Keith Olbermann is tonight’s Worst Person in the World.
No rational person thinks Derek Jeter is the greatest baseball player ever or even the greatest shortstop or Yankee. He is still an all-time great player with the sixth most hits in history, a career .309 average, five World Series rings, 14 All-Star appearances, and several other accomplishments.
Keith Olbermann is a smart guy and a brilliant TV man. He also knows a lot about baseball. However, he has made a career of using his TV platform to attack people, especially those who disagree with him (cough cough Republicans cough cough) His current show on ESPN2 is hit and miss. This is a miss.
Olbermann has some good points about Jeter’s place in history and the hype around his career and retirement, but he ruins it with his vitriol-filled agenda.
I’m going to rebuke Olbermann’s main argument in his diatribe and explain why he is full of it.
“Derek Jeter never won an MVP”
A lot of great, Hall of Fame players have never won MVP. Awards are often subject to a group of sportswriters, some who often have an agenda. There are seasons where Jeter should have won the MVP.
In 1998, he finished third in the voting but had a higher WAR than everyone except Alex Rodriguez, who finished ninth, and Roger Clemens, who is a pitcher.In 1999, he finished sixth despite having the highest OPS and average of his career. His OPS that season was 75 points higher than winner Pudge Rodriguez.
Then in 2006, he was absolutely robbed as a Chicago voter gave him a sixth place vote, thus Justin Morneau (who wasn’t even the second-most valuable player on his own team) took home the award. He then finished third behind Joe Mauer who hit .365 in 2009.
Besides, how many great, Hall of Fame players never won an MVP? Just to name a few: Wade Boggs, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, Mike Piazza, Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Roberto Alomar.
“Derek Jeter isn’t dying/dead, so why the farewell tour?”
Honestly, I am fed up with people saying they’re fed up with the farewell tour. Is it a bit too much? Absolutely, but it’s a product of the era we live in with the internet and social media. There was no outrage when Cal Ripken, Jr. got a farewell tour and played in the All-Star Game despite having the worst season of his career. There was no outrage when Chipper Jones and Mariano Rivera got gifts from other teams.
Are the jersey or cap patches and merchandise really ridiculous? Maybe, but it’s good for the team’s (and league’s) revenue. I don’t like Steiner being involved, but it’s good capitalism. Are the commercials by Jordan/Nike and Gatorade really that ridiculous? They were well freaking done.
“Derek Jeter has the 6th-worst OPS since 1960”
The man is 40 years old coming off an ankle fracture that knocked him out for basically all of last year. How many players can still do it at 40? Cal Ripken, Jr. batted .239 with a 70 OPS+ in his final season at age 40, and he got his well-deserved farewell tour.
“Derek Jeter won just won World Series since 2000”
The MLB postseason is a massive crapshoot. The best team doesn’t always win, as we’ve seen with the 2006 Cardinals and the 2011 Cardinals. In 97 postseason games since the 2000 World Series, Jeter hit .298 with a .356 OBP and 12 homers. He hit .344 in the 2009 postseason and probably would have been the MVP of the World Series if Hideki Matsui didn’t go OFF in Game 6. Olbermann points out that Jeter hit just .200 in that fateful ALCS against the Red Sox in 2004, but the rest of the offense, including A-Rod, Matsui and Gary Sheffield, sputtered. The pitching staff, held together by duck tape all season, finally collapsed, and that is why they blew that 3-0 lead in the series. Totally asinine to blame Jeter, and he only does it to deviate from the credit Jeter gets for winning five titles.
“Derek Jeter led the league in a major offensive category only three times”
Being a leadoff or 2-hole hitter your whole career isn’t going to give you enough opportunities to lead the league in RBI. A shortstop is not going to lead the league in homers or OPS or win a batting title. Only four shortstops in the last 50 years have won the batting title. How many shortstops have lead the league in OPS? Just two. If Ichiro Suzuki never came to the US, odds are Jeter would have led the league in hits several more times.
“Derek Jeter led the Yankees in a major offensive category just 17 times”
Again, you’re not going to lead anyone in RBI as a lead off or 2-hole hitter. Again, as a shortstop you’re rarely going to lead anyone in HR or OPS. For a long time, shortstops were rarely great hitters. Cal Ripken and Robin Yount revolutionized the position in the 1980s bringing power to the position, and Jeter, A-Rod, Nomar Garciaparra, and Hanley Ramirez followed.
“Derek Jeter isn’t a Top 10 Yankee”
Olbermann makes this argument using WAR per season, thus Jeter isn’t a top 10 Yankee. Who are the Top 10 Yankees based on WAR per season? Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio. Of course. Then, Alex Rodriguez, Thurman Munson, Mike Mussina, Willie Randolph, Graig Nettles, and Red Ruffing. Jeter is 11th.
Now, this just shows you how flawed WAR (wins above replacement) is. It judges you against the theoretical replacement player. The difference between guys like Ruth and DiMaggio and the average player is much bigger than the difference between the average player and Jeter. WAR should not be the end-all be all statistic in baseball; there are other factors to judge a player. Bobby Grich had a higher career WAR than Tony Gwynn. Is Bobby Grich better than the guy who won eight batting titles and struck out just over 400 times in a 20 year career?
Olbermann clearly cherry-picked this statistic to drive his agenda. Anyone who wants to make the argument that Mike Mussina, (3.88 ERA and 114 ERA+ in eight seasons with the Yankees, Graig Nettles, (career .253 hitter with a .329 OBP with the Yankees though he was a stellar 3B), Willie Randolph, and Alex Rodriguez were greater Yankees than Derek Jeter is clearly acting with malice and vitriol. This guy doesn’t even have Yogi Berra or Mariano Rivera in his Top 10. Come on. Greatness goes well beyond stats.
Derek Jeter has earned his spot in history. Nobody, not Keith Olbermann, the hacks at Deadspin, the saber-nerds, or anyone else can that away from him.