The Over/under on Derek Jeter

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The Over/under on Derek Jeter
This is such an exciting time of year! March Madness is here, Major League Baseball Spring Training has started, and Spring practice has begun for College Football. The end of March just keeps you on the edge of your seat. With everything going on right now, I figured that I should get this column out of the way now. My first baseball related column of the year.

 

The concept of the over/under usually relates directly to gambling and point spreads, however, in the context of this article and future over/under articles that I write, Over/Under relates to whether an athlete, organization, coach, etc… is OVER rated or UNDER rated. It’s rare that you have people that can make a reasonable argument that someone is both overrated and underrated at the same time (reasonable is defined as a discussion with someone who is not a Yankee fan, Michigan, Notre Dame or SEC football fan… they’re all crazy and unreasonable). Seems like an odd concept, but here are some candidates for the over/under category:

 

Ben Wallace: Was so underrated for years that everyone started to realize that he was underrated, began talking about him, he got past his prime and since everyone was so silly about how underrated and great he really was, he became overrated. For Bill Simmons readers, I know… he’s mentioned this often. But there are others that fit this mold.

 

Terrell Owens: I know… I know. When has Terrell ever been UNDERrated? In fact, he truly may be. We’ve all heard the arguments about how he may be overrated (dropped passes, locker room cancer, drama queen, etc…), but if you look at the fortunes of the teams prior to his arrival and after his departure, he is an absolute difference maker. Jeff Garcia has proven to be a quality QB and a good “game manager” (we all know what that means if your running game isn’t putting up 4 yards per carry…), however the 49’ers haven’t been relevant since he left (lots of issues there though). The Eagles and Donovan McNabb were VERY, VERY good prior to his arrival when they had the first 4 guys to get off the #70 bus to Philly playing wideout for them. Owens shows up and they go to the Super Bowl. And now look what he’s done for the Cowboys and ::gasp:: Tony Romo! You think Tony Romo is sitting courtside at Mavericks games with Jessica Simpson if Owens isn’t on his team? I think not.

 

Which brings us to our subject today… Derek Jeter.

 

Jeter has for all intents and purposes become the face of Major League Baseball (the positive face at least). We may see Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens more often these days, but when baseball wants to sell itself to the fans and promote what baseball is about, Derek Jeter is the go to guy. He’s been rookie of the Year, All Star game MVP, World Series MVP, and 4 World Series titles in his first 6 years in the league and a list of celebrity lady friends as long as my arm.

 

We love Jeter so much that we’ve let him get away with openly not being a “clean cut” All-American boy. Jeter has not settled down with that special lady and doesn’t pretend that he’s going to. He essentially opened the door for Tony Romo and Tom Brady to date starlets, drop them and move on without consequence (anybody remember Mariah Carey? Jessica Alba?). He is the original modern day Joe DiMaggio and Joe Namath.

 

However, some are asking what’s he done in the past 7 years? His claim to fame is that even without putting up eye-popping “fantasy” numbers (Home runs, runs, steals, RBI, etc…), he is a winner, he is Mr. Clutch, he is THE Captain of the New York Yankees. The Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2000 and while having been in the Fall classic a few times since then, he is one of the infamous trio to go 2-for-Games 4-7 of the 2004 ALCS. If his specialness is based on winning, statistics be damned, he’s come up short lately.

 

So where do we stand on Derek Jeter? Is he overrated because he hasn’t won anything in 7 years? Do we think too much of him even though he doesn’t put up first round “fantasy” numbers, even for a shortstop? Is he not worth as much since MLB writers by electing Justin Morneau MVP in 2006, have openly declared that a non-power hitter will never win an MVP award again. Is he just where he is based on his looks?

 

Or is he underrated for the same statistical reasons, but still manages to lead a fundamentally flawed Yankees team to the playoffs every single year. Do we truly not understand what it takes to overcome a double digit deficit in the standings to pass a very good Red Sox team? Is leadership in tough times only considered valuable in College hoops and football? Have we come to expect .315+, 10, 80, 100 runs and 25 steals from an American League shortstop? Since he plays for the Yankees, are we afraid to give him more credit than he’s already getting for fear that we’re “overrating the Yankees again”?

 

When it’s all said and done Derek Jeter’s resume does indeed speak for itself. He’s done some fantastic things in his now 13 years in the league… that’s right, Derek Jeter’s been around 13, going on 14 years. I can see him becoming the next Brett Favre type of athlete. Legendary, infallible, clutch, fun to watch and ultimately not quite who he was when we most fondly remembered him. I wonder if Tom Brady doesn’t win a Super Bowl in the next few years and keeps putting up typical “Brady-like” numbers will he make it into an over/under? (Not like the 07-08 “Playstation Brady” stats, but like previous years). There may not be an answer, but I look forward to hearing what others might think.

 

My final answer; Jeter is rated just about right. Big Papi is just about as clutch and just as great a force in the locker room, however, you’ll never see a highlight of him making a huge play in the field, or anything else not involving a wooden bat. True baseball fans appreciate what Jeter does, and those who know the Yankees know that he has his hands full in the post-Torre, post-George era. With a hothead manager, a REALLY hothead owner in Hank Steinbrenner (which is saying something given that we’re talking about George Steinbrenner here!), a decomposing pitching staff, and a steroid scandal hanging over the team’s head (after reading the names on the Mitchell Report, I thought it was a team media guide from the past 10 years), Jeter will have to earn every bit of his Captaincy to lead this team back to the playoffs.
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