Baseball Debate – Nothing Like It!

I’m going to take a step away from official scoring questions this post to discuss one of my favorite topics – baseball debate.

Should Joba Chamberlain be in the Yankees bullpen?

Should Daniel Murphy be moved out of the outfield?

These are two examples of such debate.  But I am aware of no topic for baseball debate that fires me up more than the following hypothesis:

Derek Jeter is one of the worst
defensive shortstops in baseball.

Obviously, I do not agree. I started covering games at the ballpark early in Jeter’s career, and this discussion seems to have surrounded him from day one. I’ve watched him with my own eyes, and it’s just not true.

First, he was the second-best shortstop in New York – behind Rey Ordonez of the Mets. The fable of the late 90’s was that Ordonez saved at least one run a game defensively. I tracked many of those games, and I always felt that Ordonez guarded the middle of the infield exceptionally well, which left many “routine” balls in the hole become hits. Perhaps the biggest indicator to me was a video the Mets released back then featuring Ordonez. It was an “instructional” video, where they would show Rey-O sliding to make a play, and coach Cookie Rojas would immediately say “Now kids, don’t do what Rey just did – let me show you the proper way to field the ball…” Of course, Ordonez is long gone. The myth of his saving a run a game was validated by his inability to hit. Now the Mets/Yankees competition switches to a guy named Reyes…

The next discussion was how Jeter was the worst of the “new” brand of shortstops. A few years after that debate Nomar is “no more” topic of any discussion, and A-Rod has moved over to become one of the best third baseman in the game, following a similar transition that a guy named Ripken made. Through it all, Jeter has continued to keep on keeping on.

My favorite chapter of the debate came to us via Pennsylvania – where some dudes claimed to have scientific evidence that Jeter is an awful defensive shortstop, declining by the minute. For those of you that don’t know, it is commonly accepted in Pennsylvania that if Penn State University says something is true – it’s true. For the rest of us, we have the ability to discern facts using our own mental capacity. This highly-questionable “study” was conducted by a bunch of guys in a room watching video footage. These “scientists” never actually observed Jeter in person, and in fact admitted that their conclusion was further supported by John Sterling’s constant “…past a diving Jeter…” comments on those broadcasts. Since their observations were limited to what was recorded on video, it obviously wasn’t important for them to realize that maybe Jeter was diving towards the middle because he started the play in the hole.

I thought about all this while working last night’s game at Yankee Stadium, where I watched the 18-game errorless effort by the Yankees come to an end. What’s that? How does a team with the worst shortstop in baseball go 18 games without an error? Especially when the “experts” say his fielding abilities are in a free-fall decline? And before you ask, Derek Jeter did not commit the error to end the streak.

So let me add my theory to the decline of Jeter’s fielding ability. For the first six years of his career, Derek Jeter had one of the best defensive first baseman in the game catching his throws – Tino Martinez. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Then, another guy took over for virtually the past seven years. I won’t embarass him here, but let’s just say his defensive abilities are not why he played (large contract and the ability to hit balls over the short right field porch). The Penn State study neglected to mention this important fact, since it would have interfered with their ability to gain media attention to their efforts as well as diminish their chances of perpetuating their time in the video room getting paid to conduct additional studies. Unfortunately for their theory, the Yankees signed a new first baseman this year to replace the aformentioned guy. Surprisingly, the Yankees set the errorless game record. Surprisingly, Jeter’s defensive abilities have IMPROVED. Wow – who would have thought it?

Next topic, please.

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2 Responses to “Baseball Debate – Nothing Like It!”

  1. chappy81 Says:

    I wouldn’t say Jeter’s a terrible defender, but he’s definately lost a step compared to his younger days. I don’t really see what an error has to do with it, I’m sure he’s had plenty of 18 game stretchs without an error, that doesn’t mean that he’s a vacuum up there. I’m sure some of the crumbs are still on the carpet at times (letting hits through), as he loses some of the range he originally had… Check out our blog http://doin-work.com

  2. The Hurl Says:

    Dave,

    GREAT point! The mistaken “value” of Rey Ordonez was blown way out of proportion from day one. The intangible and true value of Derek Jeter is that he is and has been a “Champion from Day One”

    The man has four rings and as the great Bill Parcells once said: “You are what your record is” Does any other current active MLB Shortstop have four rings? Ummmm NO

    You can also tell, just by watching and cover the man, that he and Mr Posada and the original “Yankee Core” take losses personally. They understand that there is winning and the taste of winning it all far exceeds the pain of failure.

    Winners Win

    The Captain is a Winner and has the hardware to prove it

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