There will never be another Derek Jeter, and I suppose that is both flattering and damning. No doubt about it, Jeter is an icon. An all-time great from an era that is not too distant in our memories but already disappearing quickly. He won championships, he came up with clutch hits, he represented baseball with a rare mix of panache and humility.
He is among the most beloved athletes in New York history and deserves every bit of acclaim that has come his way. You see Jeter, who is being inducted into the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, arrived in the major leagues in And that timing is a critical part of his legacy. Jeter was judged by standards that have evolved, grown more analytical and, in this case, more critical.
A player whose reputation was created, but not necessarily confined, to his s. He hit homers, but not too many. He stole bases, but not too many.
He did most everything well, but never dominated the league. Yet he was among the most celebrated ballplayers of his generation.
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Now, this was partly because he played in New York, and partly because he fit the role so well. An offseason resident of Tampa during his playing career, Jeter was the picture of stoicism and dignity. He was forever clutch in the playoffs and helped revive the Yankees brand after 20 years of uncharacteristic disappointment.
We know now, through the lens of advanced metrics, that Jeter was a below-average shortstop through much of the second half of his career. This may not have been obvious to the naked eye because Jeter did not make blatant errors in the field, but his range had become so limited in his later years that he was costing the Yankees outs on balls that the average shortstop would have fielded. Certainly not as long as it went on in New York. Asked about it on a Zoom call last week, Jeter acknowledged he had probably slowed down in his late 30s but suggested a lot of the complaints about his defense were overblown.
You probably slow down a bit toward the end of your career. I prided myself on being consistent. Jeter, of course, was not the first superstar to go through this. Willie Mays was a sad sight as a centerfielder with the Mets at age Dozens of other Hall of Famers were moved to first base or deated hitter to hide their defensive inadequacies in their later years. The difference is Jeter stuck it out at shortstop until the very end.
By the time he retired, he had played more games at shortstop than anyone in history other than Omar Vizquel. And he played more games in New York pinstripes than anyone who had come before him.
The backlash was probably inevitable given the zealotry of Yankees fans. Their insistence that Jeter was above criticism made him a more inviting target to critics. The shortcomings of his late 30s do not come close to overshadowing the accomplishments of his 20 seasons in New York. Only four other players in MLB history had more than 12, plate appearances with a career batting average of at least.
The first was Ty Cobb and the last was Stan Musial. That is, until Jeter became the fifth when he retired in That was the only team I ever wanted to play for as far back as I could remember. John Romano can be reached at jromano tampabay.
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By John Romano. Published Sep. John Romano Sports Columnist.
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