Was the Orioles Cal Ripken Jr. Better Than the Yankees Derek Jeter?

Harold FriendChief Writer IJune 24, 2011

Jeter Leading Away From the Base
Jeter Leading Away From the BaseJim McIsaac/Getty Images

Derek Jeter will become only the fourth shortstop in history to amass 3,000 hits.

Honus Wagner (3,415), Cal Ripken Jr. (3,184), and Robin Yount (3,142) are the others, but Wagner played 890 of his 2,777 games at other positions. Ripken played 675 games at third base, while Yount played 1,218 in the outfield.

Wagner is generally regarded as the greatest of all shortstops, but how does Jeter compare to Ripken?

The first thing that most fans think of when Ripken is mentioned is that he broke Lou Gehrig's record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games. Ripken is regarded as an "iron man" first and as a great shortstop second. That may be wrong, but that's the way it is.

Until recently, Jeter was almost as durable as Ripken despite having missed an occasional game. From his rookie season in 1996 through 2002, Jeter averaged 154 games a season. Not quite Ripken-esque, but close.

Jeter dislocated his left shoulder on opening day in 2003, which forced him to miss 36 games. From 2004-10, he averaged 155 games a season.  Ripken was more durable, but not by much.

The Baltimore Orioles shortstop is one of only two American Leaguers to have at least 3,000 hits and 400 home runs.

Ripken holds the record for most home runs by a shortstop (345), has won the MVP award twice, has a pair of gold glove awards and has appeared in the All-Star Game 19 times.

But Derek Jeter is greater.

Jeter will finish his career with more hits than Ripken, although it is highly unlikely that he will approach the 4,000 hit mark.

The second greatest shortstop in history has batted .312/.383/.449 to Ripken's .276/.340/.447. Despite having more than 100 home runs less than Ripken, Jeter has a higher slugging average.

There are 21 shortstops in the Hall of Fame. Only Wagner (.327) and Arky Vaughn (.318) have higher batting averages than Jeter, although if Jeter continues to bat around .270 in 2011, Joe Sewell (.312) will jump ahead of him.

With respect to speed and base running, it's no contest.

Jeter has stolen 330 bases. Ripken stole 36 and was caught 39 times. For most of his career, Jeter almost never made a mistake on the bases, but that has changed during his last few seasons.

Jeter has the chance to become the only player to have 3,000 hits, 300 home runs and 400 stolen bases, but that will not happen if Jeter plays the rest of his career the way he's played so far in 2011.

Since he is a New York Yankee and Ripken was a Baltimore Oriole, Jeter has appeared in seven World Series while Ripken appeared in one.

Jeter has batted .321/.384/.449 in 38 World Series games, which is eerily similar to his regular season numbers.

In the 2000 Series against New York's second banana baseball team, the New York Mets, Jeter batted .409/.480/.864.

Ripken batted .167/.286/.167 for the 1983 World Champion Orioles, but since Cal appeared in only five games, a valid comparison is impossible.

In 2011, Jeter has been little more than a shell of the player known as Derek Jeter. He has become prone to injury and has lost much of his power, but the fact remains that Jeter brings a quality of leadership to his team that is needed by all teams that hope to become World Champions. Ripken had that same quality.

Jeter and Ripken may be the second and third greatest shortstops of all time, although an argument can be made for Ozzie Smith and Ernie Banks, but between Jeter and Ripken, the pick is clearly Jeter.


Baseball Reference

Jeter and Ripken