‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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When Derek Jeter was asked about the Sports Illustrated players’ poll that ranked him as the third-most overrated player, he brushed off the criticism in typical fashion.
“We’re doing this again? I’m focused on more positive things. Consistency is underrated,” he responded.
That consistency alone speaks volumes about the remarkable seventeen years he’s spent at the very summit of Major League Baseball. Overrated? Try carrying his hardware up a flight of stairs without throwing out your back. Jeter has been presented with five Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, two Hank Aaron Awards and the 2000 World Series MVP and that’s without mentioning his eleven All-Star nominations and five World Series rings.
Browse through Jeter’s dossier and you’ll find an assortment of records and milestones achieved since his debut on May 29th, 1995. He is the Yankees’ all-time leader in hits, singles, stole bases and is 56 games from surpassing Mickey Mantle as franchise leader in games played. If the Bronx Bombers are considered the most storied ball club in the whole of baseball, these records must certainly count for something.
Jeter is just 17 hits away from becoming the first lifetime Yankee to reach 3,000 hits — but his achievements extend far beyond the Bronx. The Yankees’ captain continues to pad an already stunning career resume with each passing year. Derek ranks first among active players in hits and only trails teammate Alex Rodriguez in runs scored while figuring into the top ten in batting average, doubles, total bases and stolen bases.
Those who have written off Jeter over the years have done so at their own peril. After suffering a drop-off in production last season that spilled into 2011, Jeter is providing amble evidence for a turnaround. Derek appears well on his way toward boosting his season statistics closer to respectable marks and is getting on base with greater frequency. In the past week, Jeter has raised his average by ten points and increased his on-base percentage by twenty-three points while amassing a six-game hitting streak.
Jeter has always been the sort of player whose talents aren’t obvious if you watch him during a single series. Winning ballgames isn’t always about pure ability and to fully understand Jeter you would need to study him over a course of a full season. Many players considered to be ‘more talented’ have wilted under the big city lights in the fishbowl that is New York, yet he has thrived in that intense spotlight for seventeen years.
Derek may have not been blessed with the power of Cal Ripken or the speed, glove and range of Ozzie Smith but he is more of a complete package than either Hall of Famer. Another great shortstop, Omar Vizquel, holds the record for most games played at the position. If Jeter stays at shortstop and avoids injury, he could overtake Vizquel by the end of the 2013 season.
Consistency and longevity are words that define Jeter’s career. When it is all said and done, his doubters will gaze upon his records and have little evidence to downplay his achievements. Any way you cut it, Jeter is unequivocally one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game.
What do you make of Jeter’s assault on the record books and his standing in baseball history? Leave your feedback below or send Sean a tweet @HartyLFC.