish compared to his shortstop counterparts.
Derek Jeter (NYY): 158 G, 24 HR, 102 RBIs, .349 BA, 116 SO
Alex Rodriguez (SEA): 129 G, 42 HR, 111 RBIs, .285 BA, 109 SO
Nomar Garciaparra (BOS): 135 G, 27 HR, 104 RBIs, .357 BA, 39 SO
Derek Jeter (NYY): 154 G, 14 HR, 97 RBIs, .343 BA, 34 SB
Miguel Tejada (BAL): 162 G, 24 HR, 100 RBIs, .330 BA, 6 SB
José Reyes (NYM): 153 G, 19 HR, 81 RBIs, .300 BA, 64 SB
Derek Jeter (NYY): 153 G, 18 HR, 66 RBIs, .334 BA, 30 SB
Hanley Ramírez (FLA): 151 G, 24 HR, 106 RBIs, .342 BA, 27 SB
Troy Tulowitzki (COL): 151 G, 32 HR, 92 RBIs, .297 BA, 20 SB
Now I know Jeter could easily wave his five Silver Slugger awards in my face to speak for his offensive greatness. I'm not saying he wasn't awesome, what I'm saying is the transition of shortstop dominance went from Garciaparra and Rodriguez, to Tejada and Reyes, and finally Ramírez and Tulowitzki during Jeter's entire career.
These are arguably Jeter's three best offensive seasons, and still another shortstop was able to out-do him in his best statistic that year (whether it was batting average, RBIs, or stolen bases). Now, did any of these guys keep up their ridiculous pace for 20 years or play on the same team for their entire career…of course not. Unfortunately for Jeter, their primes outshined him year after year.
In an era of baseball where batting average has been thrown out the window in favor of home runs and on-base percentage...can you blame someone for not voting for a player who had 10 or fewer home runs for eight out of his 20 seasons?
I'm sure by now a lot of you can't stomach what I'm saying because you see Jeter as the face of baseball. He always came through in the clutch. You never heard a teammate speak about him in a negative way and he is never hesitant to appreciate other sports giants (such as the remarkable article he wrote recently for The Players Tribune following the tragic death of NBA superstar, Kobe Bryant). He did so many great things for the city of New York off the field. I know all about that. Jeter is a 5x World Series champion and the definition of a role model, which is why he got 99.74% of the vote!
Here's the real kicker, I'm a Yankees fan, and I'm defending this voter. Derek Jeter is my Mom's favorite player of all-time. I can't thank him enough for all he's done for the game of baseball. What other players have been around long enough to be a hero for two different generations?
My Mom's beloved "Yankees Wall" inside her classroom at Mary A. Hubbard Elementary School. The wall is littered with Derek Jeter photographs and posters. (Ramsey, NJ)Photo by: Deborah Khoury
The point is, Jeter could care less about the perfect score, so why should we be any different?