In a Sports Illustrated survey of 495 Major League Baseball players in its June 23 issue, Derek Jeter was voted the most overrated, with 10 percent of the vote.
Struggling Giants' lefthander Barry Zito was second at nine percent, while Alex Rodriguez and Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew were tied for third with seven percent. Mets' third baseman David Wright and Red Sox's first baseman Kevin Youkilis tied for fourth at four percent.
While Jeter has had a distinguished career, this year is certainly not among his best. In fact, by almost any measure, it simply isn't all that good. Despite this, Jeter is the No. 2 vote getter for this year's All-Star Game, right behind teammate Alex Rodriguez. That's an undeserved place for Jeter, considering the mediocre year he's having.
Youkilis, on the other hand, has more hits, homers, and a higher OBP than the Yankee shortstop. Once known as the "fat guy" at University of Cincinnati, Youkilis gets the utmost out of his limited athletic ability.
The Sox's first baseman set major-league records this year in consecutive games and chances at first without an error. But that's not all—his bat has been a potent weapon for the Sox all season.
Just look at the various offensive categories in which Youkilis ranks in the A.L.'s Top 10:
J.D. Drew had a miserable 2007. His inaugural season in a Red Sox uniform was an embarrassment, and certainly didn't live up to expectations. Simply put, he didn't earn his pay. But, he's bounced back nicely this year.
Drew's Top-10 A.L. rankings:
But, no one seriously considers Drew as one of the game's greats. There is no talk about a future in Cooperstown for the Sox right fielder.
Jeter, on the other hand, is not in the top 10 in any category. He's having a pretty uninspired year, just like the Yankees as a whole. But he is routinely referred to as a modern great who is even comparable to some of the all-time greats.
In 13 seasons, Jeter has amassed over 2,400 hits. Unless his career is derailed by injury, he will certainly surpass the 3,000-hit plateau. His next home run will be his 200th. And this year, he will likely notch is 1,000th RBI. But those are hardly Hall of Fame numbers. Perhaps Jeter's best stat is runs. He has reached 100 in 11 seasons, and has amassed a total of 1,426. That's impressive.
But, the number Jeter is most heralded for is four—as in the World Series Championships he won over a five-season span with the Yankees. Jeter is also an eight-time All-Star, and this year will mark his ninth trip to the Midsummer Classic.
But is he really that good? Is he an all-time great?
Aside from the hits, and the .316 career average, the numbers simply don't bear that out. If he wasn't on those four championship teams with the Yankees, playing for that marquee franchise in the nation's biggest market, he wouldn't have nearly the same level of recognition or cache.
Jeter has struck out 100 times—or more—in eight seasons. Yet, he's never had as many walks in any season. He's reached 300 total bases just three times, the highest being 303. And, he's had just one 100-RBI season.
Jeter is also viewed as having limited range at short, yet he's won three Gold Glove Awards, all of which came after A-Rod became a Yankee and moved to third. And he won the Hank Aaron Award in 2007 as the A.L.'s best hitter, despite having just 12 homers, 73 RBI, 100 strikeouts, only 55 walks, and a modest .452 slugging percentage.
The truth is that Jeter is a good player, but not a great one. He benefits from being a Yankee, and from all of the hype and hoopla that come along with it.
His peers are right—Jeter is indeed overrated.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.