What a remarkable career Derek Jeter has had, no doubt first ballot hall of fame candidate. Nothing less than the face of baseball for the past 15 years. That in itself is quite an achievement. Specially in today's world full of social media. Every move or actions is recorded and scrutinized to the max. Any sort of celebrity status is nothing more than an invitation to a life of no privacy. Derek Jeter has stood tall and forthright thru it all. In the world's most unfriendly media environment. That might be his greatest achievement. But this is about his legacy or spot as one of the greatest to play this game.
Where does Derek rate as the greatest shortstop of all time? On the defensive side, Ozzie Smith has stood heads about the rest. He earned that nickname "The Wizard". I have see some remarkable plays at short. No one has ever been able to make those remarkable plays look so routine as Ozzie did. You have to send some love out to the most durable shortstop. None other than Cal Ripken playing that many games at such a demanding position is a remarkable feat in itself. Honus Wagner could do it all. His ability to hit a baseball is legendary. Unfortunately I have only seen glimpse of this man play via old scratchy movie reels. But dam this man could flat out hit. All of his playing days he was the heart of the Pittsburgh's lineup. He carried this team on his back as few others have ever been able to do. That makes him the best hitting shortstop of all time. To me the greatest shortstop of all time, was none other than Honus Wagner.
Derek Jeter was no Ricky Henderson, but who was. Ricky said it and did it, that is the bottom line. In history of this game no lead-off hitter ever possessed so much power and speed. His stolen base title bears witness to that statement. Terrorizing pitchers, often caused a loss of concentration on the hitter they were facing. That of course resulted in a mistake and majority of the time that hitter took full advantage. Ricky Henderson is the greatest lead-off hitter the game every saw.
If a team needed a base runner, Pete Rose always seem to be standing on first. Yes he has the most hits in baseball but he took a walk as well. His all out hustle caused many fielders to make that costly error. "Charlie Hustle" earned this nickname. No one ever put forth more effort than Pete Rose. He did whatever it took to give his team the best chance to win. That is why he is the greatest at getting on base.
Ty Cobb numbers astound me. But with limited firsthand looks at his playing time. Hard to justify him as the best hitter. Sure this may not be fair but his on field and off field lifestyle, makes it hard to root for this guy. No one has ever been a tougher competitor. He truly did do everything to make his team a winner. He was the greatest competitor baseball has ever had.
I have seen all kind of footage of the hitting heroes of yesterday. Ted Williams, Stan Musial, etc. the list goes on and on. The word great is by far the best way to praise their ability to hit a baseball. They stood out as the best of an era or generation. When you look at the numbers, Barry Bonds was the greatest hitter of all time. Yes maybe steroids played a part but one cannot deny what he accomplished. It has often been said that the hardest thing to do is hit a baseball. If you do not believe that then tell me how many hitters ever batted .400. That of course means they failed 6 out of 10 times at the plate. Barry Bonds was a one of a kind. What wins him that tittle was the number of times he was intentionally walked. Opposing pitchers and managers did not want to see him come to the plate with the game on the line. To accomplished what he did, with being walked so many times. Those feats are what puts him above the rest.
Over the years we have seen many great Yankee players. Their monuments and faces adorned Yankee Stadium. Babe Ruth was the first must see player. His numbers are second to none. What is even more astounding, he was quite the pitcher when he began his career. (That is why I believe he is the greatest player of all time.) Joe DiMagio had it all. He was a five tool player. His 56 game hitting streak may stand forever. Yogi Berra has never been nothing but a leader. He was the heart and soul of so many championship teams. He had that special ability to lead. Mickey Mantle (my hero) had the most god given talent of any player I ever saw. What we did not know was that he had a problem with the bottle and the night life. It took a toll on this great player. Can you imagine how his lifestyle would be looked upon in today's world? Lou Gehrig was the Iron Horse. His life was taken too soon. He was and always will be "The Captain of the Yankees". Everyone else who has had that honor, are just place holders to this man. His ability to carry and lead a team by example, was so special. No one has done it better than Lou Gehrig. Just like Derek Jeter he was a special man. Never played the game for personal rewards but god did he give his all to his team. To me Lou Gherig is the greatest Yankee of all-time. I would bet money this is the Yankee, that Derek strives to be the most like. He, probable is the one, that would be Derek's choice for greatest Yankee of all time, as well.
For the past 19 years we were privileged to see a great player. His personal and professional life were outstanding. He was and still is the face of baseball. That is indeed high praise. I remember back in 1995 watching a game with my boys. Derek just laced a single to right. My comment was: "That is the best #2 hitter I have ever saw". Derek spent most of his career hitting out of the number two hole. What most forget, is this spot in the line up is the one that is always giving themselves up for the team. Either by bunting a runner over or hitting to the right side to advance him. Not to mention taking pitches to allow the base runner to steal. When I have had the privilege to coach hitters (baseball and softball). I have tried to teach this inside out swing of Jeter's or at least hitting the ball to the opposite field. Because the art of moving the base runner is what makes a team a winner. (This is were saber-metrics and I disagree the most, just no way to quantify situational hitting.) At the end of his illustrious career he should amassed enough hits, to be in the top five. Quite a feat for a guy who was always giving up his at bats for the team. When it is all said and done no one was ever better at hitting second in a line-up.
Derek Jeter is the Greatest Number Two Hitter this game ever had.