There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics.
There are also computers and the opinions of Keith Olbermann.
I actually agree with most of Olbermann’s near-seven minute rant on the nauseating year-long celebration of Derek Jeter, the parting gifts received at 18 ballparks and during the 2014 All-Star Game.
Olbermann provided statistical and computer evidence that Jeter is far from being the greatest New York Yankee or greatest shortstop ever. His bullet points included the following.
• Jeter only led his own team in a major statistical category 17 times.
• Jeter never won American League Most Valuable Player.
• Jeter’s career WAR is 72.1, behind Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Adrian Beltre, Jim Thome and Larry Walker, and just ahead of Scott Rolen.
• Jeter’s per season WAR of 3.8 only ranks 11th in Yankees history, behind Willie Randolph and Craig Nettles among others.
• Jeter is only the 19th player to log over 12,000 career at-bats, but among those 19 ranks 13th in slugging percentage, 14th in OPS and first in strikeouts.
• Jeter has the worst defensive WAR among shortstops in modern MLB history. Had the Yankees been allowed to employ a replacement-level shortstop when playing the field over Jeter’s 19 seasons, the computer says the Yankees would have won 9.4 more games. Another advanced stat says Jeter conceded 156 defensive runs over the past 12 years, more than twice of any other shortstop.
• Olbermann wonders what Jeter has done lately. The Yankees won five World Championships during Jeter’s career, the first four in the era of grainy standard-def television. Olbermann credits Paul O’Neill and others as much as Jeter for the Yankees dominance from 1996 through 2000.
• Finally, Olbermann calls out Jeter for not pulling himself out of the lineup or out of the second slot in the batting order for lack of performance, as Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle did before him. He suggested Jeter retire after his final home game and not make the trip to Boston for the final farewell spectacle fans have paid hundreds to thousand of dollars to witness.
If I had a team in a historical baseball league, and could pick any all-time Yankees player I would take Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Ruth and several others before Jeter. But there are bullet points defending Derek Jeter.
• There is only one player in the glorious history of Yankees baseball with more than 3,000 hits, that’s Jeter with 3,463. Gehrig could have made 3,000 if he hadn’t become stricken wtih ALS. DiMaggio would have had a chance if not for military service and a multitude injuries slowed Mantle. If things shook out right, those three could have reached 3,000, still well behind Jeter.
• Of the top 10 hit leaders in franchise history, Jeter does have the worst OPS at .817, just behind the .830 of Yogi Berra and Don Mattingly. Is that horrible company? Berra and Mattingly are well-known in pinstripe lore. I will also give blind resumes of all-time greats with career OPS’s of .784 and .788: those would belong to Pete Rose and Cal Ripken. Props also goes out to Paul Konerko, who retires this weekend with far less fanfare and a career OPS of .841.
• Jeter’s legacy is not about statistics. He has been MLB’s constant over an entire generation. There has also been Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Ryan Braun, whose gaudy numbers proved tainted thanks to PED use. Olbermann has done countless commentaries destroying those players’ legacies.
• DiMaggio, Ruth, Gehrig, Berra, Mantle, etc. are better than Jeter. But who is the Yankees best franchise player since 1970, or since Mantle retired? Jeter and Mariano Rivera are No. 1 and 1-A, unless one considers partial career resumes of Reggie Jackson and Alex Rodriguez while in the Bronx.
• Beyond baseball, Jeter is the most celebrated athlete in the New York are over the past 20 years. The only legitimate argument is New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. But Yankees baseball wags the tail far more than the hockey team in New Jersey.
• Team success should not be considered, since Jeter is only one of 25 on the roster. But take this into consideration: Jeter’s Yankee Stadium swan song marked the first home game he ever played with his team out of playoff contention.
• About those horrible defensive WAR numbers the computer spits out. Jeter won five Gold Glove awards, all later in his career after defensive legend Omar Vizquel retired. Perhaps Jeter got votes based on his brand name, but the nominations prove he was not a sieve on defense.
• Only the class exhibited on and off the field matches Jeter’s excellence, this must be said whether you like the Yankees or not. As is the case with Cal Ripken, his career is about far more than statistics. Jeter was always up to the moment, whether it be “The Flip,” “Mr. November,” or his walk-off hit Thursday night.
• And finally, Jeter was a local kid who made good spending 20 years with the same team. How many news and sports outlets has Keith Olbermann bounced around during the same time frame?
After ending his home career Thursday, the plan is for Jeter to play sparingly over the weekend in Boston in a DH or pinch-hitting role. After that finale it would be best if he quietly eased out while giving a wave to Red Sox Nation.
And hopefully someone in the media covers the Paul Konerko retirement party as well.