Jeter: Most Accomplished of All-Time

I have been a Yankee fan since before Derek Sanderson Jeter stepped foot on the hallowed dirt of Yankee Stadium (the “real” Yankee Stadium, before they moved to the zero-gravity launching pad they now call home). I talked about this briefly on The 40 Cast two weekends ago, but I will recap it for those that didn’t hear: growing up in Columbus afforded me the ability to be exposed to some pretty high-level baseball. The Columbus Clippers were the Yankees Triple-A affiliate for many years. Darryl Strawberry frequently visited my city. Every time he would fall off of the clean and sober wagon, the Yanks would send him to Columbus. While he was there, I would get to watch as arguably the most TALENTED player of his generation toyed with AAA pitchers, waiting to be given yet another chance to wear the Pinstripes. I became a huge Straw fan. I kicked my leg high like him, and even chewed my gum like him. I was an honorary New Yorker, given clearance by my Columbus Clipper attachment to Darryl Strawberry. I didn’t really have another favorite baseball player…until I discovered Derek Jeter.

Derek “The Iceberg” Jeter, ladies and gentleman, as a result of reaching the 3,000 hit club today, has positioned himself as the most accomplished baseball player of all time. There are players with more home runs. There are players with more hits. There are players with more Gold Glove awards. There are even players with more championships. But none have the combination of all of those things in abundance the way that Jeter does. Check the resume: Rookie of the Year, 4 Silver Slugger Awards, 5 Gold Glove Awards, 12 All-Star Appearances, and 5 CHAMPIONSHIPS (not to mention he dated pre Nick Cannon, pre psychotic break, and pre Michelin Man Mariah Carey, and currently dates Minka Kelly. He also has the distinction of introducing Tiger Woods to Rachel Uchitel. No other person, place, or thing has had such an accidentally devastating impact since the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. Hence, the aforementioned nickname).

Jeter didn’t just join the 3,000 Hit Club today. He pulled up in a Maybach, hopped out with 3 supermodels a la Bruce Wayne, and bought up the bar after commandeering the DJ booth for a few spins. In other words, he did it in style. His actual 3,000th hit was a home run that highlighted a 5-for-5 performance that spearheaded a 5-4 win for the Yankees. The only other player in history that celebrated his 3,000th with a big fly was Wade Boggs.

Even more impressive than the accomplishment, was the journey. Jeter was never a student of hitting like Boggs, Mattingly, or any of the others before him. Sure, he received some input from the video/scouting team for the Yanks, but his hitting philosophy was always beautiful in its transparency and simplicity. See The Ball. Hit The Ball. This is why he never endured huge batting slumps. He never over-thought things. Always measured, and always calm. Imagine Kobe Bryant going to another team, and the incumbent 2-guard saying “He’s welcome here. He can help our team. But he is going to have to do it from the point or the 3, because I have this here 2 spot on LOCKDOWN.” This is basically what happened when Alex Rodriguez joined the Yankees. Not many players command that type of reverence, that type of respect. Jeter did, and still does.

I want you all to read this sentence twice, just to make sure that you understand what this means: Derek Jeter is the ONLY member of the 3,000 Hit Club that STARTED his MLB career in the 90s.

Did you do as I asked? I hope so, because this is why I hold his accomplishments as a hitter in such high regard, and why I view him as the most accomplished baseball player of all-time. We now know that from the early 90s on was a very sketchy time for Major League Baseball. A lot of pitchers were using PEDs. Jeter continued his assault. There is no person walking the face of the earth that can make even a loose case for Jeter using PEDs. This makes what he has done even more impressive historically. He was the defensive centerpiece for 5 World Series Championship teams. The fact that he has only 5 Gold Glove Awards is mainly due to the high visibility of the Shortstop position (there are outfielders grabbing these things left and right just off of reputation. Jeter never had this luxury). You can keep Sabermetrics, BEP, WHIP, TQYRU (made that one up), or whatever other “advanced” metrics you want to use. No other player in baseball history meant more to his team offensively, defensively, and in the clubhouse. And no other player has the combination of individual and team excellence that Jeter does. He is the most accomplished baseball player of all time. Though I want to see him retire after this season, the reality is that, at a young 37, only Robin Yount reached 3,000 at a younger age. He isn’t going anywhere. Yankee fans, cherish every moment we have left with him. We won’t see one like him ever again. No one will.