Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter. Who Is the Better All-Time Yankee Great?

Derrick FinlayContributor IJuly 29, 2010

First off, let me begin by stating the fact that I am not a Yankee fan. With all due respect, I despise them. Any fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, as I am, MUST loathe the men in pinstripes. 

I am, however, a huge fan of baseball history and any baseball fan knows Yankee history is synonymous with baseball history.  

Despite my allegiance to the Blue Jays, my favorite player of all time is Mickey Mantle. I have always respected the way he played the game and I firmly believe that if he had taken better care of himself, it would have been the Mick, not Hammerin' Hank, to be the first to surpass 714 home runs. 

Yankee history is filled with some of Major League Baseball's greatest hitters. With A-Rod one home run shy of the exclusive 600 club, I got to thinking about where he would rank amongst other all time Yankee players.

Obviously Rodriguez does not match up against the Great Bambino, Joltin' Joe, or the Iron Horse Lou Gehrig, or Mickey. Babe Ruth is a God. A legend in the game. Nothing else needs to be said. 

As for DiMaggio and Gehrig, both are unanimously in the top 10 players in MLB history. Again, both are legends in the game. Enough said. Mantle, a five tool player who played his entire career in the Bronx, played with extraordinary pressure as "the next one" and still delivered incredible numbers. 

This is where the proverbial water gets murky.

During his six and a half seasons in pinstripes, Rodriguez has put up some incredible numbers that are comparable to other Yankee greats.

His batting average as a Yankee is .298, tied for 14th on the all-time list with Mickey Mantle, above the likes of Thurman Munson (.292), Yogi Berra (.285), and Phil Rizzuto (.273), despite the fact that A-Rod is having his worst season for batting average in 14 years.

Rodriguez ranks eighth on the Yankee all time home run list with 254 today. He is one behind Jorge Posada for seventh and is 17th in runs batted in, a category that he will be in the top 10 by the end of next season if he is healthy.

Not bad so far, eh? It gets better.

In the current era of baseball when an on base percentage (OBP) of .340 is considered average, Alex's OBP during his Yankee tenure is .396, two one hundredths of a point behind Dimaggio and one behind Wade Boggs. He is good enough for ninth on the list, ahead of Rickey Henderson (.395), Derek Jeter (.386), Reggie Jackson (.371), and Don Mattingly (.358).

Alex's slugging percentage (SLG) is probably the most impressive statistic. His SLG percentage as a Yankee is .559, forth on the all time list, putting him behind only Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio. 

Another incredible statistic in A-Rod's arsenal is his on base plus slugging percentage (OPS). This statistic is a better representation of how complete a hitter is. Generally, a hitter who has an OPS at or above .900 is considered amongst the game's best. Rodriguez's OPS is .955, which ranks him 5th behind only Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle.

Rodriguez is also a two time American League MVP and three time Silver Slugger Award winner during his time in the Bronx.

As you can see, A Rod's numbers speak for itself. Even though he has spent the majority of his career elsewhere, Rodriguez has at least earned the right to have his name included amongst the greats. 

The more important question is where does he rank. I have already established the fact that he does not belong in the top four. There is no way I can possibly argue against Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio or Mantle. 

Despite the fact that Rodriguez does not come in as a popular choice as an all-time Yankee great, it is hard to argue against his inclusion. He consistently ranks ahead of Berra, Jackson, Winfield, and Bernie Williams. If he finishes his career as a Yankee, he may very well approach the top five in most major hitting categories for the Yankees.

When deciding on where to rank A-Rod, you have to factor in a few things. First and foremost, steroids. According to Rodriguez, he used the banned substance from 2001-2003. So, according to him, he was clean during his entire Yankee career. Whether you believe him or not, he has not had a positive test since then. 

Secondly, the Derek Jeter factor. Jeter has gained legendary status among Yankee fans. He can do no wrong. Because of this, A-Rod has been portrayed as the anti-Jeter. A player who is not a leader.

It is very reminiscent of how Roger Maris was vilified during and after the 1961 season. Maris was the outcast and Mantle was the prodigal son. In many Yankee fan's eyes, Jeter will always be a better Yankee than Rodriguez. 

It is unfair to compare the two in terms of leadership. Jeter is one of the best leaders in pro sports and it is pointless to compare the two as leaders, much the same as if you compare their power numbers. It makes no sense. 

Rodriguez came to New York with expectations so high that no matter what he did, it would never be good enough. This was Jeter's team. The media has portrayed their relationship as tumultuous at best and it may very well be so. By doing this however, the media in essence justified the fanbases' feelings toward A-Rod.

With respect to the post season, Jeter is clutch. His .313 career average tells it all. Rodriguez has been labeled largely as a post season flop during his time with New York. His .287 post season average is solid but pedestrian when compared to his batting average in the regular season. This is due in part to the fact that he rarely gets anything good to hit, especially when there are runners on base.

I think Yankee fans take Alex Rodriguez for granted.  

With all that said, here is how I rank the Yankee greats.  

1 - Babe Ruth

2 - Mickey Mantle

3 - Lou Gehrig

4 - Joe DiMaggio

5 - Alex Rodriguez

6 - Derek Jeter

7 - Yogi Berra

8 - Don Mattingly

9 - Bernie Williams

10 - Reggie Jackson

Yes, you read that right. I believe A Rod should be ranked above Derek Jeter as an all time Yankee. 

What do you think? Post a comment and leave your thoughts.


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