Last year, we commented on the absolute absurdity of a relief pitcher being unanimously elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame—the first player ever to achieve that milestone, no less.
Now, here we are again, with Derek Jeter earning the second-highest vote total ever. This again is completely ridiculous, considering Jeter is not even in the Top 10 all time at his position and basically rode the coattails of better teammates to all his World Series championships while earning reputation he didn’t really deserve on multiple levels.
Honus Wagner, for example, almost doubled Jeter’s career Wins-Above-Replacement (WAR) value, and he was not unanimously selected for the Hall. Jeter benefitted from playing in New York with the Yankees, clearly, because it gave him extra exposure in the postseason, season after season.
Yet Jeter was never the primary reason those teams were playing in October, nor was he really even prolific in the postseason. He did win one World Series MVP award, but considering he played in 33 postseason series that was the only time he was singled out for his play. That’s not impressive at all.
The Yankees won the World Series four times in Jeter’s first five seasons, when he was a complementary player to better, older, and wiser teammates on the New York roster. Once those guys retired or moved on, Jeter couldn’t carry the Yankees on his own at all.
In the final 14 years of his career, New York won the World Series just once (2009), missed the playoffs three times, and basically became an also-ran team in the American League. All this happened when Jeter was ceremoniously and famously named “the captain” of the franchise.
So much for his captaincy: The Yankees were far worse under Jeter’s leadership, undermining the whole notion of his greatness completely.
He never won an AL MVP award, although he did win the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year award, mostly because the Yankees made the playoffs and Kansas City Royals pitcher Jose Rosado—who actually posted a higher WAR as a rookie in 1996—didn’t play on a good team in a big media market.
Fourteen times Jeter was an All-Star selection, but this again was mostly due to his popularity in New York and not his actual play: Six of those All-Star selections came in seasons where Jeter didn’t post an .800 OPS, meaning he certainly wasn’t playing All-Star baseball. He was just voted in by the fans.
As for his five Gold Gloves, well … we all know that was a joke, too: For his career, Jeter finished at minus-186 “fielding runs”—which means he was way below average in the field. In those seasons he somehow won the Gold Gloves? Collectively, he rated out at minus-12 fielding runs, and only one of those GG seasons (2004) did he actually finish in the positive side of the fielding-run measurement.
In essence, we’re looking at one of the most overrated players ever, thanks to circumstance and timing. If Jeter had been the 1996 Royals, he still would have had a nice career—but he never would have achieved any sort of popularity like this.
Oh, and finally: Jeremy Giambi was safe. Slow down any replay of the famous “flip” and look at Giambi’s foot flat on home plate when he is tagged (40 seconds in on this official MLB video).
The mythos never ends, in spite of the facts, and the Hall of Fame voters are suckers.