Friday, March 27, 2009

Calling out Jeter and those calling Jeter out

The writer, Allen Barra, takes the tone that he's breaking ground about Jeter's declining skills, and while that fact (Jeter's decline) is true, he's clearly not blazing a trail. He's merely stepping in other's footprints and calling them his own. I've been critical of Jeter when appropriate, but not wholly stomping on his throat just because it seems like the popular thing to do.

Despite this, Barra is mostly right here:

Though the New York press and Yankee fandom don’t seem to realize it, Jeter has been on a sharp decline over the last couple of seasons, and 2009 is going to determine a lot about how the next generations of fans remember him. Thirty-four—he’ll be 35 in June—isn’t old for a bottle of wine or even a first baseman, but it’s like dog years for a shortstop, and right now Jeter is acting like an old dog refusing to learn new tricks.
Barra's walking a very fine line in assuming that every Yanks fan is the blindest of homers, at best, ignorant to reality at worst. Then he commits some major crimes that any "true" fan would never let slide:
This will be Jeter’s 14th season (not counting 1995, when he only played 15 games), and judging from the blogs and radio call-in shows, Yankee fans are assuming that he is a walking Hall of Famer, but I don’t necessarily think that’s true. If he pulled a Thurmon Munson, I think he’d get in. His credentials are pretty good.
Sorry, you cannot even suggest, in jest, that anyone "pulls a Thurman". This is about as low as you can go, the hackiest of hacks. What sort of person would even consider this an option in a published piece? Second, you simply cannot spell Thurman's name wrong. Inexcusable. How an editor can let either slide by? Maybe if Barra "pulls a Thurman", he can win a Pulitzer.

And saying that Jeter's credentials are merely "pretty good" is just an example of a writer trying to rearrange the facts to suit his angle. Jeter will be at 3k hits by the time he's done, or darn close if he doesn't feel like hanging around to reach that lofty total. And, by all accounts, he's done it the right way (on all fronts, though we obviously are going on faith that he's been clean). He's won 4 World Series rings. I know I am more biased than most of you not in the metro NY area, but I think Jeter's a lock, even without 3k hits.
Unfortunately, for sportswriters outside New York, Jeter may need a bit more. Most baseball analysts I know agree that Jeter should or could have won MVP awards in 1998, 1999 and 2006. That he didn’t probably reflects the rest of the country’s resentment that New York players receive so much national attention (or at any rate, are said to). But he didn’t win, and that may ultimately be used as an argument against him when it comes time for the HOF vote.
So most analysts think Jeter was MVP-worthy in three years but you're blaming it on an anti-NY bias? And that argument is based simply on a "probably", which shows just how flimsy it is. Some basic stats on Jeter's career:

A quick look at Jeter's peers during his era:

  • Nomar Garciaparra: remember when he, you know, played? Sox fans do: 2003.
  • Miguel Tejada: Sen. Mitchell would like to have a word with you
  • ARod: well, you know
  • Michael Young: Similar in their offensive/defensive skills, but didn't play SS long enough
  • Cal Ripken: not really a peer, but similar in size and style (and stubbornness)
  • Jose Reyes: different player entirely
  • Hanley Ramirez: more power, but also defensively challenged
Look, I know Jeter's skills are declining. I haven't been shy about this. Where he will play once his contract expires after 2010 is beyond me. But what I do know is that Jeter will glide into the HOF on the first ballot, barring any unforeseen admission.

In the burning afterglow of ruins of the Steroid Era, don't you think it enhances the consistent performance of a guy like Jeter?


tadthebad said...

Jason, you know I harbor no special sentiment for Jeter, but that piece is absurd. Pull a Thurman? What's he saying, that Jeter might try to crash his plane? That he might die at a young age? Talk about offensive...and you know the laundry I cheer for.

Fact: Jeter will sail into the HoF on the first ballot. As he should.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

I completely agree. I didn't even know that such a ludicrous thought was out there. Maybe from a Red Sox fan, but that's at least understandable given the rivalry. Ultimately, I think even they agree that it isn't close.

Bronx Baseball Daily said...

You wrote exactly what I was thinking when I read the original article. I would say Jeter's been the best SS of his time when you realize that the rest were on steroids.